It now claims to have over 50 million monthly active users, sending 1 billion messages daily. This is after only 16 months of operation and no marketing spend. Further more, the startup has revealed to TechCrunch that it now has 23 million daily users.
In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Durov told me that “Telegram’s popularity is spread evenly across continents. We have a substantial user base in Spain, Italy, Netherlands and Germany. Also in Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala in Latin America, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Uzbekistan, across Asia.” He said the app was also growing steadily in the US and the UK, but is “still small in absolute numbers there though.”
Back in March this year, Telegram said it had 35 million monthly active users, 15 million of whom used it daily, with 18 billion messages monthly, 600 million messages daily. By contrast, the far larger WhatsApp is on roughly 600 million MAUs out of a probably billion-plus registered users. Still, these are good numbers for a new entrant.
But while Telegram makes a great play of its secure, encrypted platform (I’ll leave the InfoSec people to argue about that one) Durov says a potential key to Telegram’s rising popularity is that users seem to like the ability to sync their Telegram mobile messages with Telegram’s desktop and tablet apps. This is something they can’t do on Whatsapp, which has a largely consumer base in emerging markets. Thus more key tasks, such as for business like sharing documents and files, are easier on Telegram.
So the suggestion here is that Telegram is going after a more business-focused, demanding niche than WhatsApp.
“We also see more and more small teams switching their collaboration from e-mail to Telegram. Telegram can basically solve some of the same tasks but is more secure and several times faster,” he told me.
As for WhatsApp, it appears to have switched from its stated plans to introduce voice calls towards – maybe – following Telegram’s lead on end-to-end encryption, read status of messages and supporting large group chats.
Durov says he thinks WhatsApp will launch a Web version, similar to web.telegram.org, “since they tried to hire our web dev.”
He also plans to use Telegrams small team to its advantage. It was the first non-Google mass-market messaging app to adapt for material design of Android 5.0 guidelines. “It took us 2 weeks, but such changes usually take ages for bigger teams like Whatsapp/Faceboook,” he says.
In October, Telegram added usernames and Snapchat-like hold-to-view. This let users add friends without necessarily knowing their phone numbers.
Telegram gained some early momentum after Facebook bought WhatsApp this year, gaining 8 million downloads in a few days as people became concerned about Facebook owning their messaging.