Telegram CEO Durov Plans to Build Crypto Wallets, Decentralized Exchange

Messaging app Telegram has sold $50 million in usernames in less than a month through its blockchain-based auction platform, Fragment, CEO Pavel Durov said Wednesday.

The figure speaks to the success of Telegram’s second go-around at bootstrapping its own crypto infrastructure. Fragment is built atop the Telegram Open Network, a blockchain Durov abandoned under regulatory pressure in 2020 and later returned to after its community kept it alive.

Bolstered by Fragment’s strong sales, Durov is setting Telegram on a course for deeper crypto build-outs. He said the company will build a decentralized exchange (DEX) and non-custodial wallets that could reach millions of users. Telegram is already a go-to messaging app for many crypto traders, giving it a captive audience right out the gate.

The statement is the first confirmation of Telegram’s direct involvement with integrating TON blockchain into the messenger. Earlier, Durov spoke of the blockchain development as a community project Telegram was just happy to watch. The system, earlier known as Newton and Toncoin, is one of two rival projects that grew out of the initial TON concept developed by Telegram; both were developed by the community of supporters, however, only one ended up with Telegram’s official recognition.

In a message on his personal channel, Durov contrasted Telegram’s effort with the “excessive centralization” of failed, centralized crypto exchange FTX.

“Cryptocurrency users should switch to trustless transactions and self-hosted wallets that don't rely on any single third party,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, backers of the TON network announced a $126 million “rescue fund” to support crypto projects wracked by FTX’s collapse. The TON coin was trading up nearly 4% near press time.

Anna Baydakova contributed reporting to this story.