Calibra, a new global currency, announced by Facebook

Calibra is a new digital wallet that you will be able to use to save, send, and spend Libra, a new global currency powered by blockchain technology.

From the Facebook Newsroom:

Today we are sharing plans for Calibra, a newly formed Facebook subsidiary whose goal is to provide financial services that will enable people to access and participate in the Libra network. The first product Calibra will introduce is a digital wallet for Libra, a new global currency powered by blockchain technology. The wallet will be available in Messenger, WhatsApp, and as a standalone app, and we expect to launch in 2020.

If you have an internet connection today, you can access all kinds of useful services for little to no cost — whether you’re trying to keep in touch with family and friends, learn new things, or even start a business. But when it comes to saving, sending, and spending money, it’s not that simple.

For many people around the world, even basic financial services are still out of reach: almost half of the adults in the world don’t have an active bank account, and those numbers are worse in developing countries and even worse for women. The cost of that exclusion is high — for example, approximately 70 percent of small businesses in developing countries lack access to credit, and $25 billion is lost by migrants every year through remittance fees.

This is the challenge we’re hoping to address with Calibra, a new digital wallet that you will be able to use to save, send, and spend Libra, a new global currency powered by blockchain technology.

From the beginning, Calibra will let you send Libra to almost anyone with a smartphone, as easily and instantly as you might send a text message and at low to no cost. And, in time, we hope to offer additional services for people and businesses, such as paying bills with the push of a button, buying a cup of coffee with the scan of a code, or riding your local public transit without needing to carry cash or a metro pass.

Here’s a sneak peek at what the experience of using Calibra will be like:

When it launches, Calibra will have strong protections in place to keep your money and your information safe. We’ll be using all the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use, and we’ll have automated systems that will proactively monitor activity to detect and prevent fraudulent behavior. We’ll also offer dedicated live support to help if you lose your phone or your password — and if someone fraudulently gains access to your account and you lose some Libra as a result, we’ll offer you a refund.

We’ll also take steps to protect your privacy. Aside from limited cases, Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook, Inc. or any third party without customer consent. For example, Calibra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook, Inc. family of products. The limited cases where this data may be shared reflect our need to keep people safe, comply with the law, and provide basic functionality to the people who use Calibra. Calibra will use Facebook, Inc. data to comply with the law, secure customers’ accounts, mitigate risk, and prevent criminal activity. You can read more about our commitments to privacy and consumer protection at calibra.com.

We’re still early in the process of developing Calibra, and along the way we’ll be consulting with a wide range of external experts to ensure that we can deliver a product that is safe, private, and easy to use for everyone. But we’re excited to share this early glimpse with you, and we’ll keep you updated along the way. In the meantime, if you’d like to be among the first to know when Calibra is available, you can sign up at calibra.com.

Mastodon, the Twitter alternative, surpasses 2 million users

Mastodon servers are federated, similar to the way email is federated. While thousands of users hang out and talk about software development on Mastodon.technology, they can also follow and interact with cat lovers over on Toot.cat, the same way Gmail users can exchange messages with Outlook users.

For social network behemoths Facebook and Twitter, the adage is painfully true: if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product being sold. As publicly traded companies, the only people they need to please are shareholders, and they do this by squeezing out of users that most valuable of resources: attention.

If it takes envy, outrage, and schadenfreude to generate the necessary return, then so be it.

There are alternatives out there. There are many. To be sure, many have emerged shining with hope, only to die of starvation — network effects are hard to come by. Path and App.net are gone, and Ello and Vero are mostly forgotten. By trying to replicate their mainstream counterparts, they fail because they try to monetize a small, niche user base that people don’t join en masse because there aren’t people there already.

But some alternatives are hanging in there.

By flipping the for-profit model and going the open-source route, they’re finding traction. When the software is free and available to anyone, the death of one server isn’t as big of a tragedy when another five have popped up in the mean time. And by trading walled gardens for open standards, these new platforms don’t live and die by Monthly Active User counts.

