WhatsApp's Epic Fail Was a Rival App's Exponential Gain
Did you get the telegram that Facebook’s $19 billion-dollar baby bit the dust for four hours over the weekend? The developers of WhatsApp competitor Telegram Messenger sure did -- and they're reaping the spoils.
Some 5 million chat-happy people swarmed Telegram, a free, heavily encrypted instant text messaging app, only a day after a network router snafu temporarily downed WhatsApp and just three days after Facebook announced it would be purchasing WhatsApp.
Berlin-based Telegram Messenger, founded by Nikolai and Pavel Durov, the billionaire brothers behind Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular social network, ambivalently tooted its horn yesterday on Twitter about the massive user influx, which it obviously wasn’t entirely prepared for:
4.95 million people signed up for Telegram today. Telegram is #1 most downloaded iPhone app in 48 countries. To the bad news...— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) February 24, 2014
You’d think the team at Telegram would be ecstatic about the exponential explosion in users, but it sounds more like they’re still in shock, and understandably so. The Berlin-based app, which became available for iPhone in August 2013 and for Android in October 2013, catered to approximately only 100,000 active users per day as recently as October of last year, according to The Guardian.
On its website, Telegram, which bears the slogan “taking back our right to privacy,” takes a dig at WhatsApp’s allegedly lacking SSL encryption methods, which the security firm Praetorian recently dubbed “the kind of stuff the NSA would love”:
Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based and heavily encrypted. As a result, you can access your messages from several devices (including desktops!) and share an unlimited number of photos, videos and documents (doc, zip, mp3, etc). Thanks to our multi-data center infrastructure and encryption, Telegram is also faster and way more secure.
The startup vented on Twitter yesterday about being literally overwhelmed by the defecting user flood, even as their own servers choked under the weight. Telegram representatives reported that some even went down for two hours in Europe yesterday “due to the insane growth rate." They added servers as fast as they could to keep up with the crushing demand.
@StabbedBit Frankly, we'd rather have a gradual organic growth. Our plan was to be ready for this kind of growth in 2 months, not now.— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) February 24, 2014
The Durovs won’t be cashing in on Telegram’s viral 15 minutes of fame any time soon. According to Mashable, they aren’t looking to pony up investors, make money off of the app or charge users.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp’s founder and CEO Jan Koum, who, like the Durov duo, also grew up in Russia, has just announced that his company will soon add a free voice-calling feature to its existing app.
@rjborley Our small support team is now receiving 5 questions per second. Sorry that most of them is left unanswered, we'll scale over time.— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) February 23, 2014
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.