Libra cryptocurrency renamed Diem to add distance from Facebook

The Facebook-backed Libra cryptocurrency hasn't even launched yet, but it's already rebranding, with its stablecoin product now set to debut as Diem. The move – which comes as the organization hires a number of high-profile execs – is being seen as an attempt to draw further distinction between the crypto project and the ever-controversial Facebook.

Indeed, the new Diem Association will make its independence a key pillar. The new name "signals the project's growing maturity and independence," Stuart Levey, CEO, said today.

It's not been an easy path to launch for Libra, now Diem. Announced in mid-2019, it was pitched as another bitcoin alternative that would be "a global, digitally native, reserve-backed cryptocurrency built on the foundation of blockchain technology." Although the currency itself would be independent, it could be stored in a Facebook-subsidiary digital wallet, called Calibra.

Since then, though, things haven't been smooth sailing. Libra faced early criticism for its plan to base value on the US dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, Singapore dollar, and British pound. Original partners like Visa and Stripe have exited the project.

Facebook's wallet, meanwhile, will no longer launch as Calibra, and has been rebranded to Novi. Arguably most important, the cryptocurrency's value won't be for one, single global stablecoin any more. Instead, there will be multiple versions, with each based on an individual currency such as the US dollar.

The goal now, it appears, is making financial transactions more straightforward and traceable. "The Diem project will provide a simple platform for fintech innovation to thrive and enable consumers and businesses to conduct instantaneous, low-cost, highly secure transactions," Levey said. "We are committed to doing so in a way that promotes financial inclusion – expanding access to those who need it most, and simultaneously protecting the integrity of the financial system by deterring and detecting illicit conduct."

Dahlia Malkhi is joining as the Diem Association's Chief Technology Officer, Christy Clark as Chief of Staff, Steve Bunnell as Chief Legal Officer, and Kiran Raj as Executive Vice President for Growth and Innovation and Deputy General Counsel. Diem Networks – which will be the regulated payment system operator for Diem – has also named its key exec team.

Still to come, however, is any sort of confirmation on timing for the actual launch of Diem. That's conspicuous by its absence, though earlier rumors suggested that it could be scheduled for early in the new year, and potentially as soon as January.