The Head of Facebook's Failed Cryptocurrency Is Leaving the Company

Facebook has spent the past few years trying and failing to convince regulators it should be allowed to make a digital currency.
November 30, 2021, 9:11pm
The Head of Facebook's Failed Cryptocurrency Is Leaving the Company
Alex Wong / Staff

David Marcus, the head of Facebook's cryptocurrency projects, announced on Twitter Tuesday he was leaving by the end of the year.

For the past few years, Marcus helmed the company's failed efforts to launch a Facebook-led cryptocurrency even as it radically downsized its initial global ambitions to something limited to the United States. 

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In 2019, Facebook unveiled a bold new plan: a cryptocurrency that would be rolled out as a "stablecoin" called Libra linked to a basket of the world's currencies and a digital wallet that would let Facebook's billion-plus users send money, as well as buy or sell goods and services anywhere in the world. The wallet was to be called Calibra. The company had recruited dozens of global companies to back Libra and legitimize the project such as Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, and Uber. In short, an attempt to usurp the global financial system and offer up its new cryptocurrency as the next iteration’s foundation.

Understandably, regulators were swift to condemn the project and ask for a pause, eventually leading to the project stalling completely then rebranding as “Diem.” Calibra became “Novi.” Many of the high-profile partners, including the credit card companies, exited the project. While the ambitions for Diem were scaled back significantly to focus exclusively on the US, the project ended up looking a lot like a Paypal with crypto. Diem itself appeared to go to an early grave as lobbying ceased and regulators continued to resist efforts by a company riddled by scandal after scandal to roll out any sort of financial service. Finally, the Novi wallet launched without Diem, and without much fanfare at all.

“While there’s still so much to do right on the heels of launching Novi — and I remain as passionate as ever about the need for change in our payments and financial systems — my entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it,” Marcus said in a tweet thread announcing his departure from Facebook.

Marcus didn’t elaborate on what his future plans might be, but announced in the thread that Stephane Kasriel will now lead Facebook’s crypto unit. Kasriel was previously VP of Product at Novi. 

“I am so honored for the opportunity to lead the awesome @novi team, and look forward to continuing to build products and services that allow more access for people and businesses to the financial system and digital economy,” Kasriel said in a tweet

With Facebook’s latest pivot to its newest shiny moonshot project—the metaverse—it is a shame, however, that we won’t be able to buy real estate NFTs with Libra or Diem anytime soon.