I have previously written extensively about Telegram, because I understand it as a platform that exceeds social media by several orders of magnitude. This is an attempt to chronicle how it can be leveraged to make work processes efficient.
A Historical Context:
WhatsApp came as a data-based SMS replacement, which leveraged the contact list (instead of an older style BBM PINs). The underbelly of BlackBerry Messenger (even though technically it was a superior messaging service) was its failure to adapt its platform for Android, iOS, and fail to come up with a durable solution to “PIN”. It did reverse its decision around 2014-5 when it sold off its assets to a Malaysian company but by then it was too late and WhatsApp had become the dominant platform. Telegram understood the limitations of BlackBerry and designed a cross platform solution at its inception. with generous payouts for developers. It has only grown from word-of-mouth publicity and has zero marketing presence, barring Twitter where it pokes fun of the blue bird (you have to find the references in the clever blog posts illustrations).
Telegram’s users are vetted – each must sign up with a mobile number. It has BBM style PINs (specific usernames) which allow interaction without exchange of phone number – although it can be toggled in the settings if you are comfortable with the person. It eliminates the need to share phone numbers, which are often the first point of identification through several means. They are tied to your identities, shared across several networks, and part of an extensive digital trail. This is in contrast to Twitter (and Facebook), which harvests user identities to track them across the Internet, and several “alt-accounts”, which makes it problematic. Telegram allows signing up for three accounts, but each tied up to a different mobile number.
This has become a “hot-topic” of conversation. Any digital service requires basic encryption to ensure it is not intercepted in-between. It connects to servers beyond the individual control. Companies offering these services allow for audit of their networks and applications which connect to these servers. Individual privacy is critical but it has several socio-cultural contexts. Users in Asia are not swayed with the promises of end-to-end encryption, while those in western countries dislike the idea of being surveilled. It is an oxymoron because surveillance has been on surreptitiously and all companies are required to divulge their “back doors” through legislative measures (or coercion). Hence, it boils down to business case scenarios- what is the data being collected for and how it will be used (often to the detriment of the user). Telegram’s business case is clear. It provides a perfect medium to exchange information (either in groups) or individual chats with excellent control over mutual history, ability to delete chats, and providing a perfect cross-platform real-time sync which eliminates the hassle of “back-ups”. Besides, encryption keys are controlled by the service providers and hence it is an “opt-in” scenario usually absolving the service providers to provide service “free” at the expense of your data.
Social media and technology companies are engaged in continuous assessment and framing of user contexts to identify emotional triggers and create behavioural ad-targeting. These artificial intelligence driven algorithms provide absolute control (and deep insights) into contextual behaviour of users, tilting the asymmetric advantage of information towards providers. Silicon Valley has long championed the idea of “frictionless sharing”, but they are equally keen to understand mind control, group behaviour, psychological modelling, and eventually dominate narrative around individual control. It is done under the ambit of targeted advertising but instead the revenue from advertisements subsidises operational costs.
So far, Telegram has not shown its tendencies to “exploit” rich metadata about its users, and will introduce paid options to its service – its exact details remain unknown publicly
A note from Telegram Press: Non-targeted advertisements will be introduced later for large public channels.
I think these foundational aspects are enough to put the debate in perspective on how Telegram excels as a platform – individual chats, channels to broadcast views and groups that can accommodate over 200,000 users (often with excellent control over chat). A video/voice chat with an upcoming “live TV” feature will set its sight on market share of Discord/Slack and other streaming options.