Kill the Messenger

Over the past decade or so, there’s been a rise and fall of multiple instant message applications, to say the least.

The evolution of messaging, on the other hand, goes back a long way. From waiting one or two years to send a message and receive a reply between London and Calcutta in 1800, to the invention of the steamship and opening of the Suez Canal, which reduced the time to a month or two. Airmail reduced the time further to a week or two, then days, then eventually overnight.

Then came the dawn of the digital age. The deployment of commercial email systems introduced wait times of only a few minutes, and Instant Messaging systems took communication to its logical conclusion: nearly immediate interaction. Although the term Instant Messaging itself dates from the 1990s, instant messaging first appeared on multi-user operating systems in mid-1960s. Since then, there have been online chat facilities like Talkomatic in 1973, and much later,  the likes of Yahoo Messenger, AOL Messenger in the late 1990s and Google Talk in 2006.

As communication got faster, computing followed suit, except it grew smaller as well. Mobile phones let you message anyone in an instant and at a cost.

WhatsApp was initially released in 2009, before many of us had smartphones. In fact, it became a marketing tool for a lot of phones, Nokia Ashas, to be specific – WhatsApp and Qwerty keyboard were a big deal. By January 2015, WhatsApp had 600 million users and 900 million by September 2015.

Despite the rapid increase of messaging apps on App Stores, WhatsApp remains the most popular messaging app, followed by Facebook Messenger, QQ Mobile, WeChat, Skype, Viber, LINE, Kik, etc.

The thing about instant messaging apps is that they all do these similar things(besides instant messages, of course), exchange images, audio and video messages and for some, voice calls. Makes you think, what is it that makes a user pick one app over the other?

I first heard about Telegram (please note that it’s not even on the above list) around July this year, which was around the time WhatsApp introduced the voice call feature. Unlike a lot of people, I was not exactly thrilled about WhatsApp voice calls. It took me several months to upgrade to that version. Meanwhile, Telegram was sitting on my phone, mostly unused, for obvious reasons (my contacts are not on Telegram).

Telegram was launched in 2013, and by October 2013, it had 100,000 daily active users. In March 2014, The Germany-based app announced 35 million monthly users and 15 million daily active users.

It probably doesn’t make sense to compare the world’s most popular messaging app (WhatsApp) with… well, Telegram.

However, this is what I think are the pros of Telegram against the cons of WhatsApp;

  • Telegram clients exist for both mobile (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) and desktop systems (Windows, OS X, Linux). WhatsApp on desktop is only accessible through a long tiresome process. This is the one I went through once, and never looked back. I basically had to set up an Android phone (BlueStacks) on my desktop. When I was finally done, I found that WhatsApp only allows one device per phone number, which means that as soon as I logged in on desktop, I was automatically signed out of my phone. I recently learnt, without much interest, about WhatsApp Web. While faster to set up(Has you scan a QR code with your phone to access it), is troubled with connectivity issues
  • Show link preview. When you share a link on Telegram, it creates a preview of what the link is about, so you know what it’s about before you click it. It’s a really cool feature, you need to see for yourself.
  • Telegram does not have the voice call feature. So, this sounds like a pro for WhatsApp, and it would be, under certain circumstances. But in this case, I used to find it convenient that the call icon in WhatsApp redirected to an actual phone call, rather than a WhatsApp call. Not that WhatsApp calls aren’t a good thing, it’s just they’d be more relevant if they actually got the job done.
  • Telegram is fast – Sometimes WhatsApp is “connecting” for a long time. There are times I have been forced to restart my phone – and I know it’s not just me.
  • Secret chats. This is a Telegram feature that allows you to send end to end encrypted messages.

“The no. 1 reason for me to support and help launch Telegram was to build a means of communication that can’t be accessed by the Russian security agencies.” – Pavel Durov, Co-founder.

  • Telegram is open source, which is short for free and private. But you’re saying “WhatsApp is free too”. No, WhatsApp is owned by the machine. You pay for it with your private conversations which facebook sells to firms and governments.

By now, you already know I finally started actively using Telegram. My contact list has increased to 15, yay!


One Comment

  1. I think it’s strange that Telegram doesn’t encrypt chats by default. I like the look and feel of the app, but I’m now using Threema (which is very polished, too) for said reason. Also, where I come from (Germany), most people use Threema, which is based in Switzerland.

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