Our portfolio company Coinbase opened the doors yesterday to a project they have been working on for a long time.

It is called Token and its a mobile browser for Ethereum apps. But it is also a messenger (based on the Signal Protocol from Whisper Systems) and an Ethereum wallet.

The plan is to set Token up as a separate business:

“In the same way a web browser allows you to access web pages, Token allows you to access third party Ethereum applications.”

The Ethereum ecosystem is emerging quickly and there are a lot of interesting things going on in it.

Token is about giving developers a canvas to showcase their Ethereum apps, with a wallet and a messenger connected to it.

The goals of the Token project are to:

  1. Provide financial services to the ~2B people in the developing world who have a cell phone, but don’t have access to a bank account.
  2. Make it dramatically easier for people to build and use Ethereum applications.
  3. Shift digital currency from being just a speculative investment to being a payment network for useful goods and services.

Token is in a public developer beta. It is operating on a testnet so no real money is in use yet:

We’re releasing the developer preview of Token today. It is still early days, and you can expect some bugs (so please be kind in your reviews). For today’s launch, we are using testnet Ethereum, so there is no real money to lose if you encounter an issue. We plan to continue shipping updates approximately every week, and move to mainnet in the coming months for a wider release.

You can install the Token app on Android and iOS today.

If you’re a developer you can read through our developer documentation.

I’m fredwilson on Token in case you want to message me there:

I expect this general idea (a developer platform, combined with a mobile messenger, combined with cryptocurrency for payment) is going to be a powerful combination. The blockchain sector has been waiting for its “Netscape moment.” The web browser made the world wide web understandable and accessible by mainstream users. I think something like Token can do the same for blockchain applications and I expect we will see a number of different approaches to this general idea.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Chimpwithcans

    As a third world citizen (South Africa and Kenya are home) – I applaud the goals of the project. If Coinbase ever need any help on the ground in either of these countries, let me know! A netscape moment may become a lot easier if you find a way to make data cheaper for the man on the street in Africa.

    1. JimHirshfield

      There is but one world, at the moment

      1. falicon

        one (inhabited) world…

        1. JimHirshfield

          You gonna hop on one of Elon Musk’s rockets to another world?

          1. falicon

            If only I could make the short list…especially in this political environment… 🙂

          2. JimHirshfield

            Wouldn’t it make more sense to just put Trump on the rocket and the rest of us stay here?

      2. Chimpwithcans

        true…but then again, i bet your world is different to mine 😉

        1. kidmercury

          jim’s world is punnier than everyone else’s world

          1. Chimpwithcans

            haha….I think that qualifies him as third/fourth world inhabitant 😉

          2. JimHirshfield

            Turd World

  2. JimHirshfield

    I’m confused. Is it a browser that renders HTML pages as well? Or is “browser” a metaphor in this context?

    1. jason wright

      Ethereum has the Mist browser, that generates keys. it’s all a bit foggy.

      1. JimHirshfield

        But it’s not in the cloud

      2. Girish Mehta

        Nice pun (or a wannabe metaphor ?). Thanks. All clear as mud now.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Dirty joke?

    2. falicon

      From reading the docs a bit, it appears to be more “bots & custom browser” stuff…so there is some HTML (images, buttons, etc.) that you can embed into chats that will give it a ‘browser’ feel…but it appears to be more focused on the chat/bot paradigm out of the gate…

      1. JimHirshfield


  3. William Mougayar

    Two significant themes emerging about this:1/ this marks one of the first truly user-friendly apps where the user is totally insulated from the blockchain’s technical vagueries. 2/ they did “Make it dramatically easier for people to build and use Ethereum applications.” The developer approach is very simple, and again they insulated developers from the difficulties of dealing directly with blockchains, which isn’t for any average developer.Now, the race is to get developers and users flocking to it.

    1. awaldstein

      I love the direction but need to ask–you agree that this is the target market?”Provide financial services to the ~2B people in the developing world who have a cell phone, but don’t have access to a bank account.This is one of the most difficult markets to tap. Truly challenging.What’s the plan?

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup, everybody wants in on it. And traditionally they use a regular cell phone and Text messaging to transfer or receive money. That statement was aspirational and a bit parabolic in my opinion. They can get to the other billions perhaps faster.

