Sci & Tech

Changing Trends in Messaging Apps

Changing Trends in Messaging Apps
Changing Trends in Messaging Apps

Iran's smartphone users appear to be changing their allegiances, and it doesn't look good for mobile messaging application Viber. In a brief study conducted by the Financial Tribune, internal research shows people living in Tehran are leaving the dominant mobile application. The marked shift that appears to have begun at the start of the new Iranian year (started March 21) has led some in the technology community to wonder what could be causing the mass exodus from Viber.

In polls conducted via social media, internally and anecdotally fewer than 100 respondents over the course of April came back with one resounding message; Viber has slowed down, with messages not getting through to recipients. This log-jam may be due to a number of different contributing factors. Firstly, Iranian technology authorities have voiced concern about the ownership of content on the application and that possible important information may be transmitted to hostile non-Iranian players.

Secondly, one tech expert, who did not want to be named, blamed the log-jam on the telecommunications network and their general dislike of mobile messaging applications. The reason he said was, "the main telecoms players dislike these apps, they cannot recoup their losses from people not sending SMS" adding, they're likely to be limiting the bandwidth and blocking ports related to Viber.

A third explanation has also been suggested; Viber has failed to prepare for the numbers of people using their system; however, over 70 respondents discounted this statement saying friends in other countries have no problem when using it.

Whatever the cause of the "Viber Exodus", one outcome has occurred. Instead of everyone leaving the free messaging platforms entirely and returning to the traditