What makes Telegram so popular? Who better to ask than its co-founder…

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Facebook has “switched to covert marketing” and is using “paid bots [which are]adding biased information into the WhatsApp Wikipedia” entry because it is unable to compete with Telegram, claims its cofounder Pável Dúrov.

After last week’s latest bombshell privacy scandal about Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and now wants users to agree to a new set of terms and conditions or lose access to the messaging app with over 2-billion users.

Dúrov says “Facebook has an entire department devoted to figuring out why Telegram is so popular” but he’s “happy to save Facebook tens of millions of dollars and give away our secret for free”.

What is the secret that has seen Telegram’s userbase swell to 500-million, gaining 25m users in the 72-hours before January 8th?

Quite simply, says Dúrov: “respect your users”.

He says with its half-billion users “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,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.
He says Telegram has detected social media bots spreading inaccurate information about Telegram, which are pushing three myths that he then debunks. They are:

  • Myth 1.“Telegram’s code is not open-source”.
    He says “all Telegram client apps have been open-source since 2013” while its “encryption and API are fully documented and have been reviewed by security experts thousands of times”. He adds Telegram is the “only messaging app” in the world that has verifiable builds both for iOS and Android.
  • Myth 2. “Telegram is Russian”.
    Although Russian himself, Dúrov says “Telegram has no servers or offices in Russia and was blocked there from 2018 to 2020”. He also hits back with “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,” he says. “We have Secret Chats that are end-to-end and Cloud Chats that also offer real-time secure and distributed cloud storage.”

He slams WhatsApp for having “had zero encryption for a few years, and then adopted an encryption protocol funded by the US Government. Even if we assume that the WhatsApp encryption is solid, it’s invalidated via multiple backdoors and reliance on backups”.

In another post this week, Dúrov reiterates the company’s focus: “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.”

Source: Dúrov’s channel

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Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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