Telegram adds location-flavored extras and full group ownership transfers

Messaging platform Telegram has added a new bunch of location-based features via an update.

Users of the latest version of the app will find an ‘Add People Nearby’ setting which they can use to quickly exchange contact details without the need to type in digits.

Coupled with a prior update, which lets Telegram users control who can see their phone number, it looks like it’ll make it possible to open a chat channel with a new contact without having to hand over your actual phone number.

Also via the ‘Add People Nearby’ contacts setting, the update lets users surface nearby public chat groups — by displaying any open chat channels in their proximity.

The setting also includes an option to ‘Create a Local Group’ — which does what it says on the tin, allowing users to set up a chat in their locality.

“This update opens up a new world of location-based group chats for anything from conferences, to festivals, to stadiums, to campuses, to chatting with people hanging out in the same cafe,” Telegram suggests, re-upping an idea that’s clocked up more than its fair share of startup tech cycles over the years. As a feature within a fully fledged messaging platform it’s more likely to find a niche groove, say for hosting ephemeral stuff like conference scuttlebutt or party chatter.

Other features added in the update include the ability to transfer admin rights of any group chat to another user with two taps.

“Telegram apps now support transferring ownership rights from any groups and channels to other users,” it writes. “Grant full admin rights to your Chosen One to see the Transfer Ownership button.”

It’s not quite a self-destruct button but the ‘pass the ownership baton’ feature could come in handy for users living in repressive states with restrictions on freedom of expression — if, for example, it allows group chat/channel admins to stay one step ahead of state forces which may target them in a bid to close conversations down.

In such a scenario, there’s the added risk that a channel admin could be personally targeted by police to extract data on group messages and other members. So enabler quicker transfers of ownership may enable comms to be maintained despite state attempts to disrupt and interfere — even if the original admin needs to temporarily delete their Telegram account to protect its data from being accessed via their device.

However, like any tech tool there’s also the opposite risk; i.e. that police could force a channel admin to transfer ownership to a group member of their choosing and then take it over and close it down.

Other features landing in the latest Telegram app update include more controls over notifications; Siri shortcuts for users of the iOS app; and tweaks to the theme picker and icon options, also on iOS.

More in Telegram’s blog.