Signal Sees ‘Unprecedented’ Growth After WhatsApp Changes Privacy Terms

This photograph taken on 11 January, 2021 in Toulouse, southwestern France, shows the logo of Signal mobile messaging service. - Secure messaging app Signal is on the top downloads on Apple Store and Google Play platforms in several countries after the popular messaging app WhatsApp asked its some two billion …
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images

Signal, a messaging app, has seen “unprecedented” and “vertical” growth in recent days, according to Brian Acton, the billionaire executive chairman of the Signal Foundation.

Acton, who cofounded WhatsApp before selling it to Facebook, said recent changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy are driving people to Signal. He told TechCrunch that Signal’s user base “exploded” in recent weeks.

“It’s a great opportunity for Signal to shine and to give people a choice and alternative,” Acton stated. “It was a slow burn for three years and then a huge explosion. Now the rocket is going.”

Acton spoke with several news media outlets in recent days regarding Signal’s growing user base. Reuters reported:

“We’ve seen unprecedented growth this past week,” Acton said in an email to Reuters. “It’s safe to say that because of this record growth, we’re even more interested in finding talented people.”

Signal was downloaded by 17.8 million users over the past seven days, a 62-fold rise from the prior week, according to data from Sensor Tower. WhatsApp was downloaded by 10.6 million users during the same period, a 17% decline.

“Millions of people value privacy enough to sustain it, and we’re trying to demonstrate that there is an alternative to the ad-based business models that exploit user privacy,” Acton said, adding donations were “pouring in”.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday, “Encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram are seeing huge upticks in downloads from Apple and Google’s app stores. Facebook-owned WhatsApp, by contrast, is seeing its growth decline following a fiasco that forced the company to clarify a privacy update it had sent to users.”

TechCrunch reported, “According to mobile insight firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch, Signal had about 20 million monthly active users globally at the end of December 2020. According to Sensor Tower, the app was downloaded more than 7.5 million times between January 6 and January 10.”

Acton considered expanding Signal’s revenue through a donation-driven model via its user base. “If Signal gets to a billion users, that’s a billion donors. All we have to do is get you so excited about Signal that you want to give us a dollar or 50 rupees,” he said. “The idea is that we want to earn that donation. The only way to earn that donation is building an innovative and delightful product. That’s a better relationship in my opinion.”

Aruna Harder, Signal’s COO, told ThePrint that the messaging app is “trending as no. 1 on Apple (in 70 countries) and Android (in 35 countries).”

Harder added, “We all know Facebook’s revenue model is powered by mining its users’ data, so this update to WhatsApp terms of service was only a matter of time. Maybe it is even surprising they waited this long to make this move. … Unlike other tech companies, we understand that user data doesn’t belong to us. … We don’t want to know anything, not who you talk to, or how many messages you send, not even what your profile picture looks like.”

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