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The AltFi View on the WhatsApp outage: Facebook’s fintech ambitions further beaten and bruised

Regulatory pressures and plummeting trust in Big Tech could mean Facebook’s dream of being a digital conduit for money may be dead in the water.



Weekly Leading Article

Billions of people around the world had a new shared experience to add to their lists of woe this week when Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp mysteriously went off the air for six hours.

Mark Zuckerberg, the infamous and ultimate boss of all three brands apologised to the 3.5 billion individuals unable to use the social media services’ messaging and photo-sharing capabilities.

The fallout, which comes at a time of several important probes into the social media giant’s place in society, will push any fintech ambitions Facebook (the wider parent company) has to diversify its services looking increasingly unlikely.

WhatsApp on the face of it makes perfect sense as the ultimate destination of the broader fintech trend.

It could bring together neobanks, open banking, chatbots, AI, digital payments, etc all into one place—tapping into the ‘super app’ trend leaking over from Asia. 

For those worried about the ever-increasing number of apps on their phone, it offers too a re-bundling opportunity to please the tidiest and orderly of minds.

Zuckerberg last year established Facebook Financial, or “F2”, with plans to better integrate Facebook’s various payment services, and then there was Facebook’s bizarre crypto failure  Libra...

The reality, however, is that regulatory pressure and diminishing trust—both further exacerbated by last week’s global outage—means Facebook’s dream of being a digital conduit for money remain dead in the water.

We’ve already handed Facebook our social connections, photo libraries, shopping behaviours and a virtual ton of personal metadata upon which the near-$1 trn company is built.

Handing over our bank accounts, luckily, is a step too far.

The AltFi Leader is a new weekly view for 2021 from our editorial team. We’d love to hear your ideas, thoughts, feedback and constructive criticism:

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