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11 Jun, 2024
4 min time to read

Telegram in early June officially introduced Stars, the messenger's internal currency designed to pay for digital goods and services in bots and mini-apps.

Let's understand why Stars are needed, how they work, how much money reaches the developers in the end and why it's the way it is. Let's go!

What is the background of Stars?

The key reason why Telegram had to come up with an internal currency is the rules for developers from Apple and Google, without whose consent developers cannot distribute their apps in the App Store and Google Play, respectively.

They state that developers must use Apple and Google's built-in payment mechanisms to sell digital goods or services in their apps, which are subject to a 30% commission in favor of these platforms (with app developers with total revenue up to $1 million per year paying 15%).

At the same time, if other applications are available in the main application (in the case of Telegram, these are mini-applications and bots from third-party developers), the terms of agreements with Apple and Google automatically apply to them as well.

So far, various bots and mini-apps inside Telegram have managed to fly under the radar of Apple and Google and sell "digital" with the help of third-party payment systems. Surely someone has probably seen this and asked the logical question, how is this even possible?

However, the owners of the platforms have recently discovered this, after which they gave Telegram an ultimatum. According to the ultimatum, the messenger had to remove such bots and mini-applications, otherwise it was threatened with removal from the App Store and Google Play for violating the rules of stores.

In response to the ultimatum, Telegram decided to come up with a way to keep the bots and mini-apps selling "digital" but at the same time not violate the rules of the platforms. This way was the introduction of the internal currency Telegram Stars.

How do Stars operate?

Developers of bots and mini-apps in Telegram that sell digital goods and services can now accept payment for them only in Stars. Users who want to buy something for Stars must first buy Stars from Telegram.

The rules for selling physical goods and services have not changed - they can still be bought or sold using any of the payment systems supported by the messenger.
In clients installed from the App Store and Google Play, the built-in purchase mechanism of the corresponding platform is responsible for buying Stars.

In applications downloaded from other sources, @PremiumBot helps to buy Stars.

Stars are sold in packs - from 50 to 2,500 units. Their price and currency of sale differ depending on the user's country.

To test payment in Stars, you can use @DurgerKingBot - it sells a piece of cake for one "Star". The bot immediately returns it to the user's balance.

Obviously, it's most profitable to buy Stars through @PremiumBot - there the price of one "Star" even in the minimum package is cheaper than the price of one "Star" when buying the maximum package through the App Store.

As a reminder, @PremiumBot can be accessed by users who downloaded Telegram from the official website of the messenger. There are clients for computers and Android smartphones. On the iPhone, it is extremely difficult to download anything bypassing the App Store.

What are the developers to do with Stars?

Telegram offers developers of bots and mini-applications two ways to use the Stars they receive: withdraw them or invest them in promotion. Both options will be available "in the near future". It will be possible to manage Stars 21 days after receiving them.

Stars will be withdrawn on the Fragment platform. "Stars" will be converted into Toncoin, with Telegram intending to give the equivalent of $0.013 for one "Star" at the start. The Telegram Bot Platform terms and conditions state that the exchange rate may be revised in the future:

You acknowledge that both the Star purchase cost and the monetary value Telegram assigns to them for the purposes of rewards may fluctuate over time, based on current market conditions, economic considerations and other factors. We do not anticipate frequent changes to the monetary value assigned to Stars for the purpose of issuing rewards.

reads the website.

When Stars are reinvested in promoting a bot or mini-application, the Star is valued higher - $0.02. This is how Telegram intends to subsidize advertising, returning to developers the 30% commission paid to Apple and Google.

Does Telegram itself make money from Stars?

A superficial comparison of the cost of one "Star" for a user and its equivalent for a developer shows that about 65% goes to the developer.

In explanation of Stars pricing, messenger provides the following table:

The table clearly shows how much of the cost of this or that package of "stars" goes to Apple and Google, what part is made up of Telegram's administrative costs (those very "less than 5%") and what amount eventually reaches the developer.

A source close to Telegram told Durov's Code that the messenger did not aim to make money from Stars, but sought to keep on the platform all those bots and mini-apps that were in danger of being deleted.

As for Telegram's "percentage," the source said it only covers the company's administrative costs of maintaining Stars.

What conclusion can be drawn?

Naturally, it is always more profitable for developers to “fly under the radar” and accept payments “more directly”. In general, the Stars mechanism complicates their lives somewhat: Stars can only be withdrawn in Toncoin, which still needs to be converted into fiat, which imposes a number of other costs.

However, at the moment, these are the rules of the platforms and this is Telegram's decision that relies on them. And there is nothing that can be done about it.

For users, buying content in general has become easier - thanks to the mechanism of built-in purchases, there is no need to enter card data anywhere.

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