WhatsApp launches cryptocurrency payments pilot in the US

WhatsApp has launched a new pilot that allows a “limited number” of people in the US to send and receive money from a chat using cryptocurrencies. The feature is powered by Novi, Meta’s digital wallet that was launched as a pilot six weeks ago, with payments made with Pax Dollars (USDP), a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar issued by Paxos. The news was announced by Novi’s new boss, Stephane Kasriel and Will Cathcart from WhatsApp.

According to Novi’s website, sending a payment works very similar to sending any other attachment on WhatsApp. You can access the feature via the paper clip icon on Android or the + icon on iOS, and then select “Payment” from the menu that appears. The Novi site notes that there are no fees to send or receive money, there are no limits on how often payments can be sent, and there are no fees to maintain a balance in your Novi account or to withdraw it to your bank account. Payments are transferred instantly.

The Novi pilot was originally available in the US and Guatemala, but WABetaInfo notes that Guatemalan users will not be able to access WhatsApp’s new payment functionality. Instead, they will have to continue using the standalone Novi app. Payments do not affect WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, which is set by default for all personal conversations. The WhatsApp Novi pilot is available in English and Spanish.

The new pilot has its roots in Facebook’s (now Meta) highly publicized cryptocurrency plans, which were officially announced in 2019. At the time, Facebook (as part of the Libra Association) was planning to develop and launch a cryptocurrency called Libra, which be tied to a basket of low volatility assets rather than a specific currency. This would be integrated with a digital wallet developed by Facebook called Calibra. The entire system was designed to offer a way to send money around the world at lower rates than traditional methods.

These plans have changed considerably since then. Libra has become Diem, the Libra Association has lost several of its most prominent members and has become the Diem Association, and Calibra has become Novi. Perhaps most notable, Novi ended up launching without the Diem cryptocurrency. Instead, Pax Dollars is the work of a separate company called Paxos, and Meta relies on cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase as its escrow partner.

The then director of Novi David Marcus de Meta said that the company is still engaged to diem when it announced the launch of the Novi pilot in October. “We intend to launch Novi with Diem once it receives regulatory approval,” Marcus tweeted. Subsequently, David Marcus said that he would leave the company at the end of the year. He has called Novi’s pilot on WhatsApp ”.The best parting gift from the best team of all time!

While WhatsApp’s payment plans in the US revolve around Novi and cryptocurrency, in other parts of the world it already offers payments with traditional fiat currencies. The feature had a widespread rollout in India last year and was also launched in Brazil.

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