Why Zulip will not get on the blockchain bandwagon

Tim Abbott 3 min read

This week, Discord teased plans to integrate a crypto asset wallet. After backlash from their user community, Discord clarified that the feature isn’t ready to ship “for now”. With many popular social and chat apps already on the blockchain bandwagon (including Facebook, Telegram, Signal, Twitter and Reddit), some are wondering whether Zulip might be next. The answer is no.

Our commitment

Zulip will not integrate a crypto asset wallet, issue crypto assets, promote NFTs, or otherwise attempt to profit from the crypto asset gold rush. We believe that doing so would inevitably compromise the integrity of our 100% free and open-source project.

This is a choice we make for our own project, not for others. Anyone can use Zulip under our Apache license, and all open-source projects remain eligible for free Zulip Cloud Standard hosting.

Our reasoning

Many folks are excited about blockchain technology for idealistic reasons, such as providing a business model for content creators or building a more decentralized Internet. So it’s worth explaining why we are making this commitment.

  1. Cryptocurrencies have a significant negative impact on the environment. Proof of work (PoW) crypto systems, which dominate the space, are consuming a massive amount of electricity and accelerating the global climate crisis. Bitcoin alone uses 0.5% of the world’s electricity production, which is more than entire countries such as Pakistan and the Netherlands; and it’s possible that this number greatly underestimates the carbon footprint of cryptocurrencies. The security model of PoW cryptocurrencies fundamentally depends on power consumption on a huge scale in order to make a “majority attack” (which almost succeeded against Bitcoin back in 2014) infeasible.
  2. Today’s reality is that cryptocurrencies are enabling massive amounts of criminal behavior. A US Treasury report identified “$5.2 billion in outgoing BTC [Bitcoin] transactions potentially tied to ransomware payments” in just the first six months of 2021. Because transactions are anonymous and (generally) irreversible, crypto assets are also a prime target for thieves. A total of $3.8 billion was reported to have been stolen in blockchain attacks in 2020; $600 million disappeared in a single attack in August 2021.
  3. The lack of effective regulation of crypto assets puts people at high risk of being manipulated by scammers. Examples of financial fraud abound, from the Tether scandal, to the $98 million ICO for the dying mobile messaging startup Kik, to “wash trading” market manipulation to artificially inflate the value of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, to $3.38 million scammed by the creators of a fake Squid Game cryptocurrency just this month.

Our project will not promote environmentally irresponsible financial products with a high risk of abuse. We are staying focused on our mission to build the world’s best collaboration platform and keep it 100% free and open-source.

Parting thoughts

If Zulip had venture investors, they would likely be pressuring us to integrate a crypto asset wallet, just as they would have pushed us to do an ICO a few years ago. Our choice to not take venture investment gives the Zulip team the freedom to prioritize our values and make this public commitment to our user community.

In the meantime, we’re hard at work building the only modern chat app that is designed for both live and asynchronous conversations. If you’re looking for a community-friendly collaboration platform that does not promote cryptocurrencies, come check us out!