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Meta’s ending the pilot for Novi, the company’s digital wallet and the last remaining piece of its troubled cryptocurrency project, as first reported by Bloomberg. On Novi’s website, Meta says the wallet is shutting down on September 1st, 2022, and asks users to withdraw their funds “as soon as possible.”
Users will lose access to their accounts come September, and will no longer be able to add money to Novi starting July 21st. If someone forgets to withdraw their remaining balance, Meta says it will “attempt to transfer” their funds to the bank account or debit card added to the service.
Meta rolled out the “small pilot” of Novi to users in the US and Guatemala last October. Novi was originally built to support fast and free transactions using the Meta-backed cryptocurrency, Diem, but regulatory challenges forced the company to partner with Coinbase to use the Paxos stablecoin (USDP) instead. While Meta made it clear that it still planned on adding support for Diem at a later date, things started to fall apart (more than they already were) at the end of 2021 and into 2022.
Before Facebook’s parent company was known as Meta, Diem was also known by another name: Libra. The cryptocurrency project faced scrutiny over its ties to Facebook, so much so that the independent group behind Libra rebranded the project to Diem in an attempt to distance itself from the social network.
Members of the US Senate called on Meta to shut down its Novi project shortly after its October 2021 launch, citing that the company “cannot be trusted to manage cryptocurrency.” David Marcus, the head of Meta’s cryptocurrency projects, left the company one month later. Diem sold its assets for about $200 million at the beginning of this year, marking an end to the project.
The end of Diem doesn’t mean that Meta is ditching the idea of developing its own digital assets and accompanying wallet, though. Meta spokesperson Lauren Dickson said in an emailed statement to The Verge that Meta will utilize the technology it developed in conjunction with the project “on new products, such as digital collectibles,” as it looks towards “building the metaverse.”
Meta has already started testing NFTs (non-fungible tokens) on Instagram and recently rolled out support for NFTs on Facebook for select creators based in the US. The company is also reportedly working on a digital currency, called “Zuck Bucks,” that’s not based on the blockchain.
Last month, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg also hinted at creating a digital wallet that could help you manage and store “digital clothing, art, videos, music, experiences, virtual events, and more.” The wallet would be interoperable across different metaverse experiences, reflecting the goals of the Metaverse Standards Forum that Meta and a group of other companies helped form, which calls for industry-wide standards across virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.