Telegram, one of the most popular messengers in the world (~200 million users), is going to develop its own blockchain platform TON (Telegram Open Network). According to multiple sources, Telegram team will launch TON in the first half of 2018.
Russian-born developer Pavel Durov, the man behind Telegram, is looking to raise up to $500 million during TON pre-ICO, and up to $1.2 billion during the ICO phase. Pre-sale investors might be required to place a minimum buy-in of $20 million if they’re outside of Durov’s inner circle.
Integrated into Telegram applications, the TON-Telegram wallet could instantly become the world’s most adopted cryptocurrency wallet. The TON coins exchanged by Telegram users will be called «Grams». The Gram will serve as the principal currency for the in-app economy on Telegram, and, like any other cryptocurrency, will be available for external use.
Possible fast mainstream adoption of TON
According to the leaked white paper, one of the main problems, which TON is aiming to solve, is slow transaction speed – the most significant issue of existing blockchains. Currently, bitcoin blockchain can handle only up to 7 transactions per second, ethereum blockchain – up to 15.
Also, the white paper identifies the following requirements for blockchain and cryptocurrency to reach the mainstream adoption:
1. Speed and scalability improvements are required to be implemented to allow for processing millions of transactions per second and accommodating hundreds of millions of active users and millions of applications.
2. Intuitive user interfaces should be developed that enable an average user to easily buy, store, and transfer value, as well as use decentralized apps in a natural way.
3. An engaged user base that serves as the pre-existing critical mass necessary for the ecosystem to grow and eventually become adopted by hundreds of millions of users.
Whitepaper says that Telegram is uniquely positioned to establish the first mass-market cryptocurrency by providing a platform that combines these requirements.
Features of TON blockchain
Besides fast speed and adoption inside Telegram messenger, TON blockchain will have other promising features:
Scalability. At the core of the platform is the TON blockchain – a scalable and flexible blockchain architecture that consists of a master chain and up to 2^92 accompanying blockchains.
Infinite Sharding Paradigm. To achieve scalability, TON will have built-in support for sharding: TON blockchains will be able to automatically split and merge to accommodate changes in load. This means that new blocks will always be generated quickly and the absence of long queues will help to keep transaction costs low, even if some of the services using the platform become massively popular.
Instant Hypercube Routing. TON blockchains will use smart routing mechanisms to ensure that transactions between any two blockchains will always be processed swiftly, regardless of the size of the system. The time needed to pass information between TON blockchains grows logarithmically with their number, so scaling to even millions of chains will allow them all to communicate at top speed.
Proof-of-Stake Approach. TON will use a Proof-of-Stake approach in which processing nodes («validators») deposit stakes to guarantee their dependability and reach consensus through a variant of the Byzantine Fault Tolerant protocol. This will allow TON to focus the computing power of its nodes on handling transactions and smart contracts, further increasing speed and efficiency.
2-D Distributed Ledgers. TON will be able to «grow» new valid blocks on top of any blocks that were proven to be incorrect to avoid unnecessary forks. This self-healing mechanism will save resources and guarantee that valid transactions will not be discarded due to unrelated errors.
Elements of TON platform
The following components are scheduled to be released after the TON Blockchain core implementation and will further increase the potential uses of the TON infrastructure:
– TON Storage is a distributed file-storage technology, accessible through the TON P2P Network and available for storing arbitrary files, with torrent-like access technology and smart contracts used to enforce availability. This component not only enables storage services akin to a distributed Dropbox, but also paves the way for more complex decentralized apps that require storing large amounts of data, such as Youtube — or Telegram.
– TON Proxy is a network proxy/anonymizer layer used to hide the identity and IP addresses of TON nodes. Similar to I2P (Invisible Internet Project), this layer can be used to create decentralized VPN services and blockchain-based TOR alternatives to achieve anonymity and protect online privacy. In conjunction with the TON P2P Network and TON DNS, TON Proxy can make any service, including Telegram, effectively immune to censorship.
– TON Services provides a platform for third-party services of any kind that enables smartphone-like friendly interfaces for decentralized apps and smart contracts, as well as a World Wide Web-like decentralized browsing experience.
– TON DNS is a service for assigning human-readable names to accounts, smart contracts, services, and network nodes. With TON DNS, accessing decentralized services can be similar to viewing a website on the World Wide Web.
