Telegram – the Whatsapp-killer?

In the past month, the mobile-messaging industry witnessed two significant developments: Rakuten acquired Viber for $900 million and Facebook acquired Whatsapp for a whooping $19 billion. While these deals are significant for the parties involved, its repercussions spill to other competitors and users as well. Blackberry shares surged on the Whatsapp-deal news as it put a rough valuation of its own BBM services. Additionally, some users like me have serious concern due to this information aggregation in the hands of one corporation. While I have despised the change in Facebook’s Privacy Settings over the years, it was Snowden’s revelations which really made me think about the potential of misuse and abuse of information. Hearing about Facebook acquiring Whatsapp was plain depressing – the app I used almost half the day was now being acquired by a company which I was deliberately trying to avoid sharing information with. And to think of it, I could do nothing about it.

Then something amazing happened. Whatsapp had an outage last weekend.

During this period, a new contender (a very serious one) seems to have appeared – Telegram. The combined effect of the outage and the acquisition has put Telegram in the spotlight. TechCrunch reported here that Telegram saw about 8 million downloads after Whatsapp got acquired. On February 24, Telegram was the most downloaded application on the iPhone in 24 countries! (from their twitter handler here).

The motto as it appears on the website seems to be: ‘taking back our right to privacy’. This is explained in one line in their ‘Sharing Data’ paragraph under Privacy Policy as: “We never share your data with anyone. No.” However, I’m curious about how long this will last considering that even Blackberry gave in to intercepting BBM data eventually. Also, knowing that Telegram does not have servers in the United States (it has them in Russia) makes the whole scene appear more private, but then again who knows what really happens behind the scenes.

In any case, the application which closely resembles Whatsapp has got me really fascinated. It seems to be a hybrid Whatsapp with the SnapChat feature of auto-deleting messages included.

What it supports: The application officially supports Android and iPhone. Since the source code is public, a number of unofficial downloads also exist – these support use on the Windows Phone, Windows PC, Mac OSX and Linux. The best part? It supports use on a browser! (here) This syncs seamlessly on your phone while you type away on your keyboard. I love the cross-platform functionality – I can finally type from my computer!

Secret-Chats: Secret chats allow for secure messaging with end-to-end encryption. Their FAQ states: “This means only you and the recipient can read those messages — nobody can decipher or intercept them, including us here at Telegram.” Secret-Chats support self-destruction of messages, the settings under Secret-Chats allows you to choose the time after which the message automatically disappears after it is read as indicated by a double-tick. In any case the question “Is Telegram secure?” was asked someone here and makes for a fascinating read. I am still trying to decipher what the blogposts point towards.

How is Telegram different from Whatsapp?

Nothing sums it up better than their FAQ:

Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based and heavily encrypted. As a result, you can access your messages from several devices (including desktops!) and share an unlimited number of photos, videos and documents (doc, zip, mp3, etc). Thanks to our multi-data center infrastructure and encryption, Telegram is also faster and way more secure. On top of that, Telegram is free and will stay free — no ads, no subscription fees, forever.

It is worth at least a download – find all supported platforms here. (Official Android and iPhone)

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