People escaped from the claws of Zynga when it acquired OMGPOP's popular Draw Something. Instagramers revolted against Facebook when the company purchased their favourite photo sharing app. It's too early to know, but there is an unknown messaging app somewhere waiting for flocks of users unwilling to be part of the $19 billion deal. One that saw an influx of users — five million in a day — is a strong contender to lead the WhatsApp exodus.
Backed by Nikolai and Pavel Durov, founders of Russia's biggest networking site, Telegram Messenger is a messaging service that has learned lessons from the pioneers in the field. On the surface, this is straight WhatsApp replacement like many others. Going a bit deeper, you can see how the Russia's own idiosyncrasy and strong ethic focus has shaped the service in a way that can make this app be the one.
For starters, you get the expertise of a team who understands how to grow a platform without any visible downtime — file transfer was momentarily capped in Spain some days ago to deal with the first wave of adopters. The company prides itself in being superior to competitors offering fast messaging over cellular data thanks to clever data centre distribution around the world. One of the most common gripes over WhatsApp was the seemingly-eternal loading screen on launch although you could have read the message from the notification anyway.
When others struggle with privacy, Telegraph claims to be using military grade encryption to keep your chats secure. The key to the algorithm is on your device, meaning that data transferred is unlikely to be decipherable. Apart from the end-to-end description that leaves no usable trace on the servers, the app comes with a self-destruct chat option that will appeal to those used to Snapchat.
The price of security
The efforts in security go beyond pure market appeal. The founder is committed in the development of its encryption protocol, which allows third party developers to build on it with APIs, and offers a money prize for anyone who can crack it. The reason, according to this interview on TechCrunch and article on The Verge, is to have a messaging service unaccessible by the Russian security agencies.
In a similar fashion to WhatsApp's promise to never sell ads, Telegram's ethos includes a promise to be free for users, which will be a key element to grow user base supported by an ecosystem or cross-platform apps.
Having joined Telegram Messenger a couple of days ago it's still too early to pass judgement. It feels like most new users are comparing features, testing speed and evangelising to get others on Telegram too. I have contacted the support team in anticipation to a review of the app to clarify some doubts, so expect to see more content about Telegram soon.