Sometimes, cryptocurrency can feel like a world of its own. It was invented by someone who might not exist. (Is Satoshi Nakamoto even real?) It has its own language: listen to crypto enthusiasts talk about hashpower, forks, and gas, and you might wonder whether it's a business opportunity or a party at a frat house.
It even has its own social media platform.
While everyone else has been using Facebook and Twitter to market their businesses and manage their customer relations, and WhatsApp to handle their social lives, fans of the blockchain have been busy downloading Telegram. The Russian-made app now has more than 200 million monthly active users.
The platform's initial appeal to crypto enthusiasts lies in its emphasis on encryption. Telegram was originally built as a testbed for MTProto, an open source security protocol. For the sort of people who don't want government control of their money supply, a tool that lets them send encrypted messages that even the government's smartest geeks can't crack has always looked like an inviting place to talk about the blockchain and their Bitcoin transactions.
Once the audience began to gather on the platform, Telegram became the obvious place for blockchain businesses to go to talk to them. A potential investor who wants to know about the company behind an ICO, won't learn much from the company's website or from its Facebook page, if it even has one. But its Telegram channel will provide access to the team behind the offer and a place to ask questions about the product and the ICO's white paper.
Telegram has since added a host of other features that are no less attractive to crypto enthusiasts than the platform's security. Bots make sending automated messages relatively simple, a useful trick for crypto news sites or blockchain companies that publish across multiple platforms. Cloud storage means that all messages and files are stored and can be retrieved easily. The ability to create an anonymous username without revealing a phone number is a big advantage over the openness of WhatsApp.
But most importantly, Telegram also provides private channels that can only be joined using an invite link or a manual addition by the channel's creator.
That's provided a new opportunity for successful traders. While there's no shortage of signals platforms that allow traders to share their trades with others for a fee, well-known traders can use Telegram to offer their own exclusive signals. Their websites explain their trading strategies and pitch their success rates, but on Telegram they can tell other traders when to buy, when to sell and what some new announcement is likely to do to the market. Those traders can only access the channel if they've paid a subscription fee.
Telegram might have been built as a chance to show off a security protocol. It might have developed into a WhatsApp alternative that Facebook just can't crack. But it's become both a global meeting place for the world of cryptocurrency and a new business opportunity for people who really understand the blockchain.