Putting an end to all speculation, WhatsApp launched a new pilot, called 'Novi wallet', to allow a limited number of users in the US to send and receive money from within a chat, using cryptocurrency.
In a statement released on Thursday, the American freeware, cross-platform centralized instant messaging and voice-over-IP service owned by Meta Platforms said that the new feature is powered by Novi wallet, which was launched as a pilot in October. Through this wallet, people can make payments, using Pax Dollars (USDP), a stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar issued by Paxos.
Novi Chief Stephane Kasriel and WhatsApp's Will Cathcart explained that users could make payments through this pilot like other attachments in WhatsApp. According to them, users would have to access the feature via the paper clip icon on their Android phones or the + icon on iOS before selecting "Payment" option from the menu. Meanwhile, the Novi website mentioned that no fees would be paid for sending or receiving money or to withdraw money from their respective bank accounts. Also, users can make unlimited payments without maintaining a balance in their Novi accounts. And, payments will be transferred instantly.
Kasriel and Cathcart assured users that payments would not affect end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp, as the encryption would be in place by default for all personal conversations. Currently, the WhatsApp's Novi pilot is available only in English and Spanish. Initially, the Novi pilot was available in the US and Guatemala. However, users in Guatemala cannot access the new WhatsApp payments functionality. They would have to use the standalone Novi app.
According to sources close to top Facebook management, this new pilot is a part of the company's much-hyped cryptocurrency plans officially announced in 2019. At that period of time, Facebook, as part of the Libra Association, decided to develop and launch a cryptocurrency, called Libra, and to peg it to a basket of low-volatility assets, instead of one specific currency. Facebook had also decided to integrate this with a digital wallet, called 'Calibra', allowing users to send money around the world with lower fees than other traditional methods.
However, Facebook changed the plan later, and Libra become Diem after the Libra Association lost some of its most high-profile members. Calibra recently became Novi, while Facebook chose cryptocurrency exchange 'Coinbase' as its custody partner. In October, former Facebook Head (of Novi) David Marcus stressed that the company was committed to Diem, adding: "We intend to launch Novi with Diem once it receives regulatory approval." As Marcus is all set to leave the company soon, he called the Novi pilot in WhatsApp "the best farewell gift from the best team ever!"
Although WhatsApp's payment plans revolve around Novi and cryptocurrency in the US, it is offering payments, using traditional fiat currencies, in other parts of the globe, including India and Brazil.