Social media is abuzz with the news of WhatsApp’s 1 billion user milestone, an achievement further cementing the Facebook-owned messaging app’s worldwide dominance. WhatsApp has without question curved a name for itself as a prerequisite for modern-day communication to the point that people can’t remember a time without it.
But as WhatsApp was getting all the limelight and racking up an army of loyal users, two Russian brothers introduced a rival messaging app in 2013 that they called Telegram. Telegram at first sight can be mistaken for a WhatsApp clone but in all honesty, that’s where the family resemblance ends. Boasting almost 100 million users, Telegram isn’t ready yet to be written off as just a cool-kid thing. There’s a reason this 2 year old app has retained a cult following where many have failed. I personally made a conscious decision to use Telegram two years ago (despite missing the call feature) and I have never had any regrets. Here’s why:
- Telegram Desktop App for Mac, Linux and Windows is a fully operational software one can download onto their computer for a richer instant messaging experience, something the much older WhatsApp is still lacking. Better still is the fact that one doesn’t need to have a smartphone as Telegram can be installed on Desktop and the phone number only used in the initial verification process.
- Telegram Web App retains the same clean interface as both the desktop and smartphone apps. Where it blows WhatsApp out of the water is that Telegram doesn’t require one to have WhatsApp running on their phone to be able to use it on the web. One is in full control of their app and can even terminate other accounts.
- Synchronisation of chats and files across all devices is seamless with Telegram’s cloud based servers. Unless one deletes them, chats, images and other files are always automatically backed up on the cloud in preparation of a rainy day. Device theft is widespread wherever you go.
- Usernames (e.g @dignited) can be set up on Telegram as an alternative to dishing out one’s private phone number to every random Okello, Kiwanuka and Matsiko. The username can be easily changed too giving a whole new meaning to privacy. Anyone can vanish so well from a stalker they will doubt your existence. Usernames help when one joins a public group without giving away their privacy.
- File Transfer on Telegram is not limited by format. One can send just about anything using Telegram from audio files, images, gifs, pdfs to executable files up to a whopping 1.5GB in size! To put this in perspective, WhatsApp can only offer a paltry 16MB maximum file transfer size and only supports audio and video.
- Stickers go head to head with the impressive file transfer capabilities as one of the best things about Telegram. The ‘Great Minds’ stickers come as a default and they are just too awesome for words. A vibrant Telegram community took it upon themselves to design some really cool stickers free for download. Stickers like Spongebob, Minions and The Yoda Collection are some of the popular ones. WhatsApp on the other hand takes all the fun out of chat with their rigidity.
- Self-destruct Timer mode can be programmed to automatically permanently delete the chat from both ends after a set period of time. This privacy hack can come in handy when one doesn’t want to have something they said come back to bite them where the sun don’t shine. What sucks about Self-destruct is that one can take screenshots of the conversation but on the bright side, you will be notified.
In light of these cool features, many of which have not been mentioned, it goes to show that Telegram is in a league of its own and WhatsApp, the darling of chat has to play catch-up. Or maybe Zuckerberg is thinking of ways of monetising some of these features. Who knows. Send me a telegram if you do.