Encrypted data, self destructing chats: All you need to know about WhatsApp rival Telegram

Ever since WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, instant messaging loyalists have chosen to start looking out for alternatives already. The need to find another app to chat with was compounded when days after being acquired by Facebook, WhatsApp faced an outage of three hours.


Winning big in this race is a cross-platform messaging app called Telegram that has made privacy its selling point. You know the app means business when Telegram’s tagline itself is “Taking back our right to privacy”. Telegram is currently the no. 1 social networking app on the App Store in 46 countries, ahead of the likes of Facebook, Viber and even WhatsApp.


The app was launched in August 2013 for iPhone and October for Android. The app's HQ is in Berlin but it has a strong Russia connect with it being supported by Pavel and Nikolai Durov, who were born in Russia. The company's FAQ page shows that Pavel is involved more towards the financial side of developing Telegram and Nikolai handles the technical aspect of it.


 Encrypted data, self destructing chats: All you need to know about WhatsApp rival Telegram

The resemblance to WhatsApp is uncanny

At first glance, Telegram looks like a clone of WhatsApp, with the whole interface pretty much resembling a scaled down version of the popular app. Just like with WhatsApp, you need to have their numbers to contact them. Also, once you send out chats, double ticks will inform you whether they have received the message. Similarly, you can pepper your conversations with smileys, check out user profiles, create groups and do pretty much do all that you can on WhatsApp.


However, the service claims that it is different from WhatsApp in several ways. First up, Telegram is heavily encrypted and is cloud-based. Essentially, the service will let you access your messages from multiple devices, including desktop.


Telegram is marketed as an app that is way more secure than WhatsApp, thanks to its multi-data infrastructure and encryption. While Telegram officially has only an Android and an iOS app out, it also has an API, which developers have used to release several unofficial Telegram apps for multiple platforms like Windows Phone, Windows, Mac and Linux.


It’s not just WhatsApp from which Telegram has drawn inspiration but Snapchat too. Quite like the latter, Telegram has a self destructing messaging feature called Secret Chats. While you can chat normally with your friends, you will be able to send in self destructing messages on Secret Chats too. Using end-to-end encryption, Telegram has tried to ensure your messages remain between you and your contact alone.


Privacy is key

Privacy is key

When you exchange messages this way, Telegram assures that nothing gets logged onto its servers. You can program your messages and attachments to self destruct in seconds, days or weeks, from both ends. Essentially this will leave no trace of the message ever having existed.


Of course, you can send files like images, documents, audio clips and more to not just your contacts but groups of up to 200 people. Quite like WhatsApp, Telegram claims that it will remain 100 percent free and with no ads. However, in its FAQ section on the website, the Telegram team says that if it does run out of investment and donation money, it will invite users to donate or add non-essential paid options.


The emphasis on privacy and its close affinity to WhatsApp’s simple interface has seen Telegram adding users to the tune of 4.95 million a day. The weekend that WhatsApp’s services blew up, Telegram added millions of users and even faced some downtime. Telegram said that it has since been adding servers to its service to combat the traffic.


Teething troubles aside, Telegram indeed is piling on the userbase and could well see users jumping onto the “secret” bandwagon. Have you already used Telegram? Tell us how you like it in the comments section below.

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