After a controversial update to messaging app WhatsApp’s terms and conditions, other Messaging platforms Signal and Telegram have both seen a surge in downloads globally.
WhatsApp informed its users that they must allow it to share data with its parent company Facebook if they wish to continue using it. This is not applicable to users in the UK and Europe. Though, the notification has been sent to everyone.
WhatsApp users will be unable to continue with the service unless they accept the new terms by February 8. The platform said that the new update will assist it in offering features like shopping and payments to users. However, WhatsApp informed that its practice of sharing data with Facebook was not new. WhatsApp also said the data it shares with its parent company does not include messages, groups, or call logs.
The other apps offering free-to-use encrypted messaging services are Telegram and Signal.
As per Sensor Tower’s data, the Signal app was downloaded worldwide 246,000 times a week before WhatsApp announced the update on January 4 and 8.8 million times a week after the update announcement. The comparison shows a huge difference.
There was a huge surge in India, where downloads went to 2.7 million from 12,000, the UK where downloads went to 191,000 from 7,400, and in the US where downloads went to 1.1 million from 63,000.
Signal sent out a series of tweets and said some people were reporting issues with creating groups and delays to verification codes arriving because of the rapid expansion but that it was solving the issues.
But on January 10 it said that its new servers were ready to serve users. Tesla co-founder Elon Musk also endorsed Signal. He tweeted on January 7 – Use Signal.
Telegram has become even more popular in downloads. It also witnessed a boom globally from 6.5 million for the week beginning December 28 to 11 million over the following week. The UK witnessed Telegram downloads from 47,000 to 101,000. And the US witnessed Telegram downloads from 272,000 to 671,000.
Whereas, during the same period, WhatsApp’s global downloads shrank from 11.3 million to 9.2 million. Though, an industry watcher said that he did not think this as a big threat for WhatsApp that has been downloaded 5.6 billion times globally since its launch in 2014.
Sensor Tower mobile insights strategist Craig Chapple remarked, “It will be highly challenging for rival messaging apps to change user habits, as people are used to WhatsApp, the most widely used messaging platforms, and they will continue to be on it.”
WhatsApp has even reassured users about privacy as people were shifting to rivals Telegram and Signal following a tweak to its terms.
Facebook executive Adam Mosseri, who heads Instagram tweeted, “There was a lot of misinformation about an update to terms of service.”
He added, “The update is more about how merchants are using WhatsApp to chat with customers how they can share data with Facebook users and how they can use the information for targeting ads, as per the social network. The update does not have an impact on user privacy.”
WhatsApp claims more than two billion users and it said in a blog post, “We can’t see the private messages or hear your calls of users, and neither can Facebook, We don’t keep logs of user messages or calls. We or Facebook cannot see your shared location.”
It will be interesting to see whether the latest trend stays, or users revert back to what they are used to.