        1. awaldstein

          I don’t understand what you are saying.That they are targeting the complete opposite of who they say they are?Is that true?Please clarify.

          1. William Mougayar

            Not sure, but I agree with you that their statement about the unbanked wasn’t necessary & is confusing.

          2. awaldstein

            All I’m saying is that if it is how it is stated quite clearly, that means that for the next while the focus is on the mostly the 3rd world (excuse the word but it is descriptive) and has little to do with the NA market.You are saying that that is not what they meant to state?

        2. Chimpwithcans

          The key to emerging countries so far in the fintech space is you need enough support from powerful people (i.e. banks and governments) – otherwise any effort to enter a market gets shut down pretty quickly – take South Africa for example – MPesa has tried several times here to no avail. In Kenya it worked largely due to political connections I would bet.

          1. awaldstein

            That is my point exactly.

          2. Chimpwithcans

            It seems to me that the tech exists, and has existed for some time, to share money directly with another specific person. But deployment has been much trickier part of the equation. e.g. MPesa in SA

          3. awaldstein

            always is.

      2. falicon

        It’s directionally correct…and why it’s going to be *big* (if it is) is because this also unintentionally hits a potential sweet spot for teens in developed countries too (who also often have phones but don’t want to deal with bank accounts).More than anything else I’ve seen/heard about in this space so far, I think this one has some *serious* potential to break through and stick…we’ll see…

        1. awaldstein

 you are targeting the two hardest markets on the planet.all good.curious about the plan.

          1. falicon

            For the record, I’m not involved…I just think it’s got a lot of potential to hit (vs. what I’ve seen in this general space to date).I do think you might be under-estimating how much of a real problem currency, and currency exchange, is still a problem…especially on the micro-transaction level.The ability for teens to exchange a couple of bucks via their phones (and be able to actually use that money for something in their world) is actually pretty huge….also as an aside, I’m now falicon on Token if anyone wants to message me there as well 🙂

          2. awaldstein

            u could be right.i did some work with green dot in the early days so market thinking about pre credit worthy mass market is something i’ve spent a lot of time understanding and there are similarities.

          3. falicon

            I’m not saying it’s a lock or an absolute home run…just saying I like the pitch enough to think it’s worth swinging at.If I can find time, I am interested in attempting to hack an app together for it…which is also a personal signal that it’s prob. interesting enough to other developers to spend even more time on it…so some of the big battle is already won there IMHO…

        2. Girish Mehta

          Many of those “…~2B people in the developing world” live in India, here’s some of what’s happening here.

      3. Hiyito Patada

        See Humaniq.Not saying it’s going to work. It’s still very much in development. But as an early attempt with blockchain and Ethereum, it’s a great idea and seems to have a solid foundation and team.

        1. awaldstein

          sue i’ll take a look.haven’t met anyone involved with the world who could articulate this very well.they need to understand that marketing is not a bolt on function its part of developing a market.obviously the segment doesn’t see it as such.

          1. Hiyito Patada

            Agree with you on marketing. Culture, context, institutional voids… there is a lot to it, and not at all easy. I’m reading an interesting book on the subject, “Billions of Entrepreneurs – How China and India are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours” by Tarun Khanna. It’s a few years old, but still relevant.

          2. awaldstein

            Thanks.And do understand I am not criticizing at all. As a builder of new markets for tech, I understand the challenges.But it is because of that I am asking.

          3. Reaksa Samphors

            I know

    2. jason wright

      Why “race”?

  4. Jason T

    While I’ve never believed in Bitcoin as a viable long-term idea, the Ethereum approach is far more interesting. It’ll be telling to see what apps get built as I’m still a little fuzzy on how dynamic and useful a block chain platform can be. I don’t think the internet/browser analogy is the right one as Ethereum feels more like a new coding language than the full-on paradigm shift that the internet was.

    1. William Mougayar

      You seem confused about a number of things and mixing potatoes & oranges. Let me try to explain.”Ethereum feels more like a new coding language than the full-on paradigm shift that the internet was.” Not a correct statement. Both Bitcoin & Ethereum allow you to re-program trust and the movement of money/value without central controls. That’s a tectonic paradigm shift in itself.(Ethereum does it differently than Bitcoin, from a developer’s point of view.)

      1. Jason T

        “Both Bitcoin & Ethereum allow you to re-program trust and the movement of money/value without central controls. That’s a tectonic paradigm shift in itself.”My only point of confusion is with statements like this. Of course, time will tell. But what you describe as an inevitable paradigm shift is not as obvious to me as it seems to be to you. And I don’t think I’m the only one…

      2. jason wright

        but William, governance at Ethereum is centralised. the fork demonstrated that (and why there exists Ethereum Classic). trust is not without central control., or am i missing something?

        1. Twain Twain

          Trust at scale is never without central control.There is 1 authority issuing the private+public keys and certifications, right?

          1. jason wright

            so i have to trust Vitalik?

        2. William Mougayar

          To say that Ethereum is centralised is not correct. The Foundation is its steward but doesn’t control it. The community steers it. ETC is so insignificant at this point. A pimple compared to the ETH ecosystem.

      3. jason wright

        but is that true? in principle i agree, but in the real world it isn’t a trustless system when there’s the huge subjective influence of miners and centralised exchanges in the bitcoin ecosystem, and the centrist control of forks in the ethereum ecosystem. sorry to keep being critical, but i see flaws in both platforms.

      4. Prathamesh Shanbhag

        thank you William. lucky to have you here in this community

  5. jason wright

    i don’t know Fred, that name (Token) seems much too close to being ‘descriptive’ to me. as a brand i find it to be without necessary distinction. is Coinbase trying to take linguistic possession of the space?

    1. Vendita Auto

      If it really was “Token (dot) com” that would be the real deal cognitive marketing term

  6. victorpascucci3

    fantastic! really excited to see this all unfold

  7. kidmercury

    exchange rate. all cart before the horse until then. #fixtheexchangerate

    1. Pointsandfigures

      I disagree that it’s cart before the horse. Yes, to get a lot of transaction volume, exchange rates etc will need some work. But, feels like this is a nice step forward to driving broader acceptance and usage.

      1. kidmercury

        the problem is that when folks get serious about solving the x-rate problem, then they will realize the architecture they are headed down is totally wrong. controlling x-rate is going to require a more centralized architecture.

  8. Evan Van Ness

    While you’re in there, make sure to subscribe to Week in Ethereum. I hear it’s awesome.

  9. Tom Critchlow

    I don’t think it’s at all obvious or necessary that a worldwide payment system runs on blockchain but with the right timing and a strong product + marketing it certainly could. Is now the right time and place for this? Feels like it might be.

  10. John Fazzolari

    “Our plan is to build it out as a separate legal entity and brand, separate from Coinbase.” Does this change anything for all of or some of the $100M Coinbase has raised?

  11. Max Mersch

    What are the core differences & similarities with

  12. Benjamin Adeneye

    Hi fred, been looking for it on Play Store (Android) but can’t find it. when can we access it on the play store?

  13. Gregory Magarshak

    This is great news. I am not sure how much uptake there will be for ethereum contracts globally because of this, but certainly more. I love seeing innovation around decentralized systems.We are working on decentralizing social and pretty soon will have a “social browser” inside Groups. Where you land on a website and it instantly gets personalized and you get a social experience. (While preserving your anonymity, of course.) Hard to explain. But then so was Ethereum 🙂

  14. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:how many payment sources are enough?PayPalSquareAndroid PayVenmoCashToken (New)We are compelled to use the service a customer/collaborator/etc decides to debit.The app Token is in beta and cautions that you could lose money. Now if Fred wants to test it and send us like $100,000 we would consider using it and return it similar to early days of bitcoin.

  15. Hiyito Patada

    Competing currency, or tokens, will be much appreciated in places like Venezuela.

  16. Evan Van Ness

    Thanks William, much appreciated!



  18. Kevin Hill

    #1 On that list is another seemingly very valid use of blockchain.Blockchain is inefficient by design, but that’s just fine if either you have strong incentive to circumvent existing trust/power structures, or there aren’t strong institutions in place to enable normal commerce.This same fundamental attribute makes #3 a loosing proposition however. Even if you can jumpstart a payment system, stabilizing the underlying system that the payments rest upon lead to a situation where trust-based transactions are much more cost effective.