In brief

  • TON developers have launched their own fork of Telegram’s upcoming blockchain.
  • It’s called Free TON.
  • The launch of the original TON has been blocked by the SEC.

Tired of waiting for the resolution of Telegram’s court case with the SEC, independent developers building on the popular messenger app’s upcoming blockchain network today launched their own, forked version of the blockchain. 

Called Free TON, the fork launched with its own tokens, called TON “crystals.” (The native currency of the official Telegram blockchain is the “Gram”). 

Ron Millow, who heads sales at TON Labs, one the third-party TON developers responsible for launching the forked blockchain, was among the project leaders who convened on Zoom for a public Q&A session today for people interested in the project. He said Free TON is not affiliated with Telegram. “This is a community launch; a public launch run by people who are interested in seeing Free TON work,” he said. 

Independent developers have been building software for Telegram’s upcoming blockchain network, TON, for around two years. But all that effort came to naught when the SEC in October 2019 convinced a New York court to delay the network’s launch because, it claims, the messenger app company’s $1.7 billion ICO was an illegal securities sale. 

Almost six months later, the court case is still unresolved—if anything, the most recent court ruling suggests that the SEC has a good reason to block the launch of the official TON network: The SEC “has shown a substantial likelihood of success in proving that Telegram’s present plan to distribute Grams is an offering of securities,” wrote Judge P. Kevin Castel in March. 

But, since Free TON has not held a token sale, the SEC cannot block its launch. Likewise, U.S. citizens are prohibited from working on the project. 

To kickstart the network, TON Labs has also uploaded the codebase for TON OS, an operating system for TON. This is a portal to the Free TON blockchain that provides users with access to dapps, such as TON Labs’ upcoming decentralized browser, command-line interfaces, and additional tools for validators to run nodes.

Anyone can sign up to run a node on the network, and the project has already secured the backing of established validator companies, such as Certus.one and MinerGate

But there’s one caveat for anyone planning to sign a “Declaration,” whereby one pledges allegiance to contribute resources to the project: Given the recent legal trouble with US regulators, “No US citizens or companies are permitted to sign.” 

All systems go

Mitja Goroshevsky, who heads TON Labs, said in the Q&A that the mainnet is “sufficiently ready.” He said that his team, which is in close contact with Telegram’s developers, has stress-tested the network as much as possible over the past few months.

“They did outstanding work on the node,” he said. “I think it works very well right now. Is it free of every possible bug? No, of course not. This code needs to be further improved and there are additional features that are not yet there.”

Though the companies behind Free TON initiated the project (and retain some initial control), they plan to completely decentralize the network. 

TON: The story so far

The launch comes a little over a week after Telegram, which operates a 400 million-strong messenger app, on April 30 announced that it will return most of the $1.7 billion raise to investors.

Its decision was triggered by a clause in the investment contract for Grams, the native token of TON. Telegram had always agreed to return the money should the network not launch by the end of April.

With the money running out and early-signs that the court is not on its side, things aren’t looking good for Telegram’s blockchain network. In the meantime, Millow said that other messenger apps are “welcome to” integrate Free TON in the absence of its official launch.