Facebook has announced plans for its own cryptocurrency, set for release in 2020. Known as Libra, the project will be a collaborative effort between the company and 27 partners set to launch in 2020. The move officially marks Facebook’s entry into the blockchain market.

It will operate under the Libra Association, a non-profit organisation which will oversee its development. Partner companies in the venture include financial firms such as Coinbase and Mastercard, as well as popular technology service providers including Spotify and PayPal.

Facebook wants to emphasise that Libra will not be a single purchasable asset like Bitcoin, but instead it will expand to become digital money which is backed by a range of assets. It is expected that companies such as Visa and Uber will accept it as a payment method in the future, as it becomes functional both online and offline.

Libra will work in tandem with Facebook’s Calibra service, a digital wallet that will be integrated into Messenger and WhatsApp as well as having its own standalone app. It will aim to make contactless payments using Libra seamless, in a similar way to fellow tech companies Apple, Google and Samsung, albeit using a virtual currency.

The app’s demonstration showed real-time conversions from USD to LBR for sending and receiving money, with the current exchange rate sitting at 1.0473.

The social networking giant will make its cryptocurrency available to all 2.4 billion active users, as it seeks to assert its authority over the financial sector.

However, critics have raised concerns over Facebook’s capacity for public surveillance through Libra, which will inevitably gather more personal data about its users. Privacy concerns have been synonymous with the company over the last couple of years, with public trust at an all time low in the wake of 2018’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The eventual aim is for Libra to become a stable cryptocurrency which can operate alongside traditional currencies, allowing consumers to pay for almost anything.