Telegram, a popular messaging app within the cryptocurrency space, surpassed 500 million monthly active users during the first week of January, according to Telegram chief executive officer Pavel Durov.
In the last 72 hours, said Durov, the app has seen a massive surge in new users, with an additional 25 million people signing up to use the platform. These new users are coming from all around the world, with the majority – 38% – drawn from Asia.
Some 27% are coming from Europe, 21% from Latin America, and 8% from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena region). Around 200 million people used Telegram in 2018, meaning user growth has exceeded 150% over two years.
These changes are believed to have prompted users uncomfortable with sharing more of their personal data with Facebook to leave Whatsapp, and join privacy-centric competitors such as Telegram or Signal.
Unlike other competing messaging apps, Telegram does not share personal data and offers encrypted chats.
Posting on his personal Telegram channel on Jan. 12, Durov said:
People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by tech monopolies that seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users.
The Telegram CEO added that “with half a billion active users and accelerating growth, Telegram has become the largest refuge for those seeking a communication platform committed to privacy and security.”
In 2020, Telegram reported new user sign-ups of 1.5 million each day, a far cry from the current influx of people joining the platform. “We’ve had surges of downloads before, throughout our 7-year history of protecting user privacy. But this time is different,” noted Durov.
Until now, all services on Telegram have remained free. However, Durov announced in December that some services may now be monetized. He said additional functions will appear for “business teams and users with advanced needs” and those features will be paid because they are “resource-intensive”. Ordinary users will continue to use Telegram for free, he emphasized.
Telegram attempted to launch its own cryptocurrency called Gram, through the TON blockchain platform, but was blocked by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That left Pavel Durov, who had raised $1.7 billion from select investors for the project, saddled with a debt of $1.2 billion and $18.5 million in penalties.
Now some investors in TON are preparing a lawsuit against Durov to try and force the businessman “to sell part of Telegram or the entire company and pay off the investors, because he spent money on Telegram,” according to a Forbes report. Durov allegedly spent $500 million of the TON money to upgrade Telegram, something investors claim was not part of the original deal.
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