Telegram Becomes World’s #1 Non-Gaming App; India Is #1 Country For New Downloads?

Telegram Becomes World's #1 Non-Gaming App; India Is #1 Country For New Downloads?
Telegram Becomes World’s #1 Non-Gaming App; India Is #1 Country For New Downloads?

Telegram, a messaging application, has surpassed rivals and industry leaders such as WhatsApp and TikTok by amassing 63 million downloads worldwide in the month of January 2021 alone. 

Market intelligence and global app economy research firm Sensor Tower has reported India to have the largest share of the number of downloads at 24%, followed by Indonesia at 10%. 

WhatsApp, in contrast, slipped from the 3rd to 5th position in terms of overall downloads in the same time frame.


Background into privacy row

This development follows a major privacy row which saw WhatsApp facing not only backlash from both the government and its user base, but also many who were planning to either migrate to other alternative apps or abandon the app altogether. 

WhatsApp sent notifications to its 400 million strong base informing them of its new privacy policy that would allow it to share “some” user data with parent firm Facebook .The alarming bit is that there seems to be no opt-out option, essentially issuing the ultimatum to its users to either comply with the policy or risk getting their accounts removed. This has now been infamously dubbed as the “take it or leave it” policy.

Indian government response and backlash

Interestingly this policy update seems to not be applicable in the EU market, which is known for strict laws protecting user privacy. However, the government of India has also issued a stern warning that the app cannot put in place such an impactful policy unilaterally, and that it was obligated to respect the privacy of its single largest user base.

WhatsApp user base feels deceived

According to Prabhu Ram, Head, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), most Indians (76%) were aware of the policy. Among those surveyed, it was noted that feelings of anger (49%) and loss of trust (45%) along with sadness, and most importantly, breach of trust (35%) were the commonly identified sentiments. 

The tremendous backlash prompted WhatsApp to defer implementation of the new policy till May.

Where Telegram scores points over WhatsApp

Where WhatsApp gave its users the option for chat backup in either Google Drive or iCloud, Telegram has its own dedicated cloud for backup, reassuring users who were uncomfortable with backing up their data with third-party services. 

Telegram also reported fewer occurrences of phishing and spam. They are also proactive in their handling of user reports on illegal, abusive and copyrighted content through in-app buttons.

Lesser known yet emerging alternative: Signal

Signal, the messaging platform endorsed by Elon Musk, came third in the overall downloads worldwide for January, after TikTok in the second position. This is a highly encrypted app with privacy-focused features and collects minimal user data.

Examples of features include ability to block non-participants from taking chat screenshots and something called “Incognito Keyboard” where the mobile keyboard “forgets” the inputs entered into chats, so auto-complete or suggestions won’t work here.

WhatsApp has ruled the roost for a long while now, however taking user base data for granted has rightly led to people seeking a safer alternative. Telegram seems to be the substitute of choice for now. Here’s hoping they don’t disappoint their loyal followers the way WhatsApp (owned by Facebook- a red flag many began to notice after the acquisition in 2014) did. 

Privacy concerns lead to exodus from WhatsApp, learn more

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