Telegram founder suggests ‘NFT-like smart contracts’ to auction usernames



Pavel Durov, the founder of encrypted messaging application Telegram, has floated the idea of a marketplace that could utilize “NFT-like smart contracts” to auction highly-sought after usernames. 

Durov made the suggestion after the “success” of domain name auctions by The Open Network (TON), a layer-1 blockchain originally designed by the Telegram team. The blockchain project launched the TON DNS service, enabling users to assign human-readable names to crypto wallets, smart contracts and websites in mid-July.

In a message to his personal Telegram group named Durov’s Channel on Tuesday, he noted that he was “really impressed by the success of the auction TON recently conducted for their domain/wallet names.”

“Imagine how successful Telegram with its 700 million users could be if we put reserved @ usernames, group and channel links for auction,” he said. 

Durov suggested that Telegram could tap into similar technology to roll out a new marketplace that could be used to buy and sell “catchy addresses like @storm or @royal, and all four-letter user names:”

“This would create a new platform where username holders could transfer them to interested parties in protected deals — with ownership secured on the blockchain via NFT-like smart contracts.”

“Other elements of the Telegram ecosystem, including channels, stickers or emoji, could later also become part of this marketplace,” he added.

The first auctions on TON DNS went live on July 30, and much like the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) “.eth” domains, the “.ton” variant allows users to access decentralized applications in a simple way without needing to type a long string of letters and numbers from their wallet addresses.

The TON network utilizes the FunC programming language for the TON Virtual Machine and to launch specific smart contracts on the blockchain. If Telegram were to launch NFTs, they would most likely be based on this standard.

A similar integration would likely be quite simple for Telegram, given that Durov and his team developed TON, formerly known as the Telegram Open Network, alongside the messaging app back in 2018.

“Our team can write bullet-proof smart contracts for TON (since it was us who invented its smart-contract language), so we are inclined to try out TON as the underlying blockchain for our future marketplace,” he wrote.

TON was initially developed to function as a digital payments platform for Telegram. However, it promptly ran into trouble with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding an unregistered preliminary sale of $1.7 billion of Gram tokens.

Related: Prosecutors want to claim NFTs as securities, alleges legal team of former OpenSea employee

After losing the court battle with the SEC in mid-2020, Durov stepped away from the project to focus on Telegram. Since then, open source developers have revived the project under the banner of The Open Network.

The TON network utilizes a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, and it supports various features such as staking, NFTs, and decentralized applications. According to data from CoinMarketCap, its native asset Toncoin (TON) has pumped 14.70% over the past 24 hours to sit at $1.33 at the time of writing.


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