Telegram isn’t done finding new ways to monetize access to its platform. On Tuesday, the encrypted messaging app announced that users can sign up for its services without needing access to a SIM card. How, you might ask? By buying a phone number with crypto, of course.
in one blog entry, Telegram said it allows access to the app by “using blockchain-powered anonymous numbers,” which it now auctions on the company’s Fragment cryptocurrency platform. Although users with an encrypted phone number could access Telegram, it now gives the app’s users the ability to do so even more anonymously, as long as they are willing to open their crypto wallets.
It should be noted that Fragment Marketplace is not available in the US. After connecting to the service via a VPN, it revealed that some numbers were selling for just under $40 with six days left to bid, while other numbers, like 888-8-888, sold over $61,850 with two weeks left were left for the bidding process. The thing is, you can’t use these numbers for anything other than logging into Telegram, which makes the idea of an “auction” even crazier.
Telegram has aggressively monetized its platform over the past year to make more money from its 700 million active users worldwide. On Tuesday Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said on his official channel that his company has over 1 million people paying for Telegram Premium, which launched just five months ago, even though Premium subscribers account for “a fraction” of their total revenue.
Fragment is also where Telegram sold popular usernames for an extra bit of cryptocurrency. It appears that Telegram and its newly expressed love for crypto are not sitting well with US regulators, as has been shown in the past.
Telegram started back in October auction popular usernames on the TON blockchain, which was originally developed by Telegram before it forked after the Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating the company for selling unregistered securities.
But things didn’t go smoothly. In August, Durov told users that the company had stolen addresses from users who “empty or inactive in the past year.” The CEO promised that “99%” of those addresses would be made available to the public again, while only 1% would be auctioned off. Prior to the release of its username auction house, the company had reportedly begun repossessing some popular names that were already in use without notifying those users beforehand. As noted in a post by Molly White Web3isGoingGreatthe relatively insignificant Twitch content creator, UmbyUmbreon tweeted back in November that her usernames @umbyvids and @umbydotdog were being auctioned off without her consent.
These names were then resold as expensive NFTs on Fragment. The most expensive names like “Facebook” sold for $94,200 while “Amazon” sold for $425,000, all in TON coins. Currently, the @coin username costs $585,900, which will come in very handy for anyone trying to lure naïve Telegram users into any number of untested and potentially fraudulent crypto adventures.
It’s unclear if the company responded to some of the backlash, but last month Telegram announced it would allow its users to list their own usernames on Fragment for free without placing a starting bid. Once a person places a bid, an eBay-style 7-day auction begins, with the platform taking a fee from the proceeds.
Durov is a Russian-born millionaire and self-proclaimed libertarian, so it makes sense why he would be so into crypto. On November 30, the CEO claims on his site this fragment was already sold $50 million worth of usernames in less than a month. He said he aims to add crypto wallets and “decentralized” crypto exchanges to the Fragment platform, seemingly ignoring what happened the last time his company was hit on the head by the SEC. Even if the crypto world was shaken by it corruption detailed from the FTX crypto exchange implosionDurov publicly exclaimed the merits of “decentralization” in crypto and how blockchain technology “should finally be able to fulfill its core purpose – giving power back to the people.”