Viber Owner to Launch Messenger-Based Cryptocurrency in Russia

Rakuten is currently in the process of analyzing Russian legal framework regarding crypto industry to launch its very own messenger-based cryptocurrency in the country in 2019, Viber CEO Djamel Agaoua told Russian media on July 3, 2018.

Rakuten’s Optimistic Plans

Rakuten Inc., the Japanese multinational conglomerate that operates Viber instant messaging and VoIP application, had already hinted at this possibility in February 2018. Namely, they had said that they plan to launch Rakuten Coin cryptocurrency on the basis of their existing $9 billion loyalty program. And now the Viber CEO himself confirmed this.

Rakuten is launching Rakuten Coin, a cryptocurrency “which is supported by the entire Rakuten ecosystem,” Agaoua explained, adding that this cryptocurrency will be introduced in the Russian Federation in 2019.

“This Rakuten Coin will be tradeable in Viber,” as part of the Viber Wallet service, Agaoua said. In the CEO’s words, users will be able to exchange the cryptocurrency for fiat currencies such as rubles, dollars, and euros. The company’s experts are currently examining the Russian regulatory climate in the cryptocurrency sector, to see to which extent this is possible.

But wait, there’s more exciting news from this company. According to Zephrin Lasker, Head of Viber e-commerce, Viber also intends to establish its e-commerce platform in Russia in the Q4 of 2018.

Russia’s Interest in Cryptocurrencies

Rakuten’s plans aside, but an important question inevitably arises after hearing this news. What is the Russian government’s take on virtual currencies anyway?

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has rejected the possibility of Russia having its cryptocurrency.

“Russia cannot have its cryptocurrency inherently, just like no other can have its cryptocurrency. This is because when we are talking about cryptocurrency, this is what goes beyond national borders,” Putin said in June 2018, adding that cryptocurrency should not be the means of payment and hoarding.

In May 2018, the Federal Assembly of Russia drafted and approved the first reading of its cryptocurrency laws, defining cryptocurrencies and digital tokens as property. The bill differentiates between a digital token and a cryptocurrency based on the number of producers, one person versus several persons (miners), respectively.

Messenger-based virtual currency seems to be a thing lately. The first company to create a messenger-based cryptocurrency was Kik, a Canadian messaging app that launched a cryptocurrency named Kin in 2017. Kik users can earn kin for contributing to the Kik community and then spend the earned kin on goods and services inside of Kik.

Rakuten is the world’s fourth largest e-commerce business, the first three being Alibaba, eBay, and Amazon. Currently, its daughter company Viber has over one billion active users, 45 million of them from Russia, each month. Although the messaging application isn’t popular in the US and Western Europe, where its usage is just 15% and 22% respectively, it is nonetheless blooming in the Eastern and Central Europe.

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