Thursday, 20 February 2014

Facebook buys WhatsApp: good news for Telegram

Facebook wants your phone number

Facebook often asks you to give them your phone number so they can spam you send you your password in case you forget. If you're like me, you keep your phone number away from Facebook. You don't put it in your Facebook profile, and you make sure that the Facebook app on your phone (whether it's the official app or an alternative client) can't read your number. That's what apps like Xprivacy and LBE are for.

But now Facebook bought WhatsApp for almost 20 billion dollars. And that money has to come back somehow. How? Not by piling up the few cents that a small fraction of WhatsApp users pay for the app. Facebook got rich by selling you, and it doesn't look like they're gonna change their business model anytime soon.

So why did Facebook spend all those bucks? They went shopping because WhatsApp has to do for Facebook what Facebook Messenger failed to do. For example, Facebook is losing the young at a slow but growing rate (do teens want to be on the same social network as their grandmother?). By buying WhatsApp Facebook reeled all those kids back in. And there's more: Facebook just bought the phone numbers of every WhatsApp user. WhatsApp may stay free of ads, but that doesn't mean your WhatsApp data won't be used to target Facebook ads. Can Mark Zuckerberg resist the temptation to milk your WhatsApp chats to feed his Facebook ads? Sounds scary, no?

Which is good news for alternative chat clients. Viber could grow faster, Skype might make a comeback. But for now the most obvious candidate to profit from WhatsApp's sellout is Telegram. They've already seen their signups skyrocket since the news of Facebook buying WhatsApp got all over the web. They may be small now, but that's how Facebook and WhatsApp started just a couple of years ago.

Telegram is what WhatsApp should have been

Telegram looks like a carbon copy of WhatsApp. Same tab layout, same smilies, same functions, same look and feel. But Telegram is not exactly like WhatsApp.

For starters, Telegram lets you sync your chats across devices. And they don't all have to be phones. Tablets and PCs can send telegrams too.

Of course your Telegram chats are encrypted. In the standard setup they're encrypted between you and Telegram's servers, but you can activate a full end-to-end encryption mode called "Secret Chats" which makes your chats so secret that not even Telegram can read them. You can make your Secret Chats self-destruct after reading, but I guess it won't be long before someone will make a Telegram version of Keepchat, the Xposed module that lets you keep Snapchats.

According to Telegram's Play Store description:

"Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based and heavily encrypted. As a result, you can access your messages from several devices (including desktops!) and share an unlimited number of photos, videos and documents (doc, zip, mp3, etc). Thanks to our multi-data center infrastructure and encryption, Telegram is also faster and way more secure. On top of that, Telegram is free and will stay free — no ads, no subscription fees, forever."

No ads, no subscription fees? Then what keeps Telegraph alive? Philantropy.

"Pavel Durov, who shares our vision, supplied Telegram with a generous donation through his Digital Fortress fund, so we have quite enough money for the time being. If Telegram runs out, we'll invite our users to donate or add non-essential paid options."

Sounds good, right? And there's more good stuff:

"Telegram is open, anyone can check our source code, protocol and API, see how everything works and make an informed decision."

The API part sounds especially appealing, because it allows developers to add Telegram to multi-network chat apps and help us get rid of the chat and VoIP fragmentation that gets worse with every new proprietory communication app that hits the app stores.

Spread the word

Telegram has one problem. A big problem. Your friends are not on Telegram. Of course, that problem can be fixed. By you.

Telegram lets you invite your friends to join the network. And for all the fans of irony out there: Telegram allows you to invite your friends to ditch WhatsApp and Facebook Chat through WhatsApp and Facebook Chat. Yep, that Android share menu is a great thing!

Telegram (Google Play Store)
Telegram website

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