Viber Messenger will be used to launch the cryptocurrency of Japanese firm Rakuten in Russia next year, according to Russian news source Tass.
Viber is a messaging application operated by Rakuten, a Japanese internet corporation. It was originally developed by an Israeli firm. Rakuten bought it in 2014 for $900 million and renamed it Rakuten Viber.
The application has more than one billion registered users, according to Statista. It is not so popular in the West, but it is the most widely-used messaging application in Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. According to Tass, it has 45 million active monthly users in Russia.
In May the country’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said that it could be banned (as Telegram was) if it refuses to turn over encryption keys when asked, according to the Moscow Times.
Rakuten is the world’s fourth largest e-commerce business, behind only Alibaba, eBay, and Amazon. In February it announced the launch of its own cryptocurrency, Rakuten Coin, which is closely linked with the company’s loyalty point system that it began operating 15 years ago.
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Points are awarded when a user spends 100 yen (0.91 cents) on the site and can be used to pay for products and services throughout the Rakuten network.
Viber CEO Djamel Agaoua told reporters yesterday that Rakuten Coin could be launched in Russia next year. It will appear in Viber wallets according to the number of Rakuten Super Points held by the user.
Agaoua said that it will be tradeable on Viber and users will be able to exchange for rubles, dollars, and euros. He added that the company is currently studying the relevant Russian laws.
“Very soon you’ll be able to send some Rakuten Coins and to trade Rakuten Coins against rubles, dollars and euros,” Agaoua said. “The cryptocurrency exchange for rubles and transfers to bank accounts will depend on Russian laws.”