The founder of messenger service Telegram touted its exponential growth and secure message delivery at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco yesterday, while drawing sharp distinctions with the behemoth WhatsApp.
CEO Pavel Durov views WhatsApp as his main rival, drawing attention to what he sees as his competitor’s key weaknesses: user experience and privacy.
At the conference, the CEO related an anecdote of a Russian friend whose private messages, Durov claims, were obtained by police and used as leverage in an alleged blackmail scheme.
If we speak about privacy and freedom of speech we have very adamant principles about it. Through over two years of our existence we haven’t disclosed a single byte of data to third parties — even governments.
It’s Durov’s commitment to freedom of expression that elicited a disconcerting question from the interviewer, asking Durov how he feels about extremist terrorist groups using Telegram. The CEO conceded that ISIS indeed uses Telegram to ensure the security of its communications, but added:
That’s a very good question but I think that privacy, ultimately, and our right for privacy is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism.
On the user experience front, Durov criticized WhatsApp for lacking certain group chats features and not handling documents and rich media—areas he claims Telegram excels in. In particular, the CEO noted that unlike Telegram, WhatsApp users can't bring their messages across devices.
Message portability and the support of major operating systems are strengths that Telegram promotes. The app is available for Windows, Windows Phone, Android, iOS and Mac, as well as Firefox and Chrome. WhatsApp supports the same mobile platforms and more, it should be noted, but lacks native desktop clients for Windows and Mac.
Telegram counts 60 million monthly active users, and the service has grown from 2 billion messages per day in May of this year to 12 billion today. Durov says the number of users hasn’t grown nearly as quickly as the messages delivered, owing to what he claims is a superior experience that prompts existing users to eventually adopt the app as their primary messenger.
60 million is not quite the 900 million who use WhatsApp or the hundreds of millions who use LINE and China-based WeChat, but the Berlin-based Telegram is trying hard to carve out a niche among those most concerned about privacy and encryption.
Source: TechCrunch | Images: Telegram