Diem (formerly known as Libra) is a blockchain-based cryptocurrency that is price-stabilized (see stablecoin) through the backing of a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities held in the Libra Reserve.
The Libra Reserve is managed by the the not-for-profit Libra Association, that is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and is regulated by the Swiss Financial Authorities. The Libra Association is made up of Facebook, a subsidiary of Facebook called Calibra, and 27 other companies. The purpose of the Libra Association is to develop permissionless governance and consensus for the Libra network.
Facebook plans on allowing people to purchase the Libra cryptocurrency online and at various brick and mortar locations around the world.
On June 18, 2019 the American social media company Facebook, released a white paper with details about their plans to launch an open-source cryptocurrency project, called Libra, in the first half of 2020.
According to Libra's white paper there are approximately 1.7 billion adults around the globe without access to traditional financial infrastructure, however, 1 billion of those adults have a mobile phone, and about 500 million of those 1 billion also have access to the internet. Libra is trying to create a global cryptocurrency capable of bringing secure financial services and financial infrastructure with low fees to the unbanked people of the world with access to the internet and a mobile device.
Facebook's Libra has seen some pushback from the US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, regarding regulatory issues surrounding Libra. Mnuchin told reporters the Libra cryptocurrency is a national security issue because of its potential to be used by "money launderers and terrorist financiers". Mr.Mnuchin commented further about his concerns towards Libra's potential as a cryptocurrency by saying:
Cryptocurrencies have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity like cyber crime, tax evasion, extortion, ransomware, illicit drugs, and human trafficking"
Facebook executive and head of Calibra, David Marcus, appeared before the United States senate on Tuesday July 16, 2019 to discus regulatory issues surrounding Libra. Prior to the senate hearing David Marcus went on record saying:
Facebook will not offer the Libra digital currency until we have fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals.
During the senate hearing law makers questioned David Marcus about why people should trust Facebook to manage their money and why Facebook should be trusted to pioneer financial technology regulations which could drastically change global financial systems. On May 9, 2019 the Mark Crapo and Sherrod Brown of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking him to respond to several questions which were the primary focus of the senate hearing on July 16, 2019. These questions were:
- How would this new cryptocurrency-based payment system work, and what outreach has there been to financial regulators to ensure it meets all legal and regulatory requirements?
- What privacy and consumer protections would users have under the new payment system?
- What consumer financial information does Facebook have that it has received from a financial company?
- To the extent Facebook has received consumer financial information from a financial company, what does Facebook fo with such information and how does Facebook safeguard the information?
- Does Facebook share or sell any consumer information (or information derived from consumer information) with any unaffiliated third parties?
- Does Facebook have any information bearing on an individual's (or group of individuals') creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics or mode of living that is used (either by Facebook or unaffiliated third party) to establish eligibility for, or marketing of a product or service related to, (1) credit, (2) insurance, (3) employment, or (4) housing?
- How does Facebook ensure that information bearing on an individual's (or group of individuals') creditworthiness, credit capacity, character, general reputation, and/or personal characteristics is not used in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
Libra is a stable cryptocurrency because each unit of Libra is backed by a reserve of tangible real world assets held in a reserve called the Libra Reserve; consisting of a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities. The participating members of the Libra Reserve are required to have an investment-grade credit rating.
Compared to traditional stablecoin projects, Libra's price will fluctuate as the value of assets backing the cryptocurrency fluctuate in price. This will occur because the value of Libra is not pegged to a single fiat currency, but is instead pegged to assets held by a geographically distributed and regulated group of institutional custodians participating in the Libra Reserve.
Facebook does not fully control the Libra cryptocurrency, but does have an agreement with the companies partners to form a non-profit organization regulated by Swiss financial authorities called the Libra Association.
Facebook created the Libra Association (later renamed the Diem Association) to oversee the currency.
According to Libra's website the officially stated goals of the Libra Association are:
- The transition to permissionless governance and consensus node operation, lowering the barriers to entry for participation and reducing the reliance on Founding Members.
- Minimizing the association's role as manager of the Libra Reserve by fully automating reserve management.
- Over time, the objective is for the association's primary role to be the coordination of the open-source community to define and develop the technical roadmap of the Libra network.
The Libra Association consists of Facebook, Facebook's subsidiary Calibra, and 27 other technology companies (such as eBay, Uber, and Lyft), financial service providers (such as PayPal), venture capitalists, and other non-profit organizations. Each member of the Libra Association has equal voting rights to make decisions regarding the development of the Libra cryptocurrency; ensuring Facebook does not control the entire cryptocurrency network itself.
The Libra blockchains consensus mechanism will initially only grant voting rights for governance purposes to founding members. As the Libra cryptocurrency grows the Libra Association will grow to include any entity operating as a node validator that holds a sufficient stake in the Libra network. The two main purposes of the Libra Association is to ensure effective coordination and governance of the Libra network by attempting to align validator nodes and the open-source community around Libra's technical roadmap, and to manage the Libra reserve and allocate funds for social-impact projects managed by the Libra Social Impact Advisory Board (SIAB).
