Telegram and TON: New Narrative in Web2.0 to Web3.0

Inception Capital
Inception Capital
Published in
15 min readJan 10, 2024

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(Originally published on Oct 9th, 2023)

Contents

  1. What is Telegram?
  2. What is TON?
  3. Interesting Connection between TG and TON Foundation
  4. TON Ecosystem Landscape
  5. TON’s Comparison
  6. Conclusion

Written by michaeljin.eth and Serein

At the Token2049 conference in Singapore this time, Telegram’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and TON Foundation President, Steve, mentioned the hope of having 500 million Telegram users on TON in five years. Whether it’s the narrative of “Crypto Mass Adoption” or the gradual transition of “Web 2 giants move to Web 3.0,” it is highly appealing to Web 3.0 practitioners and investors.

OP Crypto team had a great interest in the TON ecosystem even before the conference. Combining past research with recent updates, let’s explore the boundless possibilities of the Telegram and TON integration, along with the potential investment opportunities in this article.

TLDR

  • Telegram: A Brief Overview:
    Telegram, a cloud-based instant messaging platform, was established in 2013 by the renowned Durov brothers. Since its inception, the platform has witnessed exponential growth, boasting a staggering 900 million monthly active users and over 1.3 billion registered accounts. With a global footprint, Telegram operates servers across the world, while its core operational center and development team are strategically located in Dubai, UAE.
  • Technical Prowess of TON:
    TON Blockchain stands out due to its advanced features. It is engineered to support parallel transaction computation, meticulous validation, and asynchronous processing of smart contracts. The architecture is a complex interplay of Masterchain, Workchain, and Shardchain components. Impressively, it has the capacity to support a vast number of Workchains and Shardchains, ensuring scalability and efficiency.
  • Comparative Analysis of Blockchains:
    When juxtaposed with Ethereum, TON showcases distinct advantages, particularly in shard count, cross-shard communication capabilities, and sheer speed — it operates approximately 100,000 times faster. In a comparison with Solana, TON emerges with a higher degree of decentralization, primarily due to its sharding design, which Solana lacks.
  • The Backbone: TON Foundation:
    The TON Foundation plays a pivotal role in steering the development of TON. Comprising a robust team of over 40 professionals, many hail from countries like Russia and Ukraine, bringing diverse expertise to the table. Notably, Andrew Rogozov, one of the core founding members of the TON Foundation, previously held the esteemed position of CEO at VK.com.
  • Investment Avenues and Directions:
    The document underscores the importance of aligning with Telegram’s innovative social paradigm to unlock new value streams. Key areas of focus include expediting TON’s development trajectory, championing the internal-app as the most viable product form, and delving into fresh avenues for value addition and liquidity enhancement.
  • The Web 3.0 Horizon:
    The future, as envisioned in the document, is one where internet users transition seamlessly between various tools, both trusted and trustless. Web 3.0 is not just another option — it symbolizes the new equilibrium that the digital realm is ardently pursuing.

What is Telegram?

Telegram is a cloud-based, free instant messaging software that was founded in 2013 by the Durov brothers, Nikolai and Pavel Durov, who are also the founders of VK.com, one of Russia’s major social media platforms. Currently, Telegram’s servers are located globally, with its operational center and development team based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Telegram boasts a massive and globally diverse user base, and its growth has been rapid in recent years. It is reported that as of now, Telegram has nearly 900 million monthly active users (MAU) and over 1.3 billion registered users.

Indeed, it’s quite interesting that Telegram has become a pivotal platform for the Crypto community. A majority of the most-subscribed channels and groups on Telegram are associated with Crypto content. Virtually all Web 3.0/Crypto projects maintain Telegram communities to facilitate community engagement, project updates, promotions, and other purposes.

Additionally, what’s also quite interesting is that many cross-border e-commerce sellers use public platforms like TikTok to drive traffic to Telegram for transactions. Telegram has also evolved into a marketplace for e-commerce and consumer transactions.

What is TON?

TON was a project initiated by Telegram in 2018. However, it faced allegations of illegal fundraising by the U.S. SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). Consequently, in May 2020, the founder, Pavel Durov, announced the termination of Telegram’s involvement in blockchain development. Nevertheless, after Telegram abandoned the project, it was embraced by the community, which continued its development. The project’s name was changed from “Telegram Open Network” to “The Open Network,” and the TON Token was issued.

