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Telegram has seen an increase in downloads in the past week due to WhatsApp updating its terms and conditions, which users have until 8 February to accept or have their accounts deleted.

Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, who also founded a social network called VK, launched Telegram back in 2013. Telegram has headquarters in London for legal purposes but operates out of Dubai.

What is Telegram?

Telegram is a cloud-based multimedia messaging platform that supports video calling and VoIP services. It’s a cross-platform service that’s accessible on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, MacOS and Linux. It can also be accessed via a web browser and through unofficial third-party clients. Telegram apps are fully customisable with themes and it offers numerous expressive sticker packs.

It differs from WhatsApp because it allows users to access their accounts on multiple devices, without requiring their smartphones to be nearby or to have service. It’s also open-source, which allows independent parties or security experts to verify or evaluate its code.

Telegram lets users upload files up to 2GB each and provides unlimited cloud storage for data. There’s no limit on the number of files you can send and receive. It also supports the fixing of typos and you can delete accidental messages without trace.

End-to-end encryption

Telegram offers end-to-end (E2E) encryption on calls, but it’s optional for regular chats. If you want to use E2E encryption, you have to start a “Secret Chat” with another user, but this is not an option for group chats. Secret chats support self-destructing messages with a timer and notifications if screenshots are taken.

Security experts have criticised Telegram’s decision to not make E2E encryption the default, but Telegram says it offers two layers of secure encryption; one being server-client for cloud chats, such as group chats and private chats; and the other being client-to-client, which is E2E on secret chats.

The company also openly challenges anyone to submit security loopholes in its code, and if this results in a change of code, they’re eligible for a bounty ranging from $500 to $100 000.

Groups and channels

Telegram supports both groups and channels, with the former supporting large communities of up to 200 000 members. This is a huge advantage for those who find WhatsApp’s 256-member group cap restricting.

The aim of channels is to broadcast messages to large audiences, for example, media houses that want to put out breaking news, etc. Channels can have an unlimited number of subscribers. Each message in a channel has an approximate view counter that also includes forwarded copies of these messages.

Usage statistics

In December 2014, Telegram had 50 million monthly active users (MAUs), and by February 2016, this figure doubled to 100 million. Just over two years later as of April 2020, it shot up to 400 million. In December 2020, Durov announced on his Telegram channel that the service is nearing 500 million active users.

Download Telegram for iOS here.

Download Telegram for Android here.

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