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Launched back in 2013, a free encrypted messaging app called Telegram has recently reached 100 million active users, maintaining impressive 15 billion messages per day. Even more, Telegram performs a huge organic growth — 350 thousand new signups daily.
Can you imagine that these stunning numbers are delivered by a small core team of only 15 people, living nomadic digital lives, travelling around the globe, changing their Airbnb location every 2-4 months, while constantly building a truly anti-commercial product? That’s a true story. And yes, it’s as badass as it gets.
Telegram was created and funded by odious and now exiled Russian opponents of Vladimir Putin's hegemony, Durov brothers, who had built and lost control of the country's biggest social network, VKontakte (VK), due to political clashes with government.
We dislike bureaucracy, police states, big governments, wars, socialism and excessive regulation. We like freedoms, strong judicial systems, small governments, free markets, neutrality and civil rights.Pavel Durov, founder of Telegram
From that starting point, Telegram is on the mission of "taking back our (people’s) right to privacy", as they say. Yes, the first and main message of the company is based around hardcore encryption capabilities. But, additionally, Telegram is a fairly anti-commercial product with a pleasing promise of “no ads, no subscription fees, forever," has so much more goodies to offer its customers.
Let me kindly introduce some of those to you.
Generally, Telegram performs very well on three, I guess, most important territories, which are security, speed, and cross-device sync. Benchmark testing shows that it is the fastest messenger in terms of delivery speed. It natively syncs your message history across several platforms and devices, including tablets and laptops. The interface is clean, and overall user experience is intuitive for sure. But my personal killer feature is Telegram’s ability to share files of any type (doc, zip, mp3, etc.) up to 1.5 GB, which is a pretty unique perk for every user.
Apart from from cross-platform availability and all those benefits above, you also get things like instant search of messages, the replies/mentions/hashtags functionality, smart notifications, supergroups, secret chats, and that’s not a complete list.
Run huge groups, share huge files
Telegram groups is a perfect instrument not only for sharing stuff with friends and family, but also for cooperating in small business teams. Groups can have up to 200 people, and by default everyone can add a new member and edit the name and image of the group.
If your group grows to a very large community, you can upgrade it into a more consolidated supergroup. They can have up to 5,000 members and a larger scope of moderation tools. Supergroups work quite smoothly and will load quickly anyway, even if you’ve missed many messages while away.
There’s a third option in terms of dealing with large communities — channels. It’s a tool for airing public messages to large audiences. Channels can have an unlimited number of members.
To sum up, as I’ve mentioned before, file sharing is an icing on a damn good messaging cake. You can send and receive files of any type, up to 1.5 GB each, both in groups, supergroups, or tet-a-tet, and then access them instantly on any of your other devices.
Secret chats as a secret sauce
If you seek for concrete-solid private communication, it’s Telegram’s secret chats what you’ve been looking for. Secret chats use end-to-end encryption. It means that all data is encrypted with a key that only you and the recipient know.
There’s no way for Telegram or anyone else to learn what content is being sent without a direct access to your device. Telegram doesn’t store your secret chats on their servers. For the same reasons secret chats are not available in the cloud — you can only access those messages from the device they were sent to or from.
Mantra of privacy and security
"Since the day we launched we have disclosed exactly zero bytes of private data to governments and third-parties," Durov says.
Safety is our top priority. We started in 2013, creating its own encrypted data protocol; it was the foundation of our project. We get a lot of feedback from people all over the world. But so far no one has broken our encryption. We are offering $300,000 to anyone who will crack the Telegram encryption, but the prize is still not claimed by anyone.Pavel Durov, founder of Telegram
How is it possible? Firstly, end-to-end encryption, plus self-destructing messages allow Telegram to know as little private users’ info as possible. Secondly, Telegram is spread legally and physically across several jurisdictions and territories, which helps it to avoid being an easy target for data requests and regulators. Thirdly, Telegram’s principles don't allow them to do deals with governments that threaten to block it. These guys are not here for market share and revenues anyway, so they can ignore these threats.