Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten has announced that it will launch its own cryptocurrency—Rakuten Coin—in Russia through messaging application Viber.
Rakuten’s Rakuten Coin is coming to Moscow.
The Japanese e-commerce and business company has announced that it is currently studying Russian laws concerning cryptocurrencies, according to a Russian News Agency TASS report dated June 3. This is in preparation for the 2019 launch of Rakuten’s own crypto in the region.
Once launched, users can trade Rakuten Coin for US dollars, euros, Russian rubles, and other currencies in Viber—the company’s messaging application subsidiary.
Djamel Agaoua, Viber CEO, told TASS:
“Our company is creating Rakuten Coin: cryptocurrency, which is supported by the entire Rakuten ecosystem. The Rakuten Coin will be tradeable in Viber. Very soon you’ll be able to send some Rakuten Coins and to trade Rakuten Coins against rubles, dollars, and euros.”
Rakuten’s CEO Hiroshi Mikitani shared the idea of entering the crypto sphere in the Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona held last February. He announced that in addition to Viber, the Rakuten Coin will also be available for use in other services the company offers, including video streaming service Rakuten TV, e-reading service Kobo, and package tracker Slice, among others.
Mikitani, in a keynote speech in Barcelona, said:
“With the establishment of the Rakuten Blockchain Lab in 2016, Rakuten is also devoting significant R&D resources to innovative uses of the blockchain technology behind many virtual currencies.”
Rakuten acquired Viber for US$900 million in 2014. The messaging app, known for offering free calls and messages to users, grew popular in many countries, including Russia. In fact, the reported number of monthly users in the country amounts to 45 million.
Points to Coins
Rakuten Coin will be born from the evolution of one of the company’s current reward services, Rakuten Super Points. The reward program offers points to customers for every qualifying purchase they make on the company’s website.
According to Mikitani, Rakuten’s point program is one of the strongest in the world with over US$9 billion worth of Super Points given in the last 15 years. He also said that the company is currently issuing around US$2 billion worth of points, and Mikitani expects this amount to grow rapidly in the near future.
“Imagine if [the points] was converted into cryptocurrency… all these services would be able to use our blockchain-based coin, or cryptocurrency, or points, or whatever you want to call it, and it could be exchanged into fiat currency.”
However, the exact details on how the Super Points will be converted into Rakuten Coins remain undisclosed. In the meantime, Rakuten and Viber users in Russia and around the world can expect more information to come out as the launch date moves closer.
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Messaging App Kik’s Crypto
While Rakuten and Viber are still preparing for the launch of Rakuten Coin in Russia, a messaging application has already integrated cryptos into its system.
In late June, a group of beta testers for Canadian mobile messaging app Kik gained access to Kin Marketplace. This platform allows users to earn Kin crypto coins by completing simple in-app tasks such as answering quizzes and watching videos. The select users can use Kin to purchase chat skins and the like on the Kin Marketplace.
Laura Newton, product manager at Kik, said:
“This integration is only the first step in scaling Kin’s capabilities in Kik, and it lays the foundation for other opportunities that can be unlocked with the token. As the Kin team continues pushing the boundaries of blockchain technology, Kik will be able to expand its features powered by cryptocurrency and bring them to more users.”
Cryptocurrencies remain an enticing project to businesses and investors alike despite the sliding prices of Bitcoin and other altcoins. Coindesk has reported that funds raised by initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the first quarter of 2018 surpassed 2017’s total funding by around 18 percent. The data also showed that an ICO of another messaging app—Telegram—raised a record US$1.7 billion in funding, which inflated 2018’s total to US$6.3 billion.
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