Libra’s Long Road From a Facebook Lab to the Global Stage: A Timeline

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What a long and winding two and half years it’s been for Libra, the digital currency project spawned by Facebook. 

For much of that time, all that was known about the social network’s ambitions for the cryptocurrency space was rumor and conjecture. The full scope of the project, unveiled in June 2019, exceeded most of this speculation – including the revelation that Facebook aimed to decentralize control of its creation, starting by handing it over to a governing council. But the Libra Association’s actions since have mostly been to scale back its hopes and try to address a largely hostile reaction to the project among the world’s governments. 

CoinDesk has been chronicling this saga every step of the way. What follows is a detailed timeline of the Libra project’s history, from the early signs that Mark Zuckerberg’s social network was sniffing around the blockchain industry to Libra’s recent watering-down of its once-bold plans. Bookmark this article, because we’ll keep updating it as the story continues to unfold.

December 2017

  • December 12, 2017: David Marcus, former PayPal president and Facebook VP for the Messenger app joins the Coinbase board of directors. (link)

May 2018

  • May 8, 2018: Marcus announces he’s leading a new blockchain unit at the social media giant. (link)

August 2018

  • August 10, 2018: Marcus steps down from his role as a member of Coinbase’s board of directors. (link)

December 2018

  • December 20, 2018: Bloomberg reports Facebook is building a stablecoin for WhatsApp transfers. (link)

February 2019

  • February 4, 2019: Facebook acquires smart contracts developer Chainspace. (link)
  • February 28, 2019: The New York Times reports Facebook is building a crypto that can be used across its different platforms. (link)

March 2019

  • March 8, 2019: Facebook includes “Blockchain Liaison” in a list of new job openings. (link)

May 2019

  • May 3, 2019: Facebook is reportedly in talks with Visa and Mastercard to assist it with a fiat-backed stablecoin, including seeking $1 billion in funding. The crypto is referred to as “Project Libra” publicly for the first time. (link)
  • May 3, 2019: MIT professor and crypto economist Christian Catalini takes a leave of absence to work with Facebook. (link)
  • May 10, 2019: The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs writes a letter to Facebook asking for further details about its crypto project. (link)
  • May 14, 2019: Facebook hires two Coinbase veterans, though it’s unclear whether they were hired specifically to work on the crypto project. (link)
  • May 17, 2019: Facebook registers “Libra Networks” as a new company in Geneva. (link)
  • May 24, 2019: The BBC reports Facebook intends to roll out a stablecoin in several countries in the first half of 2020. The Financial Times adds that Facebook has been in talks with Coinbase and Gemini. (link)

June 2019

  • June 3, 2019: Facebook is reported to have held talks with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) about its stablecoin initiative. (link)
  • June 6, 2019: The Information reports Facebook will introduce libra to the world in the coming weeks. (link)

    See Also: More Details Emerge on Team Behind Facebook’s Secretive Blockchain

  • June 7, 2019: Facebook’s head of financial services for Northern Europe, Laura McCracken, confirms its stablecoin will be pegged to a basket of currencies rather than just one (link)
  • June 13, 2019: Uber, PayPal, Visa, Stripe, MercadoLibre, and Mastercard are all reported to be backing Facebook’s new crypto. (link)

    See Also: Concerns Over Facebook Data Use Derailed at Least 3 Crypto Partnerships

  • June 18, 2019: Facebook formally introduces Libra to the world, unveiling an ambitious vision of a decentralized, autonomous organization to oversee the project and a borderless, easy-to-transfer means of exchange. Facebook says its participation with Libra will be through its new Calibra subsidiary, which will build a digital wallet for the project, but it intends to limit its role otherwise. The project will be spearheaded by the Libra Association, a group of 28 companies – that will later grow to at least 100 – which will oversee the token’s development and receive returns through the Libra Investment Token. (link) (link) (link) (link) (link
  • June 18, 2019: U.S. lawmakers call for an immediate halt to libra’s development until they better understand the project. (link)
  • June 18, 2019: Facebook confirms it has yet to respond to the previously mentioned U.S. Senate Banking Committee letter. (link)
  • June 19, 2019: Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says that while he’s “open-minded” about libra, it will have to adhere to strict regulations before it can launch. (link)
  • June 19, 2019: The U.S. Senate Banking Committee announces it will hold a hearing on libra in July. (link)
  • June 21, 2019: The G7 announces it is forming a task force to evaluate libra. (link)
  • June 24, 2019: U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, announces it will hold a hearing on libra in July. (link)
  • June 27, 2019: The Monetary Authority of Singapore announces it is looking for more information on libra, and has held talks with Facebook. (link)

