Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency could be an abject failure and it would still be more widely used than the New Zealand dollar.
The social media company commands a global user base of 2.7 billion people across its platforms, all of whom could potentially end up using the company's planned currency.
To put that into perspective, it would take just 0.2 per cent of Facebook users to make Libra as widely used as the New Zealand dollar.
As pointed out by Wired writer Molly Wood, even the mighty US dollar is within touching distance, in that it would take only a 13 per cent pick-up rate for Libra users to reach the population of the United States.
Of course, there are other currencies far more popular and more widely used than the New Zealand dollar, but how many are owned by a corporation, or a group of corporations? And what does it mean when corporations start to look more like independent nations, only loosely tethered to the countries that gave them birth? Where do they pay taxes and who are they beholden to?
These are all complex questions that are at the core of the strong reservations about Libra expressed by the banking industry and politicians in recent weeks.
But, as its track record shows, Facebook isn't an organisation to let criticism get in the way of a good idea.
In its early press releases, the social media giant said the currency is intended for the unbanked billions around the world who, for numerous reasons, do not have access to a secure place to keep their money, or an easy way to transfer payments. This ostensibly noble starting point isn't what worries regulators, but rather what – albeit unintended – financial monstrosity Facebook could unleash if left to its own devices.
New Zealand advertising executive Murray Streets says that if Libra sees the light of day and is allowed to evolve, it could place Facebook in an even more powerful position than it currently occupies.
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"If you can become 'the internet of money' as Libra wants to be, you're no longer just another social media platform shedding users," says the Barnes, Catmur & Friends Dentsu managing director.
"You'll be as indispensable as the internet, or money."
Streets says that social media has already entangled its way into our lives and that Libra could further tighten the latches holding it in place.
"Convenience is potent and being able to pay my rent without leaving my app could prove seductive over time for younger users who don't have the same expectations and blind loyalty to traditional payments and banking."
This moves the cryptocurrency debate from the darker niches of the internet to a place where it starts to shape the habits and behaviour of consumers who will one day grow into the most influential people in the marketplace.
"Given Facebook's pivot to privacy, following its users away from the newsfeed and into messaging, it will be very handy for people to make one-to-one payments within, say, WhatsApp," says Streets.
"That's where Libra could start to get a grip on people's weekly and daily habits."
Will advertisers follow?
Almost all the money moving through Facebook at the moment comes from advertisers, who pay the company to serve ads to users around the world.
Facebook doesn't reveal how much it makes in the local market, but industry insiders estimate that New Zealand advertisers – ranging from one-person shops to corporate juggernauts – spend hundreds of millions of dollars on social media advertising every year.
At the moment, all local transactions are paid in the currency of the host country – so New Zealand-based businesses pay in New Zealand dollars. But this standard practice doesn't necessarily have to stay the way it is.
As any internationally trading Kiwi business owner can attest, volatility in currency trading can hurt your bottom line. And this issue will be particularly pronounced for an organisation as big as Facebook, operating across numerous populous countries struggling with unhinged inflation (think South Africa or Argentina) or political uncertainty (think Brexit or Trump).
If Facebook was able to have advertisers pay in its own currency, it could limit its exposure to the volatility of local currencies. Facebook's stock trajectory since 2012 shows the company is more than capable of giving investors what they're looking for – and it clearly believes it has what it takes to develop a stable currency in one of the most volatile markets ever to have existed.
In theory, Facebook could start slow in some of its smaller markets before rolling out the approach more broadly. The trickier challenge, however, will lie in convincing advertisers in more developed markets that it will be worthwhile taking the plunge.
"For a lot of Western Facebook users it could be like the time Facebook did email addresses. Thanks Mark, but I've already got several of those," says Streets.
"We have to ask: is it really solving a widespread problem that people in more developed markets have, yet?"
Streets also worries that allowing Facebook to dominate the payments side of the industry could give the company even more power at a time when it is still grappling with a number of issues relating to data use and site moderation.
"Given Facebook has evolved far from its original mission to become essentially an advertising sales engine onto which is bolted a social media platform, we don't see, nor do we recommend, clients or agencies embracing Libra as a media currency until Facebook has at the very least addressed its core issues."
These are all just hypothetical scenarios for now, given that we won't know what Facebook plans to do or how far it wants to go. But one thing's certain: the world is addicted to social media. And we have to constantly question where that addiction might lead us.