Every few decades there is a drastic change in how we view important societal and scientific problems. What used to be a ridiculous idea yesterday can become the predominant opinion today, only to turn into an obsolete notion tomorrow.
In the history of human beliefs, change is the only constant. Most people living in 1921 shared views that today are considered quaint at best, and dangerous at worst. The chances that our present-day convictions will remain relevant by 2121 are slim.
In fact, we won't even have to wait 100 years, as the speed of change is accelerating. A good example is how quickly humanity changed its mind over the origins of Covid.
Just a year ago, the idea that the virus originated from a Wuhan Lab was dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms blocked posts promoting the lab leak theory. Today, however, this theory is on its way to becoming the mainstream scientific view of how the virus originated.
Such instances make combating fake news and misinformation particularly challenging. They can also fundamentally undermine people's trust in the neutrality of social media platforms, and jeopardize future efforts to fight misinformation.
Telegram never blocked posts discussing the lab leak theory, because we didn't think it's our role to decide for our users what they should believe. At the same time, we felt that our users had the right to be informed about Covid by official sources that reflected scientific consensus. That's why we worked with 19 governments to help them reach out to every Telegram user in their countries with up-to-date information on the pandemic.
In my 20 years of managing discussion platforms, I noticed that conspiracy theories only strengthen each time their content is removed by moderators. Instead of putting an end to wrong ideas, censorship often makes it harder to fight them. That’s why spreading the truth will always be a more efficient strategy than engaging in censorship.
The phones of 50,000 individuals, including human rights activists and journalists, have been targeted by surveillance tools that were used by numerous governments. These tools can hack any iOS and Android phone, and there is no way to protect your device from it. It doesn't matter which apps you use, because the system is breached on a deeper level.
According to the Snowden revelations from 2013, both Apple and Google are part of the global surveillance program that implies that these companies have to, among other things, implement backdoors into their mobile operating systems. These backdoors, usually disguised as security bugs, allow US agencies to access information on any smartphone in the world.
The problem with such backdoors is that they are never exclusive to just one party. Anybody can exploit them. So if a US security agency can hack an iOS or Android phone, any other organization that uncovers these backdoors can do the same. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what has been taking place: an Israeli company called NSO Group has been selling access to the spying tools that allowed third parties to hack tens of thousands of phones.
Since at least 2018, I have been aware that one of my phone numbers was included in a list of potential targets of such surveillance tools (although a source from the NSO Group denies it). Personally, I wasn't worried: since 2011, when I was still living in Russia, I’ve got used to assuming that all my phones were compromised. Anyone who gains access to my private data will be utterly disappointed – they will have to go through thousands of concept designs for Telegram features and millions of messages related to our product development process. They won't find any important information there.
However, these surveillance tools are also used against people far more prominent than me. For example, they were employed to spy on 14 heads of state. The existence of backdoors in crucial infrastructure and software creates a huge challenge for humanity. That's why I have been calling upon the governments of the world to start acting against the Apple-Google duopoly in the smartphone market and to force them to open their closed ecosystems and allow for more competition.
So far, even though the current market monopolization increases costs and violates privacy and freedom of speech of billions, government officials have been very slow to act. I hope the news that they themselves have been targeted by these surveillance tools will prompt politicians to change their minds.
The New York Times uncovered that Apple is involved in large-scale surveillance and censorship at the behest of China. It is sad, but not surprising: big tech companies often choose profits over freedoms.
Apple is very efficient at pursuing their business model, which is based on selling overpriced, obsolete hardware to customers locked in their ecosystem.
Every time I have to use an iPhone to test our iOS app I feel like I’m thrown back into the Middle Ages. The iPhone’s 60Hz displays can’t compete with the 120Hz displays of modern Android phones that support much smoother animations.
The worst part of Apple’s tech though is not clunkier devices or outdated hardware. Owning an iPhone makes you a digital slave of Apple – you are only allowed to use apps that Apple lets you install via their App Store, and you can only use Apple’s iCloud to natively back up your data.
It’s no wonder that Apple’s totalitarian approach is so appreciated by the Communist Party of China, which – thanks to Apple – now has complete control over the apps and data of all its citizens who rely on iPhones.
📹 Speaking of video calls, we will be adding a video dimension to our voice chats in May, making Telegram a powerful platform for group video calls. Screen sharing, encryption, noise-cancellation, desktop and tablet support – everything you can expect from a modern video conferencing tool, but with Telegram-level UI, speed and encryption. Stay tuned!
They are light years ahead of what any other social media service has to offer on the web: fast, slick, fluid, light, feature-rich. To make them 100% complete in features, we are currently testing a functional version of web-based video calls internally, which will be added soon.
WebK and WebZ are by far the most cross-platform versions of Telegram we shipped so far - you can instantly access your chats from both mobile and desktop directly from your web browser. No downloads, no installs.
This is particularly good for corporate environments where installing native apps is not always allowed, but also good for users who like the instant nature of web sites.
🎂 My Mom’s turning 70 today. She is the main reason I am who I am today. In school I was a self-willed kid that often clashed with teachers. My mom always supported me - she never sided with anybody but her sons.
