In brief

  • A new beta version of Signal, the privacy-focused messenger app, adds support for crypto payments.
  • For now, it only supports a network called MobileCoin (MOB).
  • It’s limited to iOS users in the UK.

The privacy-focused messenger app Signal announced a new beta version today, with support for cryptocurrency payments.

Signal users in the UK can now send and receive MobileCoin—a “privacy coin” in the vein of Zcash and Monero—directly in the app. Where Bitcoin is transparent, in the sense that transactions are recorded on a public ledger, privacy coins aim to keep transactions obscured; they still have ledgers, but the information is scrambled. MobileCoin is built on modified components from Stellar, another cryptocurrency, but operates on its own blockchain.

Right now, the only place you can actually get your hands on MobileCoin is FTX, the trading site led by crypto wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried.

Signal has been teasing a move into crypto for some time. The app’s creator, Moxie Marlinspike, has been an advisor for the MobileCoin network since its inception in 2017. Platformer reported that the app was exploring a MobileCoin implementation earlier this year (and that some developers weren’t happy about the regulatory hurdles it might involve).

The Signal Foundation, the nonprofit that’s responsible for the app, started accepting donations in cryptocurrency last month.

"I would like to get to a world where not only can you feel that when you talk to your therapist over Signal, but also when you pay your therapist for the session over Signal,” Marlinspike told Wired.

Privacy purists like Signal for its end-to-end encryption—a type of privacy protection that prevents anyone but the sender and receiver from seeing messages. Something like Facebook Messenger, on the other hand, absorbs user data and sells it to third parties.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who doesn’t typically create accounts on rival services, recently started using Signal himself.


Daily Debrief Newsletter

Start every day with the top news stories right now, plus original features, a podcast, videos and more.