Citing various sources with knowledge on the matter, The New York Times reported that Facebook is currently working on a coin that users of its WhatsApp could instantly send to friends and family. The social media giant has even spoken with crypto exchanges about selling the coin to consumers, telling them that it hopes to have a product out in the first half of the year.
Telegram, which has an estimated 300 million users worldwide, is also working on a digital coin, as is Signal, an encrypted messaging service popular with technologists and privacy advocates. The biggest messaging apps in South Korea and Japan, Kakao and Line, are planning to get in on the action with their own coins as well.
“It’s pretty much the most fascinating thing happening in crypto right now,” said Eric Meltzer, co-founder of venture capital firm Primitive Ventures. “They each have their own advantage in this battle, and it will be insane to watch it go down.”
All the companies are using significant resources to develop their coins. Facebook has assigned more than 50 engineers to its project, which is being headed up by former PayPal President David Marcus.
However, all the messaging companies will likely face the same regulatory and technology issues that bitcoin has faced due to a lack of central authority over cryptos, as well as the designs of the computer networks that make it difficult to complete a significant number of transactions.
“They are all going to run up against these same types of technological limits,” said Richard Ma, CEO of Quantstamp, a provider of security audits for newer cryptocurrencies.