The Signal encrypted chat app adds payments to the services it provides, a long overdue decision and one the company is taking its time on. A UK-only beta program will allow users to trade MobileCoin cryptocurrency quickly, easily and, most importantly, privately.
If you’re in the UK, or appear to be, you’ll notice a new Signal Payments feature in the app when updating. All you need to do to use it is link a MobileCoin wallet after purchasing one from the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, the only one that lists it at the moment.
Once you log in, you’ll be able to instantly send MOBs to anyone else with a linked wallet, about as easily as you would send a chat. (It’s unclear when the beta will expand to other countries or currencies.)
Just as Signal has no access to the messages you send or the calls you make, your payments are completely private. MobileCoin, which Signal has been working with for a few years now, was designed from the ground up for speed and privacy, using a zero-knowledge proof system and other innovations to make it as simple as Venmo but as secure as … also, Signal. You can read more about their approach in this article (PDF).
MobileCoin just acquired just over $ 11 million in funding last month amid rumors that this integration was almost ready. Other whispers have also propelled the value of the MOB into the stratosphere, which is good for those who have it but not for those who want to use it to reimburse someone for a meal. Suddenly you’ve given your friend a Benjamin (or maybe now, in the UK, a Turing) for no good reason, or the sandwich has depreciated precipitously since lunchtime.
There is no reason that you to have keeping the currency, of course, but exchanging it for stablecoins or fiat each time seems like a chore. Speaking to Wired, Signal co-founder Moxie Marlinspike envisioned an automatic trading system, though it’s rarely so free with information like this if it’s an item under active development.
While there is a risk that getting involved in cryptocurrency, with the field’s mixed reputation, could dilute or pollute the goodwill Signal has developed as a secure and selfless service provider, the team seems to think it’s inevitable. After all, if popular payment services are monitored the same way as your email and social media, maybe we should nip this one in the bud and encrypt it end-to-end as quickly as possible.