Mastodon — named for the band and not the extinct elephant — was born out of the mind of a German college student in 2016. It’s very clearly inspired by Twitter, or rather the Twitter tool Tweetdeck, in look and feel, and its clean and familiar interface helped it find its first users. Mastodon was heralded as the troll-free and Nazi-freeTwitter clone” in 2017, and last year’s #deletefacebook movement, born from the outcry over Facebook’s privacy abuses, brought even more attention and users.

Mastodon servers are federated, similar to the way email is federated. While thousands of users hang out and talk about software development on Mastodon.technology, they can also follow and interact with cat lovers over on Toot.cat, the same way Gmail users can exchange messages with Outlook users.

And one upside of the myriad servers is that the handle or username you’ve always craved is probably still available somewhere.

The Mastodon community has grown continuously over the past two and a half years. In the last month, the census keeping @mastodonusercount bot on the bitcoinhackers.org instance (for cryptocurrency fans, of course) clicked past 2 million users.

The actual population of Mastodon users is probably larger, even, because the aforementioned bot can only see the populations of other servers with which it federates. Mastodon is very big in Japan, for example, but for some disconcerting reasons many servers in the Western world don’t trade messages with them.

And are some of these Mastodon accounts bots that post automatically to the timeline? Yes. But they declare themselves as bots, and their posts can be categorically filtered out. There’s even a server dedicated to them.

Does this mean Nazis and racists can set up Mastodon, too? Yes. But individual servers aren’t required to federate with every other server. Trump fans have flocked to Mobile.co, but the users there can pretty much talk only amongst themselves.

To be sure, Mastodon is still niche. And it will never surpass Facebook and it’s 2.2 billion monthly active users.

But Mastodon doesn’t need to make money, as open-source contributors help keep the software evolving, and Mastodon instances are supported by donations, subscriptions, or simply out of love. (Most are run on love.) Today there are instances for pretty much every community, from artists to academics to solarpunk Libertarians. And there are mobile apps on iOS and Android (like Toot! and Fedilab) that can make Mastodon look as much or as little like Twitter as you like.

And Mastadon is only one suburb in the decentralized, open social web. There’s also Pleroma and Friendica and Diaspora and Pixelfed, which can all interact with each other. But thanks to a thriving mix of themed servers and a variety of apps, it’s probably the easiest place to start exploring the federated universe (or ‘fediverse‘).

Still not convinced? Here’s an exhaustive library of articles about Mastodon worth checking out:

And here are some Mastodon instances worth checking out:

How to turn off location tracking in Facebook for Android

Facebook has now added the ability for Android users to turn off the continuous logging of locations in the background. For people who use Facebook for iOS, nothing is changing.

Unlike Apple’s iOS, the Android mobile operating system has pretty sparse privacy controls. Apps either have access to everything, or nothing, meaning many users reluctantly or unknowingly grant them more permissions than they need.

Facebook has now added the ability for users to turn off the continuous logging of users’ locations in the background. In its announcement, the social media juggernaut announced “Location Control and Checkup” options.

“With this update, you’ll have a dedicated way to choose whether or not to share your location when you aren’t using the app,” Facebook says. “For people who previously chose to turn their Location History setting ‘on,’ the new background location setting is “on.” For people who had turned Location History ‘off’ – or never turned it on in the first place – the new background location setting is ‘off.'”

The ‘checkup’ is what Facebook is rolling out for users of Apple’s iOS devices.

“For people who use Facebook for iOS, nothing is changing,” the company notes. “But we will send a similar alert to everyone who chose to turn on Location History in the past so they can check to make sure their settings are right for them.”

To access location privacy controls, open the Facebook app and then tap “Privacy and Settings” in the main menu. There, click on “Location” to choose your preferred setting.

“Location information makes it possible for people to use Facebook to plan events, see more relevant ads, mark themselves safe in a crisis and share their favorite places,” Facebook explains, adding that location information also helps keep your account secure.

But if you don’t use Facebook features that rely on location information, you might as well flip those switches to “off.”