July 2019

  • July 2, 2019: Public Citizen, a North American privacy and consumer watchdog, calls on lawmakers to halt libra’s development. (link)
  • July 2, 2019: More U.S. lawmakers call on libra to halt development. (link)
  • July 3, 2019: David Marcus writes an open letter to clarify what he calls “misunderstandings” about libra, and confirms he will testify before both the U.S. Senate Banking and U.S. House Financial Services committees. (link)
  • July 8, 2019: People’s Bank of China research head Wang Xin says libra could accelerate the Chinese central bank’s own research into a digital currency. (link)
  • July 9, 2019: David Marcus responds to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee’s questions, attempting to reassure the lawmakers that Facebook will not link personal information with libra transactions. (link)
  • July 10, 2019: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says libra cannot launch until questions about its operations are answered, citing concerns around financial stability and consumer protection. (link)
  • July 11, 2019: U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says libra may be “systemically important” due to Facebook’s size. (link)
  • July 12, 2019: U.S. President Donald Trump says libra “will have little standing or dependability” in a series of tweets that also criticize bitcoin and Facebook. (link)
  • July 15, 2019: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he is “not comfortable” with libra, adding it could be misused by criminal entities. (link)
  • July 16, 2019: David Marcus testifies before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee; notably, bitcoin is not even mentioned during the hearing. (link)
  • July 16, 2019: Former CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler says libra looks like a security, in prepared remarks ahead of testifying on the subject before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. (link)
  • July 17, 2019: David Marcus testifies before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. (link)

    See Also: Congress Drew a Fine Line Between Libra and Crypto – That’s a First

  • July 17, 2019: Former CFTC fintech adviser Jeffrey Bandman says libra could be regulated as a security and a commodity within the U.S. (link)
  • July 20, 2019: CNBC profiles Morgan Beller, an Andressen Horowitz alum who is seen as the driving force behind libra at Facebook and Calibra (link)
  • July 24, 2019: Visa CEO Alfred Kelly says that while his company has signed a nonbinding letter of intent, it is not yet a member of the Libra Association. (link)
  • July 24, 2019: Consumer polling group CivicScience finds more adults in the U.S. trust bitcoin than libra. (link)

    See Also: MIT Fellow Says Facebook ‘Lifted’ His Ideas for Libra Cryptocurrency

  • July 25, 2019: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his company will take “however long” it needs to convince lawmakers and launch libra. (link)
  • July 30, 2019: Facebook concedes libra may never launch, in a disclosure filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (link)

August 2019

  • August 6, 2019: Global regulators warn they need more information about the privacy implications of libra. (link)

    See Also: Binance’s CZ: Like It or Not, Facebook’s Libra Coin Is Poised for Mass Adoption

  • August 21, 2019: Bloomberg reports the European Commission has already launched an antitrust investigation of the Libra Association. (link)
  • August 21, 2019: U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says libra should be regulated similarly to the SWIFT network. (link)

    See Also: Facebook Isn’t Behind the First Incubator for Libra Crypto Developers

  • August 23, 2019: The regulatory backlash sparks concerns among three unnamed Libra Association members, with two considering pulling out of the project entirely, the Financial Times reports. (link)
  • August 23, 2019: U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters announces in a statement that her office and the U.S. House Financial Services Committee will continue to evaluate libra. (link)

    See Also: UK Central Bank Chief Sees Digital Currency Displacing US Dollar as Global Reserve

  • August 26, 2019: U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters says she had already met with Swiss regulators about libra, but they did not clear her doubts. (link)
  • August 27, 2019: Facebook hires FS Vector as a lobbyist for blockchain policies. FS Vector partner John Collins was previously the policy head at Coinbase. (link)
  • August 27, 2019: The Libra Association announces a bug bounty program with up to $10,000 in rewards. (link)
  • August 27, 2019: Libra’s crypto-native members are not fazed by the regulatory backlash to the project, they tell CoinDesk. (link)

