Facebook’s Libra Isn’t Fading Away Just Yet—Data Sheet
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I was beginning to wonder if Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency would sink under its own weight, what with all its largest partners jumping ship. These payment and merchant heavyweights—Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Stripe, eBay, and Booking.com—had all bolted from the initial group that makes up the Libra Association, a supposedly independent Swiss organization Facebook set up to oversee the non-governmental digital currency.
As if on cue, Facebook announced Monday that 21 of the original 27 founding members of the Libra group had signed a charter to establish it. (Donald Trump would call this “papering.”) With an exception or two, the remaining list of founders suggests Facebook more or less is going it alone. Vodaphone is the only mature, substantial company in the group. Uber, Lyft, and Spotify certainly are substantial, but they’re hardly mature—or profitable. A few of the members are true-believer investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Ribbit Capital, Xapo Holdings, and Union Square Ventures. Each of these investment firms has a prominent crypto-advocate leader flying the flag for Libra. Others are tiny startups whose fates are totally tied to cryptocurrencies outgrowing their newborn phase.
Oh, then there’s Facebook, of course. Amusingly, it is not a member of the Libra Association. Its Calibra digital wallet is. Its representative, Facebook executive David Marcus, lists his affiliation as “Calibra.” Two of the three named staff members of the Libra Association worked with Marcus at PayPal. (The word “Facebook” does not appear in an emailed news release from Libra.)
Facebook, er, Libra suggests there are plenty more members in the wings. “The Libra Association confirmed that over 1,500 entities have indicated interest in joining the Libra project effort, and approximately 180 entities have met the preliminary membership criteria shared at libra.org,” it said. None of these were identified.
Facebook probably could carry Libra all by itself if had to. And it might yet.
On Twitter: @adamlashinsky
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
Tilting to the right. Speaking of Facebook, Politico reported Monday that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been holding "informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners" with conservative commentators, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell. Zuckerberg responded that he's had dinners "with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time."
There was only one catch. Moving on to the next techlash controversy, Apple came under fire for adding a security feature to its Safari mobile browser app. For users in China, the app now checks all web sites against a list of malicious pages from Chinese Internet giant Tencent. The aim is to keep users safe, but the feature also raises the possibility of Chinese snooping on users' web activities.
What's that awful smell? Back among the out-of-favor startups, WeWork disclosed on Monday that it has a serious contamination problem. The not-going-public-right-now office manager said it found harmful levels of formaldehyde in about 1,600 phone booth spaces in its locations across the United States and Canada. Meanwhile maybe-we-shouldn't-have-gone-public ride sharing service Uber conducted its third round of layoffs in recent weeks, this time cutting 350 jobs across its self-driving unit, food delivery service, marketing, recruiting, and core ride-hailing business.
Portrait of a graduate. The Dallas Independent School District is introducing esports programs–that's playing video games competitively–in its middle and high schools. With a $450,000 annual budget, esports have attracted more than 700 student team players. While we're on gaming, the fabulous Internet Archive announced it has uploaded almost 2,600 games from the MS-DOS era which can be played on an emulator on the site. The most popular so far appear to be Leisure Suit Larry 6–Shape up or Slip Out (don't ask) and Simcity 2000.
It means I can't fly. I had thought Paul Allen's Spruce Goose–I mean Stratolaunch giant airplane project–had been mothballed after the Microsoft co-founder's death, but not so. Instead, the company has been sold to an undisclosed buyer for an undisclosed price. Stay tuned. Also, did I say yesterday that Adam had watched the Netflix documentary on Microsoft's other co-founder? He informs me that he has not. Sorry for my confusion.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Sticking with the world's largest social network, have you heard that Facebook is accepting political ads even when they contain false statements? That's led to a rather public tiff with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But maybe the whole controversy can go away, suggests Josh Constine at TechCrunch: How about if Facebook just banned all campaign ads?
We’re in a post-truth era now where the spoils won through deceptive demagoguery are clear. Cable news and digitally native publications have turned distortion of facts into a huge business. Most critically, targeted social network advertising combined with donation links create a perpetual misinformation machine. Politicians can target vulnerable demographics with frightening lies, then say only their financial contribution will let the candidate save them. A few clicks later and the candidate has the cash to buy more ads, amplifying more untruths and raising even more money. Without the friction of having to pick up the phone, mail a letter or even type in a URL like TV ads request, the feedback loop is shorter and things spiral out of control.
ON THE MOVE
Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz brought in Julie Yoo as its newest partner and fourth-ever female general partner. Yoo was the co-founder and chief product officer at healthcare startup Kyruus...Microsoft lost a few folks on the gaming side. Xbox Live VP Mike Ybarra resigned, as did Mixer (originally called Beam) co-founders James Boehm and Matt Salsamendi...Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick joined the advisory board of politics-oriented VC firm Higher Ground Labs...Real estate unicorn Opendoor appointed Gautam Gupta as chief financial officer and chief business officer. The former head of finance at Uber joined Opendoor in 2017 as chief operating officer.
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BEFORE YOU GO
People wandering around with metal detectors may look a little goofy but no one's laughing at Billy Vaughan. Checking around his hometown of Whitehaven, England, Vaughan uncovered a Bronze Age solid gold band that's likely worth tens of thousands of dollars. Not bad for less than a day's work.