The Telegram messenger project was created by brothers Nikolay and Pavel Durov in 2013. Nikolay Durov invented the MTProto encryption scheme, which formed the basis of the project. The main concept of Telegram messenger was privacy and secure communication of users. The messenger existed on Pavel Durov's personal funds until 2017. In 2017, Pavel Durov develops the concept of TON - Telegram Open Network. The Telegram Open Network project is inextricably linked with the Telegram Messenger, with plans to integrate the Gram cryptocurrency .
In February 2018, Pavel Durov is raising $850 million in investments in the first round of ICO for the development of blockchain platform TON (price of the Gram token was $0.38). The ICO notification is officially registered by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). From the business plan of Pavel Durov, it follows that Telegram as a messenger is the first phase of a more global project, and was created mainly to form a huge customer base. As TON develops, the messenger itself will become just one of its applications, so in 2021 it is planned to rebrand Telegram Open Network into The Open Network, and the Telegram brand will remain with the messenger. The real goal of the project is the Telegram Open Network platform, which offers Gram cryptocurrency with fast transaction speeds, as well as various services from Proxy for bypassing censorship to bots and file storage that can be paid for with Gram cryptocurrency. In the second round of ICO, an additional $850 million are raised(price of the Gram is up to $1.33). At the same time, Pavel Durov rejected about half of the applications for investment until the third round of placement - investors wanted to invest more than $3.7 billion in the project. Pavel Durov's refusal to receive new investments is justified by the fact that his plan to raise money exceeded his expectations many times. The cost of establishing the Telegram Open Network is estimated at $400 million. At the same time, the total amount of raised investments amounted to $1.7 billion for both rounds. The whole amount was received from private investors who got Gram tokens in return for their investments.
The list of investors includes quite famous personalities: Roman Arkadievich Abramovich (entrepreneur, included in the list of Forbes, invested $10 million through the fund Norma Investments Limited), David Mikhailovich Yakobashvili (founder of the company Wimm-Bill-Dann, invested $10 million), Sergey Alexandrovich Solonin (founder of the platform Qiwi, invested $ 17 million), Mikhail Safarbekovich Gutseriev (main shareholder of the group Safmar, the owner of the company M.Video and Eldorado, invested $15 million through Larnabel Ventures) .
TON blockchain platform was launched in autumn 2018. The developers then said that the network is 70% ready and most of the components have already been finalized. The launch of testnet should have taken place in January 2019, however, was postponed.
On September 6, 2019, TON test portal for developers with official project specifications was opened - https://test.ton.org/, and on https://test.ton.org/testnet/ TON network explorer was available, displaying the first hundreds of working nodes of the network. The New York Times, commenting on these events, noted that the project produces test tokens ahead of schedule, which should satisfy investors. Observers, referring to experts in crypto, also note that Durov's strategy to keep the development of TON in relative secrecy has given rise to some skepticism in the cryptographic society about the competing Libra cryptocurrency project from Facebook, but in the end, it turned out to be correct, because Facebook, after making the development of Libra transparent, immediately incurred the anger of regulators. At the same time, crypto experts such as David Gerard note that despite the TON team's efforts to meet the KYC-AML principles, the project's central risk is similar to Libra - government regulators may be afraid of losing control of the financial system .
In October 2019, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) demanded a ban on the issuance of Gram. The SEC, in its report, recognized Gram as security (not a commodity or utility token) and the Gram issue itself violated securities laws.
On January 7 and 8, 2020, the SEC interrogated Pavel Durov about TON ICO. The interrogation took place in Dubai, UAE. The American regulator was trying to find out why Durov launched the ICO, how much money he spent on Telegram and TON, and why Gram token is not a security. Durov replied that the money was needed to buy equipment and maintain the blockchain platform, and Gram was a utility token, not a security.
On March 25, Telegram challenged the U.S. court ban on transferring Gram tokens to investors. The court of the Southern District of New York State in a preliminary decision agreed with the SEC's opinion that the project's cryptocurrency is a security. The U.S. authorities claim that investors purchased coins to sell on the secondary market to earn money.
On May 12, 2020, Pavel Durov announced in his Telegram channel that he has closed the TON blockchain project. According to Pavel Durov, Telegram's participation in TON development is over. He urged users not to trust money or data to projects that use the name of the messenger or platform. No one from the company team participates in any of these projects, Durov said. He added that networks that use TON's developments may appear, but Telegram has nothing to do with them and is unlikely to ever support them.
On Thursday, May 7th, the Free TON Community (consisting of developers and potential TON users) launched the Free TON blockchain platform. Instead of Gram participants will get tokens called TON Crystal. To become a community member you need to sign Free TON Declaration of Decentralization.