Telegram, the security-focused messaging app, now lets you add friends without necessarily knowing their phone number. An update to the iOS and Android apps today has introduced the option to register a username, although all users must still bind their account to a phone number.
The advantage of a username is that you can share your contact details for Telegram without revealing your phone number, thus safeguarding some level of privacy.
Usernames must be a minimum of five characters — so you can’t make up for losing out on a one-letter Twitter handle here — and can contain letters, numbers and underscores.
You are also free to change your alias, so long as the new one is not already taken.
That’s not quite all from this Telegram update. The company has also taken a leaf out of Snapchat’s book with a new feature that lets users ‘Tap and Hold to View’ photos, video and voice messages that are sent with a self-destructing timer. Prior to this update, Telegram users had to tap on media to load it.
Importantly, Telegram has now amended said self-destructing timer for media so that it only begins once the content has been opened. That means that photos, videos, etc do not self-destruct before being read.
Founded by the brothers behind Russian social network VK, Telegram launched in October 2013 with a promise to make mobile messaging more secure. The service gained some serious momentum after Facebook agreed to buy WhatsApp, when it clocked 8 million downloads in a matter of days, primarily from users concerned with the social network’s approach to user data.
Earlier this year, Telegram revealed that it has 35 million monthly active users, 15 million of whom use it daily. Co-founder Pavel Durov confirmed to TechCrunch that, as of March 2014, more than 18 billion messages were received by users of the service per month.
Those stats are far smaller than WhatsApp — which has over half a billion monthly users — and others, but they are impressive for such a new entrant in the messaging space.
Earlier this week, Wickr, a rival startup focused on secure messaging, added support for 22 new languages to its service in an effort to reach more users worldwide.
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