- The privacy changes will allow WhatsApp to share more user data with Facebook to enable e-commerce features like instant messaging to businesses. WhatsApp will not lose end-to-end encryption, which is turned on by default for all chats and calls on the app.
- A new report indicates that tens of millions of people have downloaded Signal and Telegram in the first three weeks of the year, in response to WhatsApp’s planned privacy changes.
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The two chat apps seem to be the big winners following the new WhatsApp privacy scandal. Both of them work on iPhone and Android and support the same set of messaging features as WhatsApp. Of the two, only Signal has end-to-end encryption enabled by default. Telegram offers end-to-end encryption just for Secret chat mode, which has to be turned on manually for each independent chat. iMessage has end-to-end encryption turned on by default, but it only works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Signal gained 7.5 million users globally in the first three weeks of January, according to The Guardian. The data comes from the UK parliament’s home affairs committee, who also said Telegram had gained 25 million users during the same time.
Data from mobile analytics firm App Annie shows that WhatsApp downloads dropped considerably in the UK. The app was the eighth most download app in the UK at the beginning of the month but dropped to the 23rd stop by January 12th. Signal wasn’t even in the top 1,000 on January 6th but shot to number one three days later.
According to App Annie’s director of market insights, privacy-focused messaging apps are gaining traction with users, Amir Ghodrati. “Messaging apps that provide privacy features saw the greatest engagement growth in [the first half of] 2020,” the exec told The Guardian. “These apps saw on average 30% more active users than the alternatives. Apps like Signal, Telegram, Wickr, and WhatsApp offer privacy features ranging from end-to-end encrypted data transfer to ‘self-destructing messages.’”
WhatsApp hit 2 billion users worldwide about a year ago, so the number of people flocking to Signal and WhatsApp seems insignificant. What happens in practice is that people use multiple chat services on the phone. Having millions of people download competing apps is one thing. It’s unclear how many of them have deleted WhatsApp or stopped using it after moving to Signal, Telegram, or a different service. Those WhatsApp users will need to convince their friends and family to ditch WhatsApp, too, before completely abandoning the service.