Coin Center director: Libra’s path towards permissionless is flawed, unlikely to become decentralized

Coin Center director: Libra’s path towards permissionless is flawed, unlikely to become decentralized

Facebook finally revealed details about its highly-anticipated cryptocurrency, Libra. And while the company said it plans on transitioning to a permissionless network over the next five years, questions have been raised about Facebook’s ability to create a truly decentralized system.

Libra is a centralized-decentralized cryptocurrency

With decentralization as the key purpose of blockchain technology, many have wondered whether Facebook’s newly announced coin could actually be called a cryptocurrency. After the social media giant published the Libra whitepaper, it seemed that many of the burning questions regarding Facebook’s stablecoin were more or less answered.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency Libra whitepaper reveals blockbuster partnerships
Related: Facebook’s cryptocurrency Libra whitepaper reveals blockbuster partnerships

But, the question of decentralization still remains. According to the whitepaper, the Libra blockchain network will be centralized to a certain extent with the founding members of the Libra Association acting as node operators. Node operators will be responsible for settling transactions and various other types of information.

Over time, the association’s plan is to decentralize the Libra blockchain to ensure the native token on the Libra blockchain network operates as a cryptocurrency rather than a token of a permissioned ledger.

However, Jerry Brito, the executive director at Coin Center, doesn’t think Libra will be able to become permissionless. He noted that in order to do that, the company would need to overcome serious technical, legal, and governance challenges.

Brito also pointed out that if Libra was to become popular and profitable, there would be very little incentive to transition to a permissionless system. By remaining limited to a fixed number of member-owners, the company would be in total control of the network.

Decentralizing control of the reserve

There are a lot of similarities between Facebook’s Libra and Circle and Coinbase’s CENTRE Network, Brito pointed out. But, while CENTRE’s USD Coin is pegged to the USD, Libra is pegged to a basket of global currencies and government securities called the Libra Reserve.

The Libra whitepaper didn’t offer any details on how the Reserve will be managed or whether there will there be any limitations regarding the currencies or instruments it can hold. This overlooked detail is the biggest problem Facebook will face if it were to decentralize Libra.

In the Libra whitepaper, the company said that it will have to explore ways to distribute and decentralize the reserve, but didn’t list any concrete measures it would take. Brito, on the other hand, doesn’t believe Libra will ever be able to decentralize the control of the Reserve.

He listed several issues Facebook would have to overcome in order to have a truly decentralized Reserve, none of which seem to have a clear solution in sight.

As a centralized network cannot, by default, be permissionless, Libra’s plan to pursue decentralization isn’t ambitious—it’s almost impossible, according to Brito.

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Priyeshu Garg

Priyeshu Garg

Analyst @ CryptoSlate

Priyeshu is a software engineer who is passionate about machine learning and blockchain technology. He holds an engineering degree in computer science engineering and is a passionate economist. He built his first digital marketing startup when he was a teenager, and worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies along with smaller firms. When he is not solving transportation problems at his company (Ola), he can be found writing about the blockchain or roller skating with his friends.

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