Skip to main content

Facebook's (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report long-awaited cryptocurrency is finally here. Details about Libra, the social-media giant's cryptocurrency, were revealed in a white paper that provided a detailed overview of the token's intended use case, target audience, underlying technology and organizational oversight.

In the weeks leading up to the announcement, there has been no shortage of speculation about the new currency's functionality and its potential impact on the crypto ecosystem, with bitcoin prices rising over the last few days in anticipation of the white paper's release.

With reports that it would be backed by prominent financial platforms such as Visa (V) - Get Visa Inc. Class A Report , MasterCard (MA) - Get Mastercard Inc. (MA) Report , and PayPal (PYPL) - Get PayPal Holdings Inc Report , many wondered if a cryptocurrency with the influence of Facebook and its 2.5 billion users could remake the crypto ecosystem. 

In short, can Libra be a bitcoin killer?

The answer, it seems, is probably not.

Building for the Unbanked

Rather than striving to supplant bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, Libra is capitalizing on their technology to target the unbanked. Facebook estimates that 1.7 billion people operate outside of the financial system, and many more are not benefiting from its capabilities. For instance, in developing countries, fees associated with remittances, overdrafts, wire costs and ATM charges are eroding the hard-earned money from their citizens.

Noting many of the flaws in the financial system, Libra strives to make sending and receiving money simpler and more affordable for people around the world.

TheStreet Recommends

As Facebook explains in the the white paper explains, "we believe that many more people should have access to financial services and to cheap capital."

However, many of Libra's tenets, including its relatively centralized governing body made up of Facebook and its partners, the Libra Association, is anathema to the core beliefs of the crypto movement, something that differentiates Libra from many of its crypto counterparts.

Of course, a project as ambitious as Libra can't come to fruition without impacting the broad crypto ecosystem. If the digital currency can live up to its goals, it could spur on awareness and acceptability for cryptocurrencies, raising adoption rates across the board.

In the near term, Libra's announcement has had a modest impact on crypto markets.

Bitcoin Prices Remain Steady

After enjoying a resurgence this year, the price of bitcoin remained relatively flat in the hours after Facebook's official announcement. The token has already outpaced the returns of stocks, bonds, gold and oil in 2019, topping $9,000 this month for the first time in more than a year.

The cryptocurrency gained less than $100 in the hours after Libra's announcement, and, at the time of writing, bitcoin were hovering around the $9,000 mark. Across the board, crypto prices were slightly depressed. According to data compiled by CoinMarketCap, the collective crypto market cap lost about $8 billion throughout the day, a modest dip in an otherwise stellar run for cryptocurrencies.

Now, the real work begins. Libra and its accompanying blockchain won't launch until 2020. The platform is based on open sourced code, and developers can build financial products on top of the network. Meanwhile, the company is already fielding questions from legislatures about the legality and regulatory compliance of the platform, something that is sure to keep the company busy for the next several months.

In the meantime, it seems like Libra is unlikely to overtake bitcoin has a replacement. Instead, it's another, albeit more prominent, altcoin that is working to solve modern financial problems with the latest technology.

Facebookand MasterCard are holdings in Jim Cramer'sAction Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells FB or MA? Learn more now.

The author holds stock in investment holding company, Leucadia (Jeffries), and remains a partner in an emerging-technology fund. He holds no positions in cryptocurrencies nor in any companies that invest in them.