Messaging App Exodus from WhatsApp to Telegram and Signal Continues

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Mobile phone messaging app WhatsApp has seen a slump in new downloads since the start of the year after introducing controversial new terms requiring users to share their personal data with parent company Facebook.

Users of messaging app WhatsApp are migrating to competitors, including Russian-developed Telegram, en masse after the Facebook-owned firm changed its privacy terms.

Data analysis firm Sensor Tower said on Monday the Google and Apple app stores had registered nearly 2.2 million downloads of Telegram and more than 100,000 of Signal in the previous two days. And it said new installations of WhatsApp were down 11 per cent in the first week of 2021.

Last week, WhatsApp introduced new terms obliging users to share personal data with parent company Facebook, including phone number and location, beginning February 8.

World Wide Worx CEO Arthur Goldstuck said he believed the goal was to target adverts to users based on WhatsApp data, as Facebook, Google and other tech firms already do.

“I believe the intention is for WhatsApp to become an adverting medium as well," Goldstuck said. "We shouldn’t be surprised in future when we have to accept new terms and conditions that says [WhatsApp] will be showing users adverts relevant to users’ interest.”

But such a move would go against the vision of WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum. Acton left the firm in 2017 to set up Signal, while Koum left the board in 2018.

Dubai-based Telegram, founded by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov and US citizen Axel Neff, boasts superior functionality to its higher-profile rival. While WhatsApp imposes a limit of 256 members on chat groups, Telegram accommodates up to 200,000 users in one group at a time. Telegram also has 'channels' allowing one-way communication to an unlimited number of subscribers. While WhatsApp does not let group admins moderate member posts, Telegram allows users to delete spam and offensive material and lets all users edit their own posts after posting.

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Mark Zuckerberg's social media empire bought out WhatsApp in 2014 for a whopping $19 billion — one of a series of acquisitions of rival companies that led the US Federal Trade Commission and 40 US states to open antitrust lawsuits against the tech giant last year.

Facebook was fined €110 million ($122.5 million) by the European Union in 2017 for claiming at the time of the buy-out that WhatsApp and Facebook were too incompatible to allow user data to be shared between the two apps. The company changed its terms in 2016 to allow users to link their WhatsApp and Facebook accounts.

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