Each member of the Libra Association, and founding member of LIbra, invested a minimum of $10 million USD into Libra in order to help build up the platforms reserve of fiat currency. The 28 founding members of Libra, organized by industry, include:
- Payments: Mastercard, PayPal, PayU, Stripe, Visa
- Technology and marketplaces: Booking Holdings, eBay, Facebook/Calibra, Fartech, Lyft, Mercado Pago, Spotify AB, Uber Technologies Inc
- Telecommunications: Iliad, Vodofone Group
- Venture capital: Adreessen Horowitz, Breakthrough Initiatives, Ribbit Capital, Thrive Capital, Union Square Ventures
- Nonprofit and multilateral organizations, and academic institutions: Creative Destruction Lab, Mercy Corps, Women's World Banking
The Libra Social Impact Advisory Board is an advisory board of the Libra Association lead by a group of social impact partners (SIPs) consisting of nonprofit organizations and academic institutions. SIAB acts to influence how the Libra Association allocates its grants and social impact investments by measuring and reporting on the social impact of its previous projects, developing future social-impact initiatives, increasing the effectiveness of grantees, and to serve as a convening party focused on bringing new SIPs into SIAB. When each grant/funding recommendation is agreed upon by members of SIAB it is brought to the Libra Association for approval. If a grant/funding is approved, SIPs are given the opportunity to serve as nodes delegated by the founding members of Libra.
SIAB will initially consist of the managing director of the Libra Association (elected by the Libra association every 3 years) and 4-6 members elected by the Libra Association during their first council meeting. The Libra Association can vote to expand the number of members of SIAB. Each member of SIAB serves a one year term before elections take place to re-elect or elect new SIAB members. Each SIAB member has the right to be re-elected indefinitely by the Libra Association, and the Libra Association has the power to remove any SIAB member at anytime with a majority vote.
Facebook created a company subsidiary called Calibra that will be offering a cryptocurrency wallet for users to buy and sell using the Libra cryptocurrency. The wallet will allow users to send Libra over their messaging a platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The Calibra Wallet will also be available as an IOS and Android application for people who do not have Facebook accounts.
The Calibra cryptocurrency wallet is a subsidiary of Facebook, but will not share any financial data with Facebook or third parties without customer consent. The company states in their Customer Commitment document that their data will stay completely separate from data originating from Facebook's social platforms unless consent is given by users using the Calibra wallet.
The Libra protocol is the blockchain protocol powering the Libra cryptocurrency. The following image is a visual representation of how the Libra protocol operates. The Libra protocol uses a single merkel tree to provide an authenticated data structure within the Libra network.
The Libra protocol uses the Move language for implementing all deterministic executive functions for storing and updating all information on the Libra blockchain in a single versioned database ledger. The Move language is used to allow blockchain validators to execute transactions against the latest version of the ledger state, and to respond to client queries regarding the history of the ledger. The ledger state uses an account-based dat model consisting of key-value stores that map account addresses to account values. Each account address on the Libra blockchain has a 256-bit value.
The following is a generic overview of the data present in transactions on the Libra network:
- Sender address: Details containing the account of the users address sending the transaction. The senders address is read by the Move virtual machine and contains the sequence number, authentication key, and LibraAccount balance.
- Sender Public key: Corresponding public key to the private key used for signing the transaction. The hash of the public key matches the authentication key stored inside of the senders LibraAccount.
- Program: The Move bytecode of the transaction script required for execution, optional list of script inputs, and and optional list of publishable Move byte modules.
- Gas price: Price of Libra coins the transaction sender is willing to pay for the processing of their transaction request.
- Maximum Gas price: Maximum number of Libra coins, or gas units, a transaction is allowed to consume before transaction execution is stopped.
- Sequence number: Unsigned number that is required to be equal to the sequence number of the senders LibraAccount. After transaction execution the sequence number increases by 1, and the transaction can never be replayed.
- Signature: The senders digital signature.
Libra users submit their transactions by updating their ledger state, and each tranaction is charged a transaction fee denominated in Libra coins that is based on the gas model used by Ethereum. Each transaction is made using Move bytecode to create a transaction script containing information with the recipient account address or the number of Libra being sent. A validator receives the transactions script and runs it using the present ledger state as an input. The validator process the transaction and produces a deterministic transaction output that is committed during consensus after agreeing to a binding commitment regarding the output of the transaction. Once the transaction is officially committed by the consensus protocol the ledger state is updated.
The Libra consensus protocol uses a byzantine fault tolerant consensus mechanism that is a variant of the HotStuff consensus protocol named LibraBFT. The LibraBFT consensus mechanism replicates transactions submitted by Libra users across a network of validators, executes the transactions against the current ledger state of the Libra blockchain, and creates a binding agreement among validators regarding their transaction results and ordering of transactions on the Libra blockchain.
In the Libra blockchain technical white paper the blockchain performance is expected to support around 1000 transactions per second with a 10-second processing time for each transaction to be committed. The white paper assumes each transaction requires approximately 5 KB of bandwidth and each validator would require a 40 Mbps to support 1000 transactions per second. The LibraBFt protocol was designed for commodity CPU to handle a transaction validation rate of 1000 transactions per second. Each validator needs to store the current ledger state, and it's estimated that each account is about 4 KB in size making servers with 16 TB of SSD storage capable of storing up to 4 billion accounts.
On December 1, 2020, it became known that the Libra Association is rebranding in an attempt to distance itself from the original concept of the Libra stablecoin. According to the statement of the association, it is changing its name to Diem Association, and the project itself is called Diem (Latin for "day"). The name symbolizes a new beginning and the readiness of the stablecoin to launch in 2021.
The Libra Association is an independent, non-profit membership organization overseeing the growth of the Libra digital currency ecosystem. The association members intend to work with policymakers as the Libra ecosystem is developed and operationalized and as regulations adapt to address innovation and other changes in the market.
The Founding Members of the Libra Association will each run a validator node in the BFT-based Libra Blockchain. Known members include:
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