From SMS to Whatsapp to Telegram

on 15th Feb I wrote about the death of SMS. On 19th Feb it was announced that Facebook had bought Whatsapp for $16+bn (!)

Now everyone’s talking about the future of messaging and the race to get as many users as possible. Until 19th Feb no one really saw anything in the news about Whatsapp but everyone knew about it because almost everyone you knew was using it, and urging you to get on it.

In fact tons of articles have come up showing how Whatsapp (a US company) was barely known in their own country but was incredibly popular all over the world, thanks to it’s support for multiple platforms. Over in Singapore people automatically assume that you’re on Whatsapp and will whine about how difficult you are if you don’t.

I still believe that SMS is antiquated and that the telcos should figure out a way to evolve the service to online messaging as they’re missing out. I was originally thinking that they could leverage on Whatsapp via an API or something but that ain’t going to happen now as Facebook is busy building up walled gardens of apps. Seriously though I’m sure there’s great potential in this somewhere.

About 3 years ago when I starting to use my iPhone seriously, I was introduced to Whatsapp by my sister, an odd reversal of roles considering I’m usually the more tech savvy. Back then I was still on SMS and so the fact that you could (for $1) use an app to send messages over data or wifi and never incur additional costs was both ingenious and thrifty. The app wasn’t the most pretty but it was extremely easy to use and very straight forward.

2 years later and I began to have issues with Whatsapp. I had contractors who would send me pictures of mock-ups for approval and suppliers would send me photos of samples that they wanted me to check out. On top of that I had become part of dozens of group chats and was seeing roughly 30-40 messages daily. Suddenly free messages didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. It felt like as though I was constantly logged into MSN or Gmail chat with no way of logging out. The stream of messages was very distracting and felt ultimately intrusive. So I quit. I closed my whatsapp account and deleted the app. I still had iMessage, which being seamlessly integrated with the messages app, felt far more elegant. But people would always ask me why I got off it and would be upset that they couldn’t easily send me photos that they’d taken. (as if that was a bad thing!)

I ended up back on whatsapp because my then boss wanted us to collaborate more quickly. A bit of a bummer but thanks to having maintained radio silence for such a long time no one bothered me much with whatsapp anymore. (To this day I wish that the app developers included an invisible function so that people couldn’t contact you if you didn’t want to make yourself available.) It’s still there on my phone but now I hardly receive many messages on it anymore. Occasionally in the lead up to a big event i’ll find myself in a group chat for those participating but once the event is over people don’t use it anymore. I guess everyone’s finding their attention span being stretched beyond what’s comfortable as well.

Anyway, now with the news that Whatsapp is being sold to Facebook there are the usual first lot who rush to abandon the service in search of another. Facebook has a terrible history with issues of privacy and there’s no doubt that even if they don’t put ads in Whatsapp they’ll be finding some way to monetise the information they gather about individuals from their daily connections with others. To me it’s not a matter of if but when. So in more recent news rival service Telegram has gained 8 mil additional users.

I’ve been testing Telegram out and it’s almost exactly the same other than some additional security features which I don’t think i’ll use anyway. I do find it to be marginally quicker than Whatsapp but that may change once it starts adding users. The other interesting difference is that it’s free with no indication of monetisation. Personally that bothers me. But according to their website this is not a commercial project and is not intended to make money. Therefore “it also cannot be sold”. A noble idea but I’ll reserve judgement till later.

So if you are also thinking of jumping ship from Whatsapp, give Telegram a go. It’s really quite nice, just as easy to use and you’ll feel right at home in it. And in due time if the service ever changes I’m sure there’ll be another service just round the corner waiting for you to use.

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One thought on “From SMS to Whatsapp to Telegram

  1. Agree!! I tried to “get out of” whatsapp too Sean. But couldn’t obviously. What I did was to “go invisible” by turning off the “date and time stamp info” in settings. It worked somehow. When people could no long see “when was I last seen at…” they realised I wasn’t as readily available on that platform anymore. Subsequently, I had a few people ask me why they couldn’t detect my “last seen” status, and if I was avoiding anyone in particular. I just said, that it wasn’t necessary for anyone to know when I last accessed the app! It also means, that if it’s not URGENT, I won’t need to respond to you immediately!

    For urgent things- I “PUSH” my messages through iMessage/SMS. Or I call. Life gets simpler like this! Truth be told, I’ve often found the “apparent ease” of technology intrusive, an ultimately quite debilitating. We are all too reliant these days.

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