Brazil’s WhatsApp ban is driving millions of users to Telegram

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How big is WhatsApp? It’s enormous, we all know that, and sometimes there’s a nice round number to illustrate the point. Brazil’s decision to shut down the Facebook-owned messaging app for 48 hours has resulted in more than 1.5 million new users joining direct competitor Telegram. This major influx seems to have started before Brazil’s WhatsApp blackout came into effect, showing a proactive user base that was preempting the ban by switching to an alternative service.

Though there’s been strong opposition to WhatsApp — which provides an internet calling service along with messaging — from local telecoms, it’s not yet clear why Brazil’s judiciary deemed this ban necessary. The effect of the ruling, however, has been a pronounced bump in Telegram’s numbers. For its part, Telegram says that it prefers “natural growth [over] such spikes,” and it’s doing its best to welcome new users to the service and get them acclimated.

Demand for Telegram in Brazil has been so overwhelming, in fact, that the company can’t send out account-verifying SMS codes fast enough to get everyone on board. The last update from Telegram notes it’s added more than 1.5 million new users in the country. The last time that WhatsApp had a major outage, Telegram actually added 5 million users as a direct result, so today’s developments just cement Telegram’s position as the world’s second favorite messaging client.

Telegram puts a greater emphasis on user privacy and security than WhatsApp, offering encrypted messaging and Snapchat-like self-destruct timers. Right now, though, just being available in a place where WhatsApp isn’t is proving to be enough to drive Telegram to prodigious growth. Telegram had 62 million monthly active users back in May of this year, less than a tenth of WhatsApp’s 800 million, and its present unplanned expansion is sure to bump that number up significantly. Only question is how many of those new users will stick around once WhatsApp’s service is restored in Brazil.

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