Viber Messenger to Launch Cryptocurrency in Russia Next Year

Viber, a cross-platform instant messaging and voice-over IP application operated by Japanese multinational company Rakuten, has plans to become a platform for its parent company’s cryptocurrency, Rakuten Coin.

The Japanese conglomerate is studying the recent legal developments regarding digital assets in Russia in order to launch the new service in 2019.

Rakuten Coin to Enter Russia Through Viber Messenger

Djamel Agaoua, CEO of Viber, said the messenger app will act as a key player in Rakuten’s goal of establishing its own cryptocurrency.

The multinational announced in February 2018 that it would be rolling out its $9 billion loyalty program into a new blockchain-based cryptocurrency. For that purpose, Viber launched a service called Viber Community, limited only by the number of people registered on the app itself. Viber has over one billion users.

Rakuten, who has built a vast network of services around e-commerce, video streaming, and financial services, will leverage Rakuten Coin via its messaging app in order to lead its users to help spend money across its various services.

The messaging app, which has a monthly active audience of 45 million users in Russia, plans to launch an e-commerce platform in the country in Q4 2018. Agaoua told reporters that Rakuten Coin will be available in Viber and can be traded in exchange for the U.S. dollar, Euro, and the Russian Ruble, according to Russian News Agency Tass.

“Our mother company is creating Rakuten Coin: cryptocurrency, which is supported by the entire Rakuten ecosystem. This Rakuten Coin will be tradeable in Viber. The cryptocurrency will appear in the Viber wallet and it can be exchanged for rubles, dollars, and euros. Company’s specialists are currently studying Russian laws in the cryptocurrency sphere. Very soon you’ll be able to send some Rakuten Coins and to trade Rakuten Coins against rubles, dollars, and euros.”

Viber is far from the most dominant messaging app in the West. It has 15 percent penetration in the United States and 22 percent in Western Europe. In Central and Eastern Europe, however, the figure grows to 73 percent penetration, and 76 percent in Russia, one of its top markets.

Russian Parliament drafted and approved the first reading of its cryptocurrency laws in May, defining digital currencies and tokens as property. The bill makes the distinction between a digital token and a cryptocurrency based on the number of producers, one person versus several persons (miners), respectively. Cryptocurrencies are not an authorized means of payment in Russia, which means they are not money.

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