September 2019

  • September 2, 2019: Yves Mersch, executive board member at the European Central Bank (ECB), warns libra could “impair” the European Union’s monetary policy and impact the ECB’s control over the euro. (link)
  • September 10, 2019: Facebook reveals the list of fiat currencies comprising libra’s basket: The U.S. dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen, the British pound sterling and the Singapore dollar. (link)
  • September 10, 2019: U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker warns libra – and other cryptos – must comply with existing law. (link)
  • September 10, 2019: OpenZeppelin finds and patches vulnerabilities in Move, libra’s scripting language. (link)
  • September 11, 2019: The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority confirms the Libra Association reached out to ask how it might be assessed by the regulator. (link)
  • September 12, 2019: Mark Branson, FINMA director, appears to indicate Switzerland is willing to work with libra, saying the country won’t bow to foreign pressure to prevent its launch. (link)
  • September 12, 2019: Economy and Finance Minister of France Bruno Le Maire says libra will not be allowed to launch in its current form. (link)
  • September 13, 2019: Libra Association COO Bertrand Perez says the project isn’t a threat to monetary stability. (link)
  • September 16, 2019: The Bank for International Settlements announces its Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructure – which includes at least 26 central banks – will question the Libra Association on its stablecoin. (link)
  • September 16, 2019: David Marcus again tries to debunk the claim that libra is a threat to monetary sovereignty or economic stability, responding to criticisms by policy makers such as France’s Bruno Le Maire. (link)

    See Also: China’s Crypto Czar: Facebook-Led Libra ‘Might Be Unstoppable’

  • September 19, 2019: The U.S. House Financial Services Committee announces it will question the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on whether the Libra Investment Token might be a security. (link)
  • September 23, 2019: Facebook reveals the full breakdown of the basket backing libra: 50 percent USD, 18 percent EUR, 14 percent JPY, 11 percent GBP, 7 percent SGD. (link)
  • September 24, 2019: Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan, calls for international cooperation in regulating libra. (link)

    See Also: Facebook’s Zuckerberg Appears to Put Libra Launch Date in Doubt

  • September 26, 2019: Benoit Coeure, a member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, says libra was a “wake up call” for central banks. (link)

    See Also: Facebook-Led Libra Could Be Boon to UN, Says Crypto Project’s Chief

October 2019

  • October 2, 2019: The Wall Street Journal reports Mastercard and Visa are reconsidering their role in the Libra Association. (link)
  • October 2, 2019: U.S. Reps. French Hill and Bill Foster warn libra could remove some of the U.S. government’s authority over financial governance, in a letter to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. (link)
  • October 3, 2019: Executives from Bank of America, M&T Bank Corp. and KeyCorp warn libra could be a monetary threat. (link)
  • October 3, 2019: The Financial Times reports PayPal is considering withdrawing from the Libra Association. (link)
  • October 4, 2019: PayPal formally withdraws from the Libra Association. (link)
  • October 7, 2019: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz says he’s “very very critical” of libra. (link)

    See Also: Now Traders Can Make Bets on When Facebook’s Libra Will Launch

  • October 9, 2019: Lucas Geiger, co-founder of Wireline, announces OpenLibra, a fork of the libra code to create a permissionless network and stablecoin pegged to the actual libra token. (link)
  • October 9, 2019: U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Brian Schatz warn Visa, Mastercard and Stripe they may see heightened regulatory scrutiny if they continue working on libra. (link)
  • October 9, 2019: The Bank of England publishes a set of principles libra must follow in order to launch in the U.K. (link)
  • October 9, 2019: Mark Zuckerberg confirms he will testify before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. (link)
  • October 11, 2019: Mastercard, Visa, Mercado Pago, Booking Holdings, eBay and Stripe withdraw from the Libra Association. (link)
  • October 14, 2019: 21 companies sign the Libra Association charter, formally creating the governing council for the stablecoin initiative and electing an executive board. (link)

    See Also: Libra Is ‘Catalytic Event’ for Central Banks, Says Head of Sweden’s Riksbank

