Popular Smartphone Apps Are Adding Crypto Capabilities
September 20th, 2019
News of Japan messaging giant Line’s September 17 launch of an app-connected crypto exchange is captivating lots of attention in the crypto and tech industries this week. Other initially non-crypto apps are also entering the market, adding native tokens, tipping functions, and cryptocurrency wallets, illustrating a growing trend toward mainstream crypto acceptance and awareness.
Naver’s Line Launches Built-In Crypto Exchange
For almost anyone living in Japan, or Asia in general, popular messaging app Line is a household name. Line was launched in Japan in 2011 by Korean search engine company Naver Corporation, in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The tech was a byproduct of improvised communications during telecommunications infrastructure damage resulting from the disaster.
Line’s freeware app began as a rather simple service, but exploded in popularity soon after, evolving from a simple SMS for sending cute stickers and chatting, to a digital wallet, video on-demand, digital comics and games juggernaut in the Asian market and beyond. Just this month, the expansive trend has taken new ground with the launch of Bitmax, an app-connected cryptocurrency exchange featuring five digital assets: BCH, BTC, ETH, XRP, and LTC. Line is also in development of its own native crypto token, called Link (LN), currently exchangeable for Line points. According to the Link website:
LINE Token Economy is centered around a single token, our general-purpose coin LINK … A single-token economy can make the overall ecosystem more dynamic and stable, and because dApps contribute to the economy, they can grow with it.
Telegram Is Getting Tokenized
Though still cloaked in relative mystery, chat app Telegram’s upcoming Ton network (Telegram Open Network) and native token gram are nevertheless causing a buzz in the cryptosphere. The source code has already been released and testing of the network began in April. Slated for an October 31 launch, the 200 million+ monthly active users of the platform are looking forward to seeing the company put the $1.7 billion it raised via a 2018 token sale to full use. The network is set to operate utilizing a proof of stake (PoS) system, and with the rising popularity of the app in private communications and business applications / team-building functions as well, big waves will likely be made should Telegram deliver.
As news.Bitcoin.com reported last month, the “Amazon of Japan,” Rakuten, has now launched its own crypto wallet, featuring BTC, ETH and BCH. Like Line, the company is providing a fiat on-ramp with promise of exposing legions of neophytes to the world of cryptocurrency and crypto spot trading. Though Rakuten has many apps, the addition of Rakuten Wallet is indeed unprecedented thanks to its connection to the popular Rakuten Bank app. In an August 19 press release, the company describes how it works: “In order to provide customers with safe and secure crypto asset transaction services, Rakuten Wallet separates money deposited by customers (customer assets) from the company’s own funds, managing the assets (trust maintenance) in trust accounts provided by Rakuten Trust Co., Ltd., the trust company of Rakuten Group. Rakuten Trust manages those trust assets through Rakuten Bank, Ltd. savings accounts.”
A popular U.S. app to “go crypto” in recent years is Cash App. The mobile payments service originally launched as Square Cash in 2015, and added bitcoin functionality in January 2018. July was a record-breaking month for the app, with a reported 2.4 million downloads. Talk was rampant of the Square service eclipsing competitors like Paypal’s Venmo, and many speculate that the addition of BTC functionalities and growing crypto-interested user base had something to do with this.
Square was funded in part by CEO of Twitter and BTC maximalist Jack Dorsey, so it’s not surprising the app doesn’t support other tokens. With the current atmosphere of increasing adoption, however, the calloused maximalism may come back to bite, should Square turn a blind eye to increasing user adoption of coins like bitcoin cash, and major players in the crypto altcoin world.
Facebook’s Libra as Mainstream Coup de Gras
For those that can remember the antiquated days when Facebook was only available to college students, and there were no moms, dads, or aunt Sallys on there sharing pictures of birthday cakes, the thought of a mobile app (not even a common concept at that time) dominating the world and featuring a cryptocurrency (bitcoin didn’t even exist yet) would have been somewhat mind-boggling. Fast forward to 2019, and the world’s most downloaded app and most popular social media network is now pushing to bring a new crypto payments system to fruition, called Libra.
With significant opposition from governments like the U.S., France and Germany, the Switzerland-based initiative to enable a “more inclusive global financial system” is struggling to gain regulatory approval. Normally such potential legal embattlement would signal the end of a project before it begins, but with Facebook’s roughly 2.4 billion monthly active users, and a mega battery of state-entrenched corporate power in the Libra Association, regulators and lawmakers are being careful not to shoot themselves in the foot too fast. As the Libra currency would not be true crypto in the sense of bitcoin, being completely centralized, and thanks to the fact that project leaders have already expressed interest bending over backward for regulators, some speculate the current “battles” are little more than a show for the media. Whatever the case, the apple cart of global finance could definitely be upset.
Crypto adoption has extended now even to the world of the mainstream app, so it’s not reckless to wager the trend will grow like wildfire in today’s attention economy. After all, folks are with their smartphones 24/7, and electronic payment systems have become an everyday reality. For those looking to maintain the original vision of peer-to-peer, permissionless and private cash, however, these apps will likely be utilized in combination with more private platforms, which afford users financial autonomy in a transaction. The Twitters, Facebooks, and Rakuten’s of the world are by nature more interested in collecting user data than they are in privacy, so this stands to reason. Still, the convenience is alluring, and the apps-gone-crypto narrative seems charged and set to expand into the future of crypto adoption.