Messaging App Telegram Enjoys Huge Surge in Users

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Telegram surpassed 500 million active users in January, according to a statement from Pavel Durov, the messaging app’s founder. Durov noted that 25 million people downloaded the platform in just 72 hours.

The growth of Telegram’s user base comes as digital censorship from the world’s largest technology companies intensifies. Various news media outlets have linked the growth of Telegram’s user base with recent changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy.

Durov described Telegram as  “the largest refuge” for people seeking a communication platform “committed to privacy and security.” He wrote in a post to his platform:

In the first week of January, Telegram surpassed 500 million monthly active users. After that it kept growing: 25 million new users joined Telegram in the last 72 hours alone. These new users came from across the globe – 38% from Asia, 27% from Europe, 21% from Latin America and 8% from MENA.

This is a significant increase compared to last year, when 1.5M new users signed up every day. We’ve had surges of downloads before, throughout our 7-year history of protecting user privacy. But this time is different.

People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by tech monopolies that seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users.

With half a billion active users and accelerating growth, Telegram has become the largest refuge for those seeking a communication platform committed to privacy and security. We take this responsibility very seriously. We won’t let you down.

Those of you who have used Telegram for the last several years know we’ve been consistent both when it comes to defending private data and to improving our apps. For those of you who just joined and are wondering what Telegram stands for, I’d like to quote my post from 2018:

You – our users – have been and will always be our only priority. Unlike other popular apps, Telegram doesn’t have shareholders or advertisers to report to. We don’t do deals with marketers, data miners or government agencies. Since the day we launched in August 2013 we haven’t disclosed a single byte of our users’ private data to third parties.

We operate this way because we don’t regard Telegram as an organization or an app. For us, Telegram is an idea; it is the idea that everyone on this planet has a right to be free.

Durov characterized Telegram’s growth as “the largest digital migration in human history” while highlighting the messaging app’s addition of heads of state with their own official channels:

Since my last post, the already massive influx of new users to Telegram has only accelerated. We may be witnessing the largest digital migration in human history.

Following this global phenomenon, two presidents started their Telegram channels:

The President of Brazil – @jairbolsonarobrasil
The President of Turkey – @RTErdogan

They join a list of other heads of state already present on the platform:

The President of Mexico – @PresidenteAMLO
The President of France – @emmanuelmacron
The Prime Minster of Singapore – @leehsienloong
The President of Ukraine – @V_Zelenskiy_official
The President of Uzbekistan – @shmirziyoyev
The President of Taiwan – @iingtw
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia – @AbiyAhmedAliofficial
The Prime Minister of Israel – @bnetanyahu

(Note that such verified accounts typically show a blue check mark in your chat list and search results.)

We are honored that political leaders, as well as numerous public organizations, rely on Telegram to combat misinformation and spread awareness about important issues in their societies.

Unlike other networks, Telegram doesn’t use nontransparent algorithms to decide whether a subscriber will see content they subscribed to or not. As a result, Telegram channels are the only direct way for opinion leaders to reliably connect with their audiences.

By removing the manipulative algorithms that have become synonymous with 2010s technology platforms, Telegram channels restore transparency and integrity to public “one-to-many” communication.

Last week, Durov wrote that Telegram’s recent growth is partly driven by “a flight of users from WhatsApp to Telegram.”

“I hear Facebook has an entire department devoted to figuring out why Telegram is so popular. Imagine dozens of employees working on just that full-time.

I am happy to save Facebook tens of millions of dollars and give away our secret for free: respect your users.

Millions of people are outraged by the latest change in WhatsApp Terms, which now says users must feed their private data to Facebook’s ad engine. It’s no surprise that the flight of users from WhatsApp to Telegram, already ongoing for a few years, has accelerated.

Durov concluded by warning of disinformation spread about Telegram across social media by bots. “We have also detected bots which spread inaccurate information about Telegram on social media,” he wrote.

Durov added, “In 2019 alone, Facebook spent almost 10 billion dollars on marketing (I guess this includes paid bots on Wikipedia and other sites). Unlike Facebook, Telegram doesn’t spend any money, let alone billions of dollars, on marketing. We believe that people are smart enough to choose what is best for them. And, judging by the half a billion people using Telegram, this belief is justified.”

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