Near the end of 2017, on a Dominican Republic beach with his family, Facebook executive David Marcus wrestled with a question he’d been pondering since his previous job as president of PayPal. How would you build the internet of money? A friction-free global digital currency would be a boon for the many people with mobile phones but no access to banking. And who better to develop something like this, he wondered, than Facebook, with its global reach and massive user base? Marcus, then head of Facebook Messenger, thought he had an answer. He texted his boss and told him it was time to talk about Facebook creating a cryptocurrency, saying that he had a clear view of how to do it, in a way that would earn trust even from those skeptical of Facebook. Marcus spent the next few days writing a memo that laid out his ideas.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly endorsed the plan, saying the approach synced with his ideas. Zuckerberg hads long sought an in-house currency for Facebook—remember Facebook Credits?—and the lofty aspiration to empower consumers in the developing world reprised a familiar theme of serving the next 2 billion. (Think internet.org with digital money instead of broadband.) Besides, competitors like Apple, WeChat and Google were making inroads into global finance.