Telegram topped the list of the most downloaded non-gaming apps globally in January 2021. The messaging platform saw over 63 million installs during the month, about four times its downloads during the same period last year. Let’s dig into the history of this fastest-growing product and its evolution over the years:
The launch of Telegram
Telegram was started in 2013 after a contest for Android developers. The alpha version of the app was initially launched for iOS on 14 August 2013 and Android in October 2013 with secret chats and self-destruct timers. After completely documenting the Application Programming Interface (API), the code of the app became an open source as the app touched 1,00,000 daily active users during the first year of its launch. In 2014, the company made the app available for desktop and allowed documents to be sent and received on the app besides introducing voice messages.
The company continuously worked on making the app supportive of iOS and Android products. Meanwhile, the privacy and secret chat settings were upgraded with account self-destruction.
Third party integration, mass reach
The company rigorously spent the first two years in fixing the basics of the app and garnered around 60 million active users. The year 2015 brought in the advancements as the company launched channels to broadcast messages to masses, which gave the product worldwide reach, and a platform for third-party developers to create bots which helped add features to Telegram like payments, moderate groups, emails and much more.
Supergroups, game play and goodies
A lot of developments were brought in to add fun features, especially GIFs, hashtags, sticker panels, emojis to pep up the app and keep the group chats rolling. It created ‘Supergroups’ to tackle its competitor WhatApp’s group limit by increasing the maximum number of users for its group chats to 1,000. By 2016, the group power reached 5,000 members besides updating channels and bots which were integrated with services like YouTube and Foursquare for easy video and location sharing. After integrating the bots, the company notched up by introducing the gaming platform by the end of 2016.
Voice calls, interactive map, secret chat
The company rang in 2017 with voice calls built on end-to-end encryption along with a dedicated video hosting platform called Telescope. The groups levelled up by June 2017, increasing the maximum members to 10,000. It also added a self-destruct timer for photos and videos to give users the option to send disappearing media in private chats. This ‘secret chat’ was the company’s main selling point besides the bigger group capacity. Telegram also expanded its localisation by launching the Translations Platform for users.
With over 400 million monthly active users in April 2020, Telegram added video calling with end-to-end encryption like Signal and WhatsApp, which Zoom does not have yet.
The dark mode on Telegram
By 2018, Telegram introduced two types of dark modes on its mobile app — night and tinted night, a feature which its competitors are yet to device. The company focused on making its privacy settings more flexible besides creating location-based public chats by 2019. It also introduced ‘Polls 2.0’ which allows users to conduct various types of polls within chat groups and channels.
With over 400 million monthly active users in April 2020, Telegram added video calling with end-to-end encryption like Signal and WhatsApp, which Zoom does not have yet. The group voice chat feature came out by December.
Targeting to build a diverse platform, the app ventured into becoming an online learning tool. The Quiz Polls, a unique offering, was introduced in January 2020 for educational tests. In January 2021, Telegram allowed users to import messages and media from other apps like WhatsApp, Line and KakaoTalk as millions flocked to its platform.