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Blockchain exec: Facebook's Libra could become 'the equivalent of AOL in the 1990s'

On Tuesday, Facebook’s (FB) head of Calibra David Marcus will appear on Capitol Hill to face the rising clamor surrounding the social network’s proposed cryptocurrency project, Libra.

Marcus is set to defend Libra before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. Yet despite growing controversy over the crypto world’s latest big idea, some think Libra might be a game-changer for the greater blockchain community.

“The industry itself has a pretty mixed reaction to the project,” Kristin Smith, director of the Blockchain Association’s external affairs, told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.

“But we do have people in the community who realize that because of Facebook’s user base, and if [Libra] were to be integrated into their platforms, this could be the equivalent of AOL in the ‘90s that brought millions of people onto the internet,” she added.

In its heyday, the Web portal was once the gateway to the Internet, and was one of the most prominent products of the late 1990s technology bubble.

Facebook reported an estimated 2.37 billion monthly active users in April. That, combined with WhatsApp's 1.5 billion customers, should offer a good start for Libra.

The proposed cryptocurrency is set to launch in the first half of 2020, and is co-supported by nearly 30 name-brand “founding member” companies including Visa, MasterCard, eBay, PayPal, Uber, Lyft, and Spotify.

“If this were to succeed in a way that meets all of the regulatory requirements and actually gets off the ground — it could bring millions if not billions of people into using cryptocurrencies,” Smith added.

‘Little standing or dependability:’ President Trump lashed out at Facebook's Libra last week

Digital currencies have taken a beating from a number of high-profile bashers, amid concerns about illegal activity in the sector.

President Donald Trump lashed out against bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies last week in a series of targeted tweets (TWTR). Still, experts believe the renewed attention might carry the digital currency to new highs in 2019.

“Having the President of the United States tweet about bitcoin and cryptocurrency and Libra — albeit maybe not the best phraseology that we would like to see — was certainly a threshold moment for the industry,” Smith said.

“I think even 6 months ago this was not something on the radar of the President, and to have that level of attention is certainly causing a lot of consumers and also policymakers to try to figure out what this technology means for the first time,” she added.

Disclosure: AOL is a sister website to Yahoo Finance, and both are owned by Verizon Media.

Alexandra Canal is a Producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter:

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