Pavel Durov is going to launch a blockchain, Telegram Open Network (TON), and cryptocurrency Gram; thus, Telegram will become not just a messenger, but also a payment system that will compete with Visa and Mastercard. Despite the fact that Durov has not confirmed this information officially, most experts believe it is true, and investors are ready to invest money in the project. So, let's see what we know about the project, what services it will comprise, and whether it will able to replace the existing social networks or not.
What we know about TON and Gram
The primary task for Telegram team is to create a blockchain platform with an intuitive interface that can be used by everyone. Unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum, TON will have a high throughput of a million transactions per second. TON's users will not have to wait weeks to conduct one transaction or pay high commission fees to transfer funds immediately. TON payments will pass as quickly as those of Visa or MasterCard. Besides, the platform will work on Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithm, which will make payments safe.
TON creators will build Light Wallet in Telegram. It will work on mobile devices without downloading the entire blockchain, and only users will store the private keys. Among other things, users will be able to pay for applications services (TON Services) with cryptocurrency Gram, hide the identity and IP addresses, bypass the blocking of sites (TON Proxy), store data (TON Storage), and register domain addresses (TON WWW).
The TON presentation says that hundreds of millions of people will use Gram worldwide. These plans seem realistic, given that now the audience of the messenger is 180 million people. In the future, the benchmark will be one billion people. Eventually, Telegram hopes to create a new economy, where people will pay for goods and services with Gram.
Similar to WeChat
The project of the future Telegram is very similar to the famous Chinese application WeChat that previously was just a messenger like Telegram. But now it combines the functions of a social network, a payment platform, a site of matchmaking service, a provider (you can order a taxi or a meal in the app), a trading platform, an interpreter, and even a personal cabinet on payment utilities.
The number of WeChat users is close to one billion (it is the exact number of Durov's benchmark). Every public figure, Internet project, or company in China has an official page in the application. Thus, much of the advertising is there too.
Most Chinese cannot imagine their lives without WeChat. It is so popular that Chinese people can pay even at the small shops with the help of WeChat. Many of these shops do not provide payments with a credit card, but with WeChat people can pay for their purchases with no problems.
Unlike Durov, creators of WeChat had no such benefit as being popular; that is why they promoted their payment system in an active and even aggressive way. Moreover, they were developing a variety of tools to help the official accounts open online stores that would accept WeChat payments. Thus, WeChat instantly turned any business, even those with no necessary resources, into a mobile shop.
If Telegram team managed to unite their advantages, such as its seed capital, popularity, promotion company, and solutions provided for the authors of channels and vendors, it would compete with all famous companies in Russia, ranging from YouTube to Yandex.Market.
Competition with Visa and MasterCard
The director of crypto technology development at Qiwi Group, Alexei Arkhipov, told Vedomosti that Telegram would not be able to compete with the most popular payment systems in Russia, but might be in demand for small transactions in the African countries where there are difficulties with traditional banks and fiat money, and mobile financial services are widespread.
Alexey Chubar, Head of the Digital Transformation Department at VTB Bank, believes that attempts to create an alternative currency have repeatedly been made, but they had an insufficient success and lacked "social consensus" on their use. Competing with the traditional banking business is difficult. The WeChat experience, however, suggests otherwise. Telegram is unlikely to supersede Visa and MasterCard, but, at least, it will be competitive with them.
According to the bitcoin evangelist Stepan Gershuni, the mainstream market for Telegram is not in Russia; hence, the company payment service will spread in the countries, where Telegram is more popular (besides Russia, the messenger is also actively used in Iran, Brazil, and Uzbekistan. — DeCenter). "The WeChat example proves my point. I think it is a matter of perspective. TON is unlikely to start sooner than a year. But it will take another five years to capture a significant share in the market of payments." According to the roadmap, this year the team itself intends to launch the blockchain platform and wallet and a year later to establish the first TON Services—TON Proxy and TON Storage.