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 say users must feed all their private data to Facebook’s ad engine [1]. It’s no surprise that the flight of users from WhatsApp to Telegram, already ongoing for a few years, has accelerated.

At about 500 million users and growing, Telegram has become a major problem for the Facebook corporation. Unable to compete with Telegram in quality and privacy, Facebook’s WhatsApp seems to have switched to covert marketing: Wikipedia editors have recently exposed multiple paid bots adding biased information into the WhatsApp Wikipedia article [2].

We have also detected bots which spread inaccurate information about Telegram on social media. Here are the 3 myths they are pushing:

Myth 1. “Telegram’s code is not open-source”. In reality, all Telegram client apps have been open source since 2013 [3]. Our encryption and API are fully documented and have been reviewed by security experts thousands of times. Moreover, Telegram is the only messaging app in the world that has verifiable builds both for iOS and Android [4]. As for WhatsApp, they intentionally obfuscate their code, making it impossible to verify their encryption and privacy.

Myth 2. “Telegram is Russian”. In fact, Telegram has no servers or offices in Russia and was blocked there from 2018 to 2020 [5]. Telegram is still blocked in some authoritarian countries such as Iran, while WhatsApp and other “supposedly secure” apps have never had any issue in these places.

Myth 3. “Telegram is not encrypted”. Every chat on Telegram has been encrypted since launch. We have Secret Chats that are end-to-end and Cloud Chats that also offer real-time secure and distributed cloud storage [6]. WhatsApp, on the other hand, had zero encryption for a few years, and then adopted an encryption protocol funded by the US Government [7]. Even if we assume that the WhatsApp encryption is solid, it’s invalidated via multiple backdoors and reliance on backups [8].

In 2019 alone, Facebook spent almost 10 billion dollars on marketing [9] (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.


 

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.


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 Minister 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.


 

[1] – WhatsApp Gives Users Ultimatum – Share Data with Facebook or Lose Access 

[2] – In December 2020, the Wikipedia article about WhatsApp had the label “This article may have been created or edited in return for undisclosed payments, a violation of Wikipedia’s terms of use”. Related investigation is discussed here. 

[3] – Telegram Source Code

[4] – Reproducible Builds for Telegram Apps

[5] – On Digital Resistance in Russia

[6] – On Telegram Encryption 

[7] – U.S. Government Funded The WhatsApp Encryption

[8] – Why WhatsApp Will Never Be Secure 

[9] – Facebook Marketing Spending from 2010 to 2019

On Apple-Google censorship https://t.me/durovschat/518801

On making server-side code open https://t.me/durovschat/515221

On a privacy-conscious ad platform  https://t.me/durovschat/527441

On US-based encrypted apps https://t.me/durovschat/519187

On encryption vs. usability when using Secret Chats vs Cloud Chats https://t.me/durovschat/527081

On maximising security of communication https://t.me/durovschat/527134

On storing hashed phone numbers https://t.me/durovschat/551030

On how Telegram stores data https://t.me/durovschat/544164