Coinbase Launches Ethereum Based WeChat Competitor with ‘Token’

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Brian Armstrong, co-founder of Coinbase, publicly announced they are rolling out a new project called Token, a combination of instant messaging, an eth based payment app and a browser for ethereum apps. They say:

“We were inspired by apps like WeChat that are driving a large volume of digital payments in China. We wanted to build something for the rest of the world that works on open protocols.”

Lacking an efficient banking system, Chinese citizens have flocked to apps like WeChat Pay and AliPay. They currently account for more than half of all transactions in the country, with users able to instantly send funds from their phone. It’s not just China, as an announcement post for oken says:

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“Mobile money is growing. We were inspired by WeChat in China, PayTM in India, MPESA in Kenya, and others. Each of these has revolutionized payments in one country. We would like to bring something similar to the other ~180 countries, and also enable a global payment network based on open standards, so that every country becomes interoperable, and everyone has access to financial services.”

On the surface it looks a bit like Venmo, with an interactive chatbot you can ask to send funds or tip someone. No detail has been provided yet on how the app would be funded, but Token would probably be integrated with Coinbase.

The browser for ethereum apps might be more interesting. One is lacking currently while the ecosystem has grown considerably with few able to keep up. An Apple store like browser for eth apps would make accessing and finding these new projects a lot easier.

The bigger news here might be the app’s sole focus on eth. There is no mention of bitcoin anywhere, except for in answer to why this app was not built on btc. Token says:

“Right now, the transaction fees are a bit too high in Bitcoin to work for small payments. We envision a large number of small payments happening with Token, so we started with Ethereum.”

It’s a significant blow to bitcoin because cool new projects and infrastructure is now being built on or moving to ethereum. That means in some aspects it is eth that is getting the first movers advantage and its corresponding network effects.

Moreover, Fred Ehrsam, the other co-founder of Coinbase, recently announced he was leaving the company to work on other projects. It’s not very clear what they are, but a reasonable guess would be something eth-related as his twitter feed shows almost exclusive focus on ethereum based tokens.

Coinbase was a vocal advocate last year for an increase of on-chain capacity in bitcoin. Around spring they seemingly decided it wasn’t going to happen, pivoting in a “do not call it a pivot” way to ethereum.

After the exercising of voice for many months, many now seem to be choosing exit. OpenBazaar, Brave Browser, StoreJ, Circle. Moreover, bitcoin has not had any cool new projects in many months. Many, therefore, are now wondering: is bitcoin headed for irrelevance?

Featured image from Token.


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