TON is a vast ecosystem project, encompassing not just a public blockchain but also a P2P network (currently supporting settlements between Fiat and Crypto) and a range of service-oriented technology stacks. These include TON Proxy (which hides IP and information) and TON Storage (a distributed storage system promoted by TON).

TON’s current Tech Stack is aimed at addressing the challenges of enabling blockchain and distributed services for users across all social products, including Telegram.

TON Blockchain is a public blockchain based on the PoS (Proof of Stake) consensus mechanism and the TVM (TON Virtual Machine) for smart contract execution. In theory, it can support millions of on-chain transactions and, with a sufficient number of validators, can support up to 2⁹² shards. However, due to the limited total transaction volume at present, there hasn’t been an opportunity to verify its stability and security under high TPS (transactions per second) conditions. The TPS has been consistently maintained at below 60,000 for now.

The core feature enabling such a high TPS in TON Blockchain is its inherent support for parallel transaction computation and validation, as well as asynchronous processing of smart contracts. Its architecture is primarily divided into Masterchain, Workchain, and Shardchain: It can support the registration and operation of up to 2³⁰ Workchains, with each Workchain further supporting up to 2⁶⁰ Shardchains.

Each Shardchain can be understood as a ledger for one or more accounts, constructed and validated by a group of Validators. In the next time slot within a Workchain, all Shardchain Validators within that Workchain engage in another PoS (Proof of Stake) process to obtain block rewards. The states of all Workchains and Shardchains are updated on the Masterchain. There are 5 crucial points:

  • Shardchains and Workchains both operate in parallel computation
  • TVM (TON Virtual Machine) is capable of supporting asynchronous computation
  • It supports instant cross-shard communication
  • Ledgers have multiple copies, leading to higher storage requirements
  • Two PoS processes are required to ensure decentralization for Shardchains and Workchains

Indeed, the first three points form the theoretical foundation for achieving high TPS (transactions per second) in TON.

Interesting Connection between TG and TON Foundation

Currently, the development of TON is primarily driven by the TON Foundation. The TON Foundation consists of a team of over 40 people, with more than half of them coming from countries such as Russia and Ukraine. Most of the employees have prior work experience with VK and Telegram (TG).

It’s interesting to note that one of the core founding members of the TON Foundation, Andrew Rogozov, was the former CEO of VK.com.

TON Ecosystem Landscape

1. Validator

TON Blockchain is a PoS-based public blockchain, and the size of its validator set ensures decentralized and secure operation. Currently, TON has 342 validator nodes with a staked amount of 490 million TON, accounting for a staking ratio of 9.6%. The APY (Annual Percentage Yield) is stable and maintained at around 5.5%.

To become a Validation Node on TON, the following conditions must be met:

  • Stake a minimum of 300,000 TON tokens
  • Meet hardware requirements

Regarding the Slash mechanism, TON is continually optimizing it. Currently, Validators can receive block rewards and user transaction fees (Gas). However, if Validators engage in improper behavior, a portion or all of their stakes may be reduced, and an equivalent amount of TON tokens will be destroyed.

2. Dev Community

As of July 2023, the entire network has a total of 6,793 full-time developers and 21,338 monthly active developers. On TON, there are 39 full-time developers and 174 monthly active developers.

At the technical development angle, TON Foundation is actively expanding and supporting the developer community. It is continuously improving Dev Docs to help developers become familiar with new languages and deploy blockchain projects in a parallel computing environment (parallel computing may result in increased development efforts and management costs).

3. TON’s Application

It’s interesting to note that the Web 3 component of the Telegram App ecosystem has expanded into various directions, including Wallet, Game, Social, NFT, and DeFi. The TON ecosystem is accelerating its development, with a primary focus on wallet and DeFi projects at the moment.

a. Wallet

There are currently many consumer-oriented wallet projects, but their advantage lies in their integration with TONSpace. In the future, there is the possibility of other top wallet projects, such as Metamask, entering the scene.

Telegram Wallet (@Wallet)

The Telegram Wallet is a native and custodial wallet embedded within the Telegram app. Users can currently exchange TON, BTC, and USDT within it. Users can send and receive these cryptocurrencies with their contacts through the attachment menu in chat dialogs.

@Wallet supports deposits of fiat currency via bank cards or P2P markets. Users can choose the type of currency for payment and also have the option to deposit cryptocurrencies from other wallets. As of June 2023, Telegram Wallet has exceeded 2.5 million registered users, and this user base is rapidly growing.

