WhatsApp’s sellout, Telegram’s rise: how Facebook is becoming Google


WhatsApp’s exit to Facebook and subsequent outage have raised some concerns about the app’s ad-free integrity being maintained, especially seeing as Facebook is fast becoming an ad company.

It seems the most popular WhatsApp successor will likely be Telegram, a messaging app with very similar functionality. Telegram has surpassed WhatsApp in the App Store rankings, just a week after the sale announcement and, if the tweets are anything to go by, users seem to be getting used to a WhatsApp-less life. In the last week, similar apps have also announced record growth. Japanese-based chat app Line, for instance , says that it added two million new users outside of Asia in the 24 hours after WhatsApp’s weekend outage.

Facebook’s dominance as the king of social has left the network rallying to form an actual and sustainable business model. It has also suffered some significant losses to instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Snapchat — hence the acquisition. As a platform, Facebook has proven that it lacks panache when it comes to mobile offerings. Its own apps are behind most messaging apps in the app store and it took a number of years to deliver a respectable mobile offering on Android.

To combat competition and declining teen numbers, Facebook (being the strategic and shrewd monster that it is), acquired its biggest competitor and the consensus seems to be that this will lead to the decline of WhatsApp.

There are many chat apps out there waiting in the wings for Facebook to pull a Yahoo! and utterly destroy WhatsApp. So far though Telegram seems to be the only app even resembling a worthwhile replacement.

The app’s makers are actually quite clever: Telegram takes some of the best elements of WhatsApp and combines them with the best stuff from Snapchat. The app allows users to send secret messages, which are supposedly extra encrypted chats, which also self-destruct. Users simply select Secret Chat and click on a user’s avatar. They can set the self-destruct timer on the chat by clicking on the avatar again, then simply set the expiration time to anywhere from two seconds to one week. Much like the similar feature on Snapchat, the message disappears once its time expires.

You can imagine the fun and the appeal in that. The app’s creator, Pavel Durov, is big on encryption and protecting people’s data.

“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, so I can talk about it for hours,” Durov told TechCrunch.

Anyone who has used Telegram will testify that the app is essentially WhatsApp with a different name, a few stylistic tweaks and a strong focus on security. The user interface is almost identical and the messaging principles are the same. This makes it an easy bet for users who wish to migrate but don’t want to lose the core values of what kept them using WhatsApp.


If we are being honest though, do we really expect an exit to Facebook to be a death knell for WhatsApp? I don’t think so. Facebook may have crawled into bed with the NSA and is eager to make money through its bullish advertising plans but people still use the platform. An exit to Facebook did not kill Instagram, barring being required to sign in with your Facebook login and a few ads popping up here and there. WhatsApp will probably therefore carry on as it always has. When people stop using Facebook they will stop using all the other apps it owns.

Truth be told, Mark Zuckerberg and his team of investors and advisers are playing a very clever game of owning the people. Facebook is part of a fair number of your experiences on the web, it’s part of your favourite moments via Instagram and it wants to be part of how you talk to your friends. In the end, what Facebook is doing is trying to live your life with you. In other words, it wants to be Google.



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