Facebook’s parent company is returning to the financial services well once again, this time exploring possible applications of virtual currency in the so-called metaverse. Aptly-[re]named Meta is exploring the potential of digital money that is being referred to internally within the organization as “Zuck Bucks” in a play on the founder’s name, the Financial Times reported this week.
Meta abandoned its effort to create a global cryptocurrency — first called Libra but eventually re-branded as Diem — in the face of fierce backlash by financial regulators around the world. However, founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg has spoken about the importance of e-commerce and financial tools to his vision for an immersive online world called the metaverse.
“We continuously consider new product innovations for people, businesses, and creators,” a Meta spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry. “As a company, we are focused on building for the metaverse and that includes what payments and financial services might look like.”
The spokesperson would not comment on specific innovations being pursued, but the FT reports that the Facebook owner’s financial services arm, Meta Financial Technologies, has been quietly exploring the creation of a new virtual currency that is thought to be for Zuckerberg’s nascent metaverse — but is thought to be very unlikely to be another blockchain-based cryptocurrency like how Libra and Diem were originally envisioned.
Products being considered at Meta include digital tokens similar to those used for transactions in video games, with the internet company’s version nicknamed “Zuck Bucks” by those working on it, according to the Financial Times. Popular games such as Fortnite and Roblox use tokens like the in-app virtual currency V-bucks and Robux, respectively, for transactions. The tokens could potentially be used to reward creators and influencers whose posts draw online audiences.
Meta is looking to diversify its revenue beyond a reliance on targeted advertising that has provoked concerns about invading users’ privacy. This became evident after the recent skirmish with the world’s most valuable company, Apple, when the iPhone maker introduced the new App Tracking Transparency feature in its iOS 14.5 update, which forces device apps to ask users for permission to obtain unique identifier data for advertisers, known as the IDFA.
Apple had already declared a firm stance on user privacy, and is actively baking privacy into its systems. Its browser Safari already blocks third-party cookies by default, and last year Apple forced app providers in iOS to spell out in the App Store listings what data they collect. By contrast, Facebook is saying that such app restrictions could slash its ad earnings in half, and the impact will be harshest for small businesses who rely on personalized advertising for a large chunk of their earnings.
© Agence France-Presse