Telegram announced today that will it hold an auction for usernames — for both individual accounts and channels — through a marketplace built on top of the TON blockchain.
In August, Telegram founder Pavel Durov first mentioned the idea by noting the possibility of adding "a little bit of Web 3.0 to Telegram in the coming weeks." At that time, he said he was impressed by the success of the TON Foundation's auction of domain names.
"I’m really impressed by the success of the auction TON recently conducted for their domain/wallet names. Wallet.ton was sold for 215,250 Toncoin (~$260000) while casino.ton was sold for ~$244000.
If TON has been able to achieve these results, imagine how successful Telegram with its 700 million users could be if we put reserved @ usernames, group and channel links for auction," he said. Now the company is putting this plan into action.
Telegram and TON Foundation are using a separate website (Fragment.com) as a hub for these auctions. Users will be able to log into the site using Telegram, the tonkeeper app, or their TON-based wallets. The website will also help users link their Telegram accounts to the handles that they have bought.
At launch, the chat app is auctioning four- and five-character handles that will be available for everyone. Telegram users can also put up their own existing handles for auction. Each handle put up for auction will end in a week with an extra hour for final bidding. The company is setting a minimum auction value for four-character handles at 10,000 toncoins — which converts to roughly $18,400 at the time of writing.
"For the first time, social media users will be able to transparently prove that they own their handles thanks to their tokenisation on the TON blockchain," Andrew Rogozov, founding member of the TON Foundation said in a statement.
Telegram had big ambitions in the web3 world but it had to ditch those ambitions. In 2018, the company hatched up plans for Telegram Open Network (TON) blockchain project and an initial coin offering (ICO). The project got backing from big-name investors including Benchmark and Lightspeed Capital, which put up $1.7 billion. However, after a legal battle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Telegram was forced to forsake the project.
After Telegram stopped working on TON, various independent groups continued the development with Toncoin getting backing from Durov and winning the rights to ton.org website in 2021. But the Telegram founder has tried to distance himself from direct involvement with the project.
Telegram has been trying various methods to earn money to keep the company sustainable. Last year it introduced ad spots on public channels. Earlier this year, the company introduced a paid plan that allows large file transfers, exclusive stickers and reactions, and the ability to convert voice messages into text. The new announcement of username auction on the blockchain is another step to get some more moolah in the bank.