Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of the popular encrypted communications app Signal, announced in a blog post today that he is stepping into a move that he says has been underway for several months.
Although unexpected, the move somehow seems to be linked to the emergence of MobileCoin, a cryptocurrency startup that counts Marlinspike as its first technical advisor.
Last spring, eight-year-old Signal, which has more than 40 million monthly users, began testing integration with MobileCoin, which it says allows privacy transactions made through “near-instant transactions” on one’s phone. Focuses on enabling payments. But as Wired reported last week, “a broader phase of that experiment has been going on quietly since mid-November. That was when Signal made the same feature available to all its users without much fanfare, allowing digital payments to send credit card transactions – or bitcoin transfers – far more private than many millions of phones.
MobileCoin founder Joshua Goldbard told the business that the rollout has spurred mass adoption of the cryptocurrency, telling Wired that “there are over a hundred million devices on planet Earth right now that can turn on MobileCoin and send it end-to-end.” the ability to make encrypted payments in five seconds or less. ”
In particular, one must first fill their wallet with cryptocurrency, and as Wired notes, it is only listed for sale on a few small cryptocurrency exchanges, including FTX, and no one can own it right now. Until the United States does not give to consumers. (FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried is one of several investors in MobileCoin through its quantitative trading firm and cryptocurrency liquidity provider, Alameda Research.
However, even Americans will soon have access to the currency, Goldbard told Wired, alluding to recently signed agreements with cryptocurrency payment processor ZeroHash, which will allow US citizens this year. Must be allowed to buy MobileCoin within the first few months of
Meanwhile, the world has gone well for MobileCoin, which raised $66 million in Series B financing last summer for a valuation of $1.066 billion and is in the process of raising a Series C round, according to sources close to the company. Evaluation. As described by one source “in the high single digit billions” of dollars.
The development of MobileCoin has also raised questions about Signal and Marlinspike, which have apparently tried to keep some distance between themselves and MobileCoin. There’s an obvious reason that centers on Signal employees, some of whom told reporter Casey Newton last year that they saw Signal’s cryptocurrency exploration as risky and an invitation to bad actors to use the platform.
A potentially big but concerning concern among critics is that the integration of Privacy Coin could lead to a legal headache for Signal. As Matt Greene, a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University, told Wired last week: “I am terrified that they will get into a problematic situation when there is so much legislation and regulation around by tinkering with payments infrastructure like this. . She. .”
This is a valid concern. As we mentioned earlier, cryptocurrencies and messaging apps have historically not mixed well due to nervous regulators. Kik Messenger, the mobile messaging app founded in 2009 by a group of students from the University of Waterloo, created a digital currency called Kin that its users could use on the platform. The project eventually led to a years-long battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which nearly wiped out the company. Telegram, a much larger messaging app than Signal – it claims to have more than 500 million monthly active users – has similarly rejected plans to offer its decentralized cryptocurrency to anyone with a smartphone after battling for years with the SEC.
Although Facebook has not been able to gain much traction with its own cryptocurrency project, David Marcus, the longtime leader of this effort, announced back in November that he was leaving the company.
We would not be surprised if Marcus shows up on MobileCoin, but we would be even less surprised to see Marlinspike become more involved in some capacity. Or not.
Neither Goldbard nor Marlinspike has responded to our requests for more information today. Asked if Marlinspike could consider taking MobileCoin as CEO (the company does not have one), a source close to him says he “does not” and that he is “taking a break” for now. is.”
As for Signal, Marlinspike wrote in his post that he will remain on the board while Signal’s search for a new CEO continues. Its CEO, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, will serve as Signal’s interim CEO in the meantime.