  • October 17, 2019: Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard says libra could become a global threat to monetary stability, in part due to Facebook’s enormous user base. (link)
  • October 17, 2019: France’s Bruno Le Maire slams libra, saying it could undermine monetary sovereignty. (link)
  • October 17, 2019: Gabriel Soderberg, an economist at Sweden’s Riksbank, says libra showed central banks there is a demand for easy cross-border payment mechanisms. (link)
  • October 17, 2019: U.S. Senator Mike Rounds praises libra in a letter to Anchorage, an association member domiciled in his state of South Dakota. (link)

    See Also: Libra Plays Down Troubles, Anticipates 100 Members by Launch

  • October 21, 2019: David Marcus tells a banking seminar libra could drop its basket-backed stablecoin and instead issue a series of single-currency stablecoins. (link)

    See Also: Facebook’s Marcus Says China Wins With Digital Renminbi if US Nixes Libra

  • October 22, 2019: Mark Zuckerberg tells lawmakers libra can bring financial services to 1.7 billion unbanked individuals, in remarks prepared ahead of testimony before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. (link)

    See Also: What to Expect When Facebook’s Zuckerberg Defends Libra on Capitol Hill

  • October 23, 2019: Mark Zuckerberg, testifying before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, tells lawmakers Facebook will withdraw from the Libra Association should it launch before securing all of the regulatory approvals it needs. (link)

November 2019

December 2019

January 2020

February 2020

  • February 3, 2020: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga outlines a number of concerns he has about libra, including whether it would become inextricably linked to the proprietary Calibra wallet, who could use it and whether the Libra Association members would receive returns. (link)

    See Also: Libra Vice Chair Not Worried About the Leavers

  • February 6, 2020: Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard says the U.S. central bank is researching whether launching a digital currency of its own might be an effective way of countering libra. (link)
  • February 7, 2020: Jamal El-Hindi, deputy director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), says that “social media and messaging platforms” trying to build cryptocurrencies must abide by the same anti-money laundering standards existing financial institutions face (link)

    See Also: Could a Digital Dollar Compete on Privacy? Fed Chairman Powell Hints It Might

  • February 19, 2020: European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis says the body is still unsure how to regulate libra and needs more information before it can determine how EU law might apply. (link)
  • February 21, 2020: Digital commerce platform Shopify joins the Libra Association, becoming the first company to do so after the group’s founding in 2019. (link)
  • February 24, 2020: Bank of England cashier Sarah John say it’s “crucial” for central banks to better understand digital currencies and work with private issuers. (link)
  • February 25, 2020: Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Timothy Lane says the central bank has no intention of issuing its own digital currency unless a private competitor to cash takes off. (link)
  • February 26, 2020: Crypto prime brokerage service Tagomi joins the Libra Association. (link)

March 2020

  • March 11, 2020: cLabs, a Silicon Valley mobile payments startup, launches the Celo Alliance with Libra Association members Coinbase Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Bison Trails and Anchorage to build a payments infrastructure that is inclusive, echoing many of libra’s tenets. (link)

    See Also: That Noise You’re Hearing? Central Banks Struggling to Evolve

  • March 25, 2020: Global stablecoins might be securities, finds the International Organization of Securities Commissions. It publishes a paper looking a hypothetical stablecoin backed by a basket of reserve currencies. (link)

    See Also: The Overton Window Opens for a Digital Dollar

April 2020

  • April 7, 2020: Bank of England analyst Ben Dyson says private entities could have a role in issuing digital currencies “are responding to a real need.” (link)
  • April 14, 2020: The Financial Stability Board publishes a consultation report advising global financial regulators how they might address stablecoin projects like libra. (link)
  • April 16, 2020: The Libra Association revamps its white paper and pulls back from its original vision, announcing that rather than a single stablecoin backed by a basket of assets it will now look to issue a series of stablecoins backed by a single asset each. It still intends to issue a basket-backed coin in some form, but the new look remains a major concession to policy makers concerned by the project. (link)
  • April 17, 2020: U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia says libra’s revamp still does not address questions of how the stablecoin(s) will impact the global economy and is “insufficient” to satisfy lawmakers’ concerns. (link)
  • April 20, 2020: Heifer International, a global nonprofit organization, joins the Libra Association as its 23rd member. (link)

Related: Stablecoins Aren’t Inflating Crypto Market, Study Concludes

Follow all of CoinDesk’s coverage of the Libra project here.

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