‘Zuck Bucks’ are the latest digital currency scheme brewing at Meta, after Facebook’s cryptocurrency Diem collapsed

April 7, 2022, 6:33 AM UTC

Faced with declining revenue as users switch to newer competitors like TikTok, Meta is exploring how virtual currencies could help lure users to its metaverse platform and keep them there, by creating a digital token that can be spent only on Meta’s platforms.

And according to the Financial Times, Meta’s staff already have a name for that new virtual currency: Zuck Bucks, named for the group’s eclectic CEO.

Unlike Diem—the doomed cryptocurrency Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to launch in 2019—Zuck Bucks are unlikely to be cryptocurrencies built on the blockchain. Instead, the FT says, quoting people familiar with the project, Zuck Bucks would be controlled by Meta directly—much like the in-game currencies used in Fortnite and games on the Roblox platform.

A spokesperson for Meta said that the company had “no updates to share” but said Meta was “focused on building for the metaverse, and that includes what payments and financial services might look like.”

Zuck Bucks are not the first time Facebook has ventured into digital currencies. The social media platform launched Facebook Credits in 2009 to facilitate in-app purchases in games like FarmVille. While initially successful, Facebook shut down the service four years later after overseas growth made the service too unwieldy, due to costs from foreign currency conversions.

The company’s more recent cryptocurrency efforts collapsed too, after regulators halted the platform’s bid to launch a stablecoin linked with the U.S. dollar.

Facebook announced Libra—a cryptocurrency to be backed by several government currencies—in 2019, only to immediately face criticism from politicians and central bankers that its effort would undermine existing currencies. After several of its partners abandoned the project, Facebook renamed Libra as Diem in late 2020 and pegged the virtual currency to the U.S. dollar. But the rebranding didn’t alleviate regulator concerns, and Diem was wound down in January.

Meta’s continued interest in digital currencies appears driven by the company’s need for new revenue streams. Meta shares are still down 30% from Feb. 2, when the company revealed that its spending on the metaverse had caused a decline in its fourth-quarter profit. The company also revealed lower revenue expectations due to increased competition from new platforms like TikTok. 

While there are no indications yet as to how Zuck Bucks might drive Meta’s revenue, companies like Roblox earn revenue from in-app currencies by selling them directly to users. Meta may also be hoping that digital tokens will encourage users to stay on its platform, supporting its $118-billion-a-year ad business.

Meta is also exploring plans to integrate non-fungible tokens—digital assets, like artwork, whose ownership is governed by the blockchain—with Facebook, including ways to allow users to create their own NFTs. The company is also considering ways to let Facebook groups use NFTs as a criteria of membership, according to the FT. Internal memos seen by the FT suggest that Meta is also exploring ways to monetize NFTs via “fees and/or ads.”

Update, April 7, 2022: This article has been updated with a comment from Meta.

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