Founded in 2013 by Pavel and Nikolai Durov, Telegram is a cloud-based encrypted messaging service with over 400 million users. Through its purported security and strict adherence to principles of censorship-resistance and privacy, the Telegram messenger app has become a popular choice for individuals seeking secure communication channels, much to the dismay of governments and regimes around the world.
The company made waves when it announced that it was building a blockchain and cryptocurrency system, called the Telegram Open Network, or TON. The project sought to address the scalability bottlenecks of existing blockchains and integrate TON into its 400-million-plus user base. In early 2018, the project raised $1.7 billion through several rounds of private sales in an initial coin offering.
As the largest crowdsale in the space to date, TON quickly caught the attention of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. When the network was about to launch, the SEC halted the distribution of TON’s GRAM tokens to investors, citing the assets as an unregistered securities offering and questioning Telegram’s intent given that the Durov brothers had essentially been funding the platform without baking in any revenue model.
The TON codebase has since become open source, with other initiatives picking up the torch.
The SEC vs. Telegram case has vast implications for the future of cryptocurrency regulation moving forward.