Telegram Gets a Crypto Wallet—3 Years After SEC Pumped the Brakes
The Open Network Foundation (TON Foundation) unveiled a partnership with messaging app Telegram on Wednesday, taking The Open Network (TON) closer to its spiritual roots as it launches a self-custodial crypto wallet for the chat platform’s users.
The TON Foundation said that its self-custodial digital wallet, TON Space, has launched on Telegram and is now available to the chat platform’s approximately 800 million users. In addition, the Foundation said that projects built on TON will get priority access to the messaging app’s advertising platform, Telegram Ads.
The wallet feature is currently accessible in Telegram’s settings, a TON spokesperson said, and a global rollout will begin in November, “excluding the U.S. and some other countries.”
TON, a proof-of-stake blockchain platform, was ditched by Telegram in 2020. It was slated to go live after two-and-a-half years of work on the platform, but Telegram’s involvement was cut short by a lawsuit from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The SEC sued Telegram in 2019 over $1.7 billion raised via the project’s initial coin offering (ICO) through a token called Grams. An alleged offering of unregistered securities, Telegram settled with the SEC, paying back investors any unspent funds along with a $18.5 million fine.
A refund was already in the works: Telegram had promised to return funds to users if the platform didn’t go live by a certain date in the spring of 2020.
Similar to Tesla owner Elon Musk’s ambitions for Twitter (or X) as both a payments and media app, Telegram co-founder Pavel Durov envisioned TON as a way to send crypto within chats and monetize the messaging app.
In a 2020 blog post, which officially said that “Telegram’s active involvement with TON is over,” Durov warned of other crypto projects co-opting TON’s name and tech. He said then that the firm was “unlikely to ever support them in any way,” making Wednesday’s move an apparent about-face.
Community organizations emerged to keep the dream behind TON alive in Telegram’s wake, including organizations like FreeTon, NewTON, and the TON Chinese Community.
Telegram’s Chief Investment Officer John Hyman said giving users ownership of their identities and assets aligns with the company’s beliefs toward free speech.
“With this partnership, we are putting digital ownership rights in the hands of our entire user base,” Hyman said in a statement. “Telegram’s mission has always been to enable freedom of speech, but speech is so much more in this digital age.”
TON Foundation announced last week that it’s settled down in Switzerland, where the organization is now registered as a nonprofit. Steve Yun, president of TON Foundation, spoke to the synergistic elements of TON and Telegram’s collaboration in a written statement.
“TON ecosystem strives to provide a simple and intuitive user experience akin to that of the popular social applications, like Telegram,” he said. “Sharing the same DNA, we invite all builders to join our journey to mass adoption.”
Around the time Telegram withdrew from TON’s development, the app had close to 400 million users. Since then, according to statistics provided by TON Foundation, Telegram has doubled that tally and it’s currently one of the top 10 most downloaded apps in the world.