– TON Payments is a platform for micropayments and a micropayment channel network. It can be used for instant off-chain value transfers between users, bots, and other services. Safeguards built into the system ensure that these transfers are as secure as on-chain transactions.
Telegram’s existing ecosystem will offer simple ways of buying the TON coins (Grams), and a range of services to spend them on, driving demand and fundamental value for the cryptocurrency.
Bot Platform. As of October 2017, more than 800 000 unique third-party bots are regularly used by 52 million Telegram users. These bots can already accept credit card payments from users in 200 countries via eight providers connected to the Telegram Payments Platform. In the future, by using their verified IDs in conjunction with bots that accept credit cards, Telegram users will be able to buy and exchange cryptocurrencies in a frictionless and legally compliant way.
Telegram will provide a unified entry point for users willing to connect with bots that offer exchange services, effectively creating a competitive market.
Groups and Channels. The Telegram ecosystem includes millions of public group chats reaching up to 30 000 members and broadcast channels, the largest of which have several million subscribers. Telegram’s public broadcast channels generate over 30 billion views by 80 million users each month. Creators of large channels currently try to monetize them by posting advertisements or promoting other channels and groups. However, they presently lack the necessary tools to formalize their transactions with advertisers.
To fix this, Telegram will launch a TON-based ad exchange where parties interested in promoting their projects can connect with the relevant channel owners and negotiate a price in a transparent and fully automated way. All accompanying transactions will be made in Grams on a per-view or per-click basis, with the necessary statistics and guarantees provided to all parties.
Digital Content and Physical Goods. Bots, channels, and groups provide a ready market for paid content and subscription services. Users will be able to support publishers and content creators by making donations or paying for exclusive access. Bots can act as virtual storefronts and accept orders for the delivery of physical goods. Telegram’s in-app economy will supply the TON market with a wide range of goods and services that can be obtained with TON coins.
A Gateway to Decentralized Services. Telegram will offer a searchable registry of decentralized services from its applications, providing a list of the most popular apps, as well as recommendations based on the user’s history of choices. These steps can make Telegram a gateway to blockchain-based projects for the masses — similar to how Google Play and the App Store currently work for centralized applications.
Uses of TON coins as a cryptocurrency
In addition to payments for all digital and physical assets sold by individual merchants within the Telegram ecosystem and on other projects integrated with TON, the TON coins (Grams) will be used as:
– Commission («gas») paid to TON nodes («validators») for processing transactions and smart contracts;
– Stakes deposited by validators to be eligible to validate transactions and generate new blocks and coins;
– Capital lent out to validators in exchange for a share of their reward;
– Voting power required to support or oppose changes in the parameters of the protocol;
– Payment for services provided by apps built on the platform (TON Services);
– Payment for storing data securely in a decentralized way (TON Storage);
– Payment for registering blockchain-based domain names (TON DNS) and hosting TON-sites (TON WWW);
– Payment for hiding identity and IP addresses (TON Proxy);
– Payment for bypassing censorship imposed by local ISPs (TON Proxy).
All of these services can be free for the users since the application owners may choose to cover the corresponding fees, and adopt a freemium or an advertisement-based business model.
Roadmap and the future of TON
The TON and Telegram technical roadmaps include the following milestones:
Q3 2013 – Launch of Telegram Messenger and the Telegram API
Q2 2015 – Launch of the Bot API and Platform
Q2 2017 – Launch of the Payments Platform
Q2 2017 – Start of the development of TON
Q1 2018 – Launch of Telegram External Secure ID
Q2 2018 – Launch of the Minimal Viable Test Network of TON
Q3 2018 – Testing and security audits of TON
Q4 2018 – Deployment of the stable version of TON
Q4 2018 – Launch of Telegram Wallet
Q1 2019 – Creation of TON-based economy in Telegram
Q2 2019 – Launch of TON Services, TON Storage, and TON Proxy
Whitepaper says that by 2021 the initial TON vision and architecture will have been implemented and deployed. TON will then let go of the «Telegram» element in its name and become «The Open Network». From then on, the continuous evolution of the TON Blockchain will be maintained by the TON Foundation.
Telegram will serve as a launch pad for TON, ensuring its technological superiority and widespread adoption on the initial stages, but the future of TON is in the hands of the global open-source community.