When Facebook acquired popular messaging platform WhatsApp on February 19, 2014, for US$19 billion in shares, stock, and cash, two things happened: The Internet went crazy trying to figure out Facebook’s angle on the purchase, and millions of users began flocking to Telegram.
Founded in 2013 by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, Telegram is a free, open source messaging app that focuses on maintaining maximum security for its users. It is available on both Android and iOS officially and Windows Phone, Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX unofficially for free; indeed, the company makes it plain on their website that “Telegram is free forever. No ads. No subscription fees.” Open source doesn’t mean it’s insecure, either. Open source means that anyone can take a look at the programming and see that there is no malicious coding that will steal everyone’s data and send it to God knows where.
The most noteworthy Telegram feature is its heavy encryption. All conversations, photos, videos, and documents are totally encrypted and are stored in the cloud, making them available to any device connected to a user’s account. A secondary type of message that can be set to self destruct after a certain amount of time, called Secret Chat, has end-to-end encryption that is thus far impossible to crack. In a post-Edward Snowden world where whistle blowers are exposing the catch-all-and-sort-it-later attitudes of the NSA, FBI, and Britain’s GCHQ spy agency, this sort of security means so much more than it did before.
Take the GCHQ’s recent interception of Yahoo webcam images, for example. The Durov brothers tend to agree that this sort of behavior is both unethical and uncalled for. One of the Telegram website’s sub-headers reads, “Taking back our right to privacy.” It becomes quickly evident that Telegram is their way of helping the average person become more protected and secure with very little effort on their own part.
Although WhatsApp has not been changed in any way as of yet and Facebook and WhatsApp executives maintain that if it is it won’t be changed anytime soon, it became clear a few days after the Facebook/WhatsApp announcement that paranoia and uncertainty had set in among the rather robust WhatsApp community. Citing distrust of Facebook’s generally open and public policies regarding its users’ social information, many WhatsApp users began looking for a more secure messaging platform. Users began flocking to Telegram by the hundreds, the thousands, and then… Well, this tweet from Telegram’s official Twitter account sums it all up pretty readily:
@FernandoMigueI Sorry, our SMS gateways are overloaded. 4 million new users within 36 hours was hard to predict.
— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) February 23, 2014
That alone is reason enough to seriously consider using Telegram, but truthfully getting Telegram installed and ready takes about two minutes. Seriously, it’s as easy as setting up WhatsApp:
- Telegram also uses your phone number to get set up.
- Telegram uses your contacts list to find friends using Telegram, just like WhatsApp.
- The user interface is extremely similar to WhatsApp, which will make users who switch feel right at home.
But maybe sheer numbers and ease of switching isn’t enough to convince you. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty – why should you really be using Telegram over WhatsApp? Here are the key features that make Telegram a shoe-in over WhatsApp:
- It runs quicker than WhatsApp, even during these growing pains.
- It has cloud-based messaging, which WhatsApp does not have – WhatsApp’s messages are limited to a single device, but Telegram’s messages are shared between multiple at once.
- Telegram works on both phones and tablets, whereas WhatsApp does not.
- Group chat supports up to 200 users.
- You can have an unlimited number of conversations or Secret Chats.
- The service is totally secure against hacker attacks because of the high-end encryption protocols.
- Telegram has no limits of the size of media and documents sent through the service.
In short, Telegram is faster, more secure, and just as simple to use as WhatsApp. Of course, the real challenge is convincing your loved ones to make the switch, but the benefits far outweigh the hassle of switching services. Everyone deserves the right to privacy in their daily lives, and since Telegram uses phone numbers and contacts to authenticate and find friends, switching from WhatsApp is absolutely easy to do and doesn’t result in any sort of loss. It does, however, result in a whole slew of gains, all of which are well making the switch.