She is kind and full of energy, but also one of the smartest and wisest people I know. Born in a princely family that had been deported to Siberia from Kiev during the October Revolution, she studied in Russia's best universities, lived in Germany for several years and then Italy where she educated students.
🎉 More good news – I am happy to share that Telegram has raised over $1 billion by selling bonds (a form of debt) to some of the largest and most knowledgeable investors from all over the world. This will enable Telegram to continue growing globally while sticking to its values and remaining independent. These resources will also fuel the monetization strategy I outlined in December.
As I said when launching Telegram almost 8 years ago, the end goal for Telegram is to become a financially sustainable project that can serve humanity for decades (or centuries) to come. Today's news is another step towards that goal.
With today’s update, we're giving every Telegram user the power to run their own radio station (later this Spring: TV station) without adding any complexity to our apps.
I’m proud we were able to roll out this new version of Telegram just 3 weeks after our previous major update. What’s more, this came at no expense of the quality of new features – you’ll experience the high speed, wide functionality and slick animations that you love Telegram for.
The update has been approved by both Apple and Google for several hours now. Due to Apple’s tech issues, iOS users may have to wait a few more hours for the new version to hit the store. Users of all other platforms can already enjoy Voice Chats 2.0 and other features.
I read an article that cautioned users from switching to Telegram from other apps, because "Telegram is going to introduce ads". This is misleading for at least 3 reasons:
1. There will be no ads in chats on Telegram. Users who rely on Telegram as a messaging app, not a social network, will never see ads. Private chats and group chats are and will always be ad-free. As I outlined in December, ads are being considered only in large one-to-many channels (like this one), which do not exist in any other messaging app. So users ditching older apps for Telegram won’t increase the number of ads in their lives.
2. User data will not be used to target ads. We believe that collecting private data from users to target ads the way WhatsApp-Facebook do is immoral. We like the approach of privacy-conscious services like DuckDuckGo: monetizing services without collecting information about users. So if we introduce ads in one-to-many-channels, they will be contextual – based on the topic of the channel, not targeted based on any user data.
3. We are fixing ads that are already here. In most markets, content creators on Telegram already monetize their content by selling promotional posts in their channels. This is a chaotic market with multiple third-party ad networks pushing intrusive ads that create a negative user experience. We want to fix this situation by offering a privacy-conscious alternative for channel owners.
Users will be able to opt out of ads, but I do think that privacy-conscious ads are a good way for channel owners to monetize their efforts – as an alternative to donations or subscriptions, which we are also working to offer them.
Our end goal is to establish a new class of content creators – one that is financially sustainable and free to choose the strategy that is best for their subscribers. Traditional social networks have exploited users and publishers for far too long with excessive data collection and manipulative algorithms. It’s time to change this.
Telegram became the most downloaded mobile app in the world in January 2021.
For the last 7.5 years, Telegram has steadily climbed the rankings for popular apps. Since its launch in 2013, Telegram’s user base has grown over 40% each year.
What’s our secret? Consistency.
For the last 7.5 years we’ve consistently defended the privacy of our users and regularly improved the quality and feature set of our apps.
Anyone who stays true to their values and applies focused effort over a long period of time is bound to succeed in their area. This is true for any human occupation – sport, blogging, art, coding, business or studying.
The "capitalism <-> socialism" opposition seems outdated. I prefer to think in terms of "centralization vs decentralization". Humans have evolved to perform best in small groups of less than 150 people. That's why wherever there's centralization and excessive hierarchy, there's inefficiency and underutilized human potential. Capitalist monopolies and socialist dictatorships are equally bad.
In a natural environment, every small community is able to produce an outstanding leader and an independent thinker. In today's world of trillion-dollar monopolies and bloated governments, the potential of hundreds of millions of people is suppressed by the limitations imposed by our artificial societal structures.
That is the reason why tens of thousands of people working at big corporations such as Facebook have failed to keep up with what our small team at Telegram has been implementing. That’s also the reason why countries like Russia fail to generate and retain global brands in their jurisdictions. Genuine creativity is rare in organizations and societies built on excessive hierarchies and lack of personal autonomy.
Some users wanted a way to move their chat history from WhatsApp over to Telegram. Two weeks ago I realized this should be theoretically possible, and yesterday we made this feature available on both iOS and Android, together with many other improvements. It also supports migrating chats from KakaoTalk and Line – two other Pre-Telegram apps.
Nothing like this has ever been made possible by a major app, and our team had to implement some serious magic to make it work. We are happy with the result: moving messages to Telegram allows people to save disk space and stop worrying about third-party backups or changing devices.
The feature currently imports messages to the end of the target Telegram conversation, but retains the original timestamps of messages. Some folks have been asking whether we can mix the existing messages in a Telegram chat with the imported messages in one unified timeline. This should be possible if the target chat (where you import messages to) has fewer than 100 messages, so we’ve started to work on that.
We’ll also provide free APIs for third-party developers who want to create tools that will allow users to import messages to Telegram from anywhere. Hopefully, such tools will help add support for more apps than this first wave of three – and also allow users to import multiple chats or their entire inbox at once.
The original meaning of the paper plane on the Telegram logo means “freedom”. For us, freedom of choice and data portability are paramount. People should be in complete control over their own data – and their own lives.