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Facebook Rebrands Its Controversial Cryptocurrency Wallet

Illustration for article titled Facebook Rebrands Its Controversial Cryptocurrency Wallet
Graphic: Facebook

Facebook announced today that it would be completely rebranding the wallet for its long-anticipated cryptocurrency—perhaps in an attempt to shake off its troubled reputation.

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“Today, we’re excited to introduce Novi—the new name and brand for the digital wallet that will help people send and hold Libra digital currencies,” said Novi’s head, David Marcus, in a company blog post earlier today. “While we’ve changed our name from Calibra, we haven’t changed our long-term commitment to helping people around the world access affordable financial services.”

Calibra, as the wallet was initially called, was introduced by the company last year as a companion for the company’s planned cryptocurrency, Libra. The new name change comes after a period of relative calm for the company’s crypto efforts, following a torrent of critiques from multiple federal bodies, a lawsuit over its logo, and defunding from more than a few of its chief investors. What better time to do a little rebranding than when an all-consuming coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the news cycle?

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The blog post didn’t give a reason for the name change to Novi, though per Marcus, the name was “inspired” by the Latin words “novus” for “new” and “via” for “way.”

“It’s a new way to send money, and Novi’s new visual identity and design represent the fluid movement of digital currencies,” he explained. The change also offers the wallet a new identity that’s entirely separate from Libra’s controversies thus far. Another reason the company might want to divest the identity of the currency and the wallet proper: unlike Libra (which is run by the nonprofit Libra Association), the Novi wallet is a tool that’s both owned and operated by Facebook proper. That means—if the worst comes to the worst, and Libra ultimately goes belly-up—this wallet could be used independently of the cryptocurrency via support for say, a digital currency that’s popular.

As other reporters have previously pointed out, one of Libra’s biggest selling points as a currency is its potential in developing countries, which is where the currency—and the upcoming wallet—will be rolled out. Per Marcus, when the wallet debuts in these countries, it’ll come with “features that will make cross-border money transfers instant, secure, and with no hidden fees,” along with integrations into Whatsapp and Messenger.

Though the exact launch date is somewhat in limbo until the aforementioned regulatory issues are ironed out, the steps to secure a new name—and a new identity—suggests that this debut might be sooner than we think.

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I cover the business of data for Gizmodo. Send your worst tips to swodinsky@gizmodo.com.

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