The internet outfits, including Facebook, Telegram and Signal, are planning to roll out new cryptocurrencies over the next year that are meant to allow users to send money to contacts on their messaging systems, like a Venmo or PayPal that can move across international borders.
The most anticipated but secretive project is underway at Facebook. The company is working on a coin that users of WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, could send to friends and family instantly, said five people briefed on the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.
The Facebook project is far enough along that the social networking giant has held conversations with cryptocurrency exchanges about selling the Facebook coin to consumers, said four people briefed on the negotiations.
Telegram, which has an estimated 300 million users worldwide, is also working on a digital coin. Signal, an encrypted messaging service that is popular among technologists and privacy advocates, has its own coin in the works. And so do the biggest messaging applications in South Korea and Japan, Kakao and Line.
The messaging companies have a reach that dwarfs the backers of earlier cryptocurrencies. Facebook and Telegram can make the digital wallets used for cryptocurrencies available, in an instant, to hundreds of millions of users.