TONSpace

TONSpace is a non-custodial wallet embedded within @Wallet. In TONSpace, users can import an existing TON blockchain wallet using a mnemonic phrase to import wallet address or create a new TON blockchain wallet with a mnemonic phrase. Users can also save their corresponding private keys through their Telegram account or email. Currently, TONSpace not only supports on-chain token transfers but also facilitates operations related to NFTs.

In the future, users will be able to directly access some of TON’s on-chain infra and applications through TONSpace. The beta version of this product was first announced at Token2049, and the official mainnet version is scheduled for launch in November of 2023.

b. DeFi

The current DeFi ecosystem may not be fully mature, with only spot DEX (Decentralized Exchange) and Liquid Staking available. However, the development and progress in this area are accelerating, both on the developer side and the user side, as well as in the deployment of more bridges and tokens.

Megaton Finance

Megaton Finance is an AMM (Automated Market Maker)-based Spot DEX. It was developed by the South Korean blockchain company OZYS over a period of six months. Currently, its Total Value Locked (TVL) has reached $7.1 million.

The MEGA token has a total supply of 100 million tokens, with a circulating supply of 5.14 million tokens. Its current market capitalization is approximately $710,000 USD. In March 2023, it completed a $1.5 million seed funding round with TONcoin.Fund as the lead investor and participation from Orbs, MEXC Ventures, and others.

Bemo

Bemo is a liquidity staking project on TON, similar to the Lido mechanism. Currently, the Total Value Locked (TVL) is at around $2.6 million, with an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) of approximately 5%.

c. TON Token

TON Token is the native token of the TON Blockchain. Currently, the supply of TON Tokens exceeds 5 billion, primarily sourced from the early days of the TON Blockchain through the PoW mechanism, with all mining completed by June 2022. Furthermore, the supply of TON Tokens is unlimited and will undergo inflation at an approximate annual rate of 0.6%, resulting in an additional issuance of around 30 million tokens each year.

The utility of TON Token is highly differentiated. In addition to serving as an investment asset for mainstream cryptocurrencies, offering utility for Gas payments, and functioning as an alternative means for large transactions similar to BTC, TON Token’s significant use case lies in the Telegram social ecosystem.

It empowers TON Token as a versatile payment tool, with broader applications including diverse social transfers, Crypto-to-Fiat, advertising payments, application payments (including for Bots), and even product purchases. For users, this represents a choice that can provide a payment experience surpassing that of WeChat Pay. Telegram is actively working on providing more user-friendly and convenient secondary payment methods.

Currently, the average gas fees for TON transactions are around $0.1 to $0.5, which is significantly lower than Tron’s $1 to $2 and Ethereum’s $7.

TON’s Comparison

The integration of TON with Telegram has significantly elevated the potential of the entire ecosystem. Currently, we have identified three key dimensions of comparison, primarily focusing on social platform comparison, blockchain development, and product forms within the Telegram ecosystem.

1. Social Platform Comparison

Currently, the most mainstream form of social networking platforms worldwide is instant messaging, such as WeChat and WhatsApp. We believe that projects of this kind have very strong moats, primarily due to economies of scale and network effects. With the continuous development of mini-programs, the transaction volume in 2022 reached hundreds of billions of USD and MAU has now reached 1.1 billion in one country mostly. A significant amount of value has shifted to in-app programs, demonstrating that this integrated product format is favored by users.

Based on blockchain and distributed technology architecture, Telegram can leverage TON and Internal-app’s new product form to develop the physical and virtual economy in multiple countries and significantly reduce cross-regional business transaction frictions. The narrative is very attractive if we view TON as Telegram’s commercialization tool.

Another perspective is the comparison between TApp and Web 3 Social products. A more mature user base and a larger token use case environment make the landing of social products on the TON blockchain (including social games) much more favorable than on other chains. Moreover, Telegram itself does not analyze user data, which I believe will attract the attention of many developers and entrepreneurs.

2. Blockchain Comparison

In terms of architecture, TON distinguishes itself from Ethereum primarily through its shard count and cross-shard communication. Additionally, its shorter block time and support for parallel and asynchronous processing entail stricter technical prerequisites and security considerations. However, the theoretical TPS is significantly higher, making TON approximately 100,000 times faster than Ethereum.

In contrast to Solana, both platforms incorporate asynchronous computation within their virtual machines and parallel processing in their blockchains. Nevertheless, TON exhibits a higher degree of decentralization, while Solana lacks a sharding design, resulting in Solana’s theoretical maximum TPS (50,000+) falling short of TON’s current TPS performance.

When considering TON’s growth potential, it becomes evident that TON has more intuitive growth points. Telegram is a globally recognized mainstream social platform (along with VK.com’s traffic), and it is the largest social platform for the crypto community. A significant number of users are already familiar with Crypto and Web 3.0, resulting in lower educational costs. This implies that TON’s user development carries relatively lower market risks.

Furthermore, with TON Token empowered by the massive social network, it will have greater utility for payments. This signifies that TON has a higher ceiling for growth.

3. Telegram Bots vs TON App

Telegram Bots represent a novel way of interacting with blockchain technology. The implementation involves integrating various trading functionalities within the Telegram platform using Bot modules, enabling users to execute these functions by sending commands to the Bots.

Remark: “Bot projects” broadly refer to projects integrated with non-TON blockchains like Ethereum.

In simple terms, here are the current differences between Bots Project and the TON App:

  • Bots exhibit limited response times, a single interaction method, and limited multitasking capabilities. In contrast, TON Apps can more effectively address these issues.
  • Bots encounter challenges in managing user crypto assets to fiat, whereas TON’s ecosystem seamlessly integrates with the corresponding infrastructure.
  • Bots charge fees on DeFi transactions, whereas TON DeFi applications charge only one fee.
(Differenct product imagination space:Left-Telegram Bots<Unibots>, Right-TON<Moonshark>)

As previously summarized, both Telegram Bots and TON projects can effectively engage users. However, Telegram Bots resemble a monotonous proxy page, while TON projects represent a combination of more diverse, composable, and interactive applications. Projects listed in the APP Center can be linked to Telegram Wallet (multiple TON wallets and Fiat-to-Crypto options), highlighting a substantial disparity in depth between TON and Telegram Bots projects.

The development of Bots projects has actually provided TON with a larger narrative space. It means that, while focusing on incremental growth around Telegram traffic, TON can also seek to convert existing crypto users. Therefore, in the future, we are uncertain if these non-TON chain Bots face the risk of being blocked. However, TON Foundation also has the reason to extend an olive branch to promising Bots projects, attempting to bring them onto the TON.

Conclusion

In facing risks stemming from technical architecture, economic models, team dynamics, and more, TON is actively addressing these challenges. This includes significant investments in the dev community to provide a more stable and reliable technical architecture, allocating resources from the community fund to diversify fund concentration, and collaborating with institutions like DWF Labs to plan a redesign of the economic model.

TON’s development is backed by Telegram, and we are attempting to outline a blueprint for the future: TG is providing low fees and high parallel transaction capabilities to users, where they can experience various user-friendly “partially/fully decentralized” applications, possess a clear online identity and social graph, and freely navigate between the crypto and real worlds. For the future outlook, we may not be able to accurately predict whether the new balance will continue to lean towards Web 2.0, but we can imagine how future internet users will smoothly use various trusted or trustless tools to meet their needs. Web 3.0 may be just one choice, but it represents the new balance trend that we are pursuing.

Overall, the growth potential of the TON Ecosystem is evident, and the ecosystem is accelerating in its development. The projects already deployed within the ecosystem are in their early stages, creating more investment opportunities with favorable risk-reward ratios and substantial potential. Additionally, for institutional investors, there is the potential for influential gains by entering the narrative early.

However, unlike other public blockchains, the technical development of TON is currently primarily driven by the TON Foundation and early-involved developers. There is significant uncertainty regarding the opportunities for other infrastructure projects to build on TON. This makes it challenging to provide top-down advanced investment suggestions for infrastructure projects.

Regarding the development of decentralized finance (DeFi) projects within the TON ecosystem, there is a higher likelihood of top-tier projects migrating to TON. This is because these projects may already be more mature and have the potential to receive ecosystem support. Therefore, it may be difficult to find substantial investment opportunities in this space.

Taking a comprehensive look at the current state of TON development, I have a positive outlook on narratives that align with “accelerating TON development,” “Internal-App as the optimal product form,” and “aligning with Telegram’s new social paradigm while creating new value.” Here are some reasonable and lower-risk investment and entrepreneurial directions:

  • Accelerating TON Development:
  1. Dev Tools/Community
  2. Social Payment and parallel payment infrastructure
  • Internal-App as the Optimal Product Form:
  1. Real-Yield Aggregator
  • New Value Added and Liquidity
  1. Social Plus and Social Graph
  2. Game and On-chain Infrastructure
  3. Traffic Distribution Platform

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Inception Capital
Inception Capital

Inception Capital is an early-stage Web3 venture capital firm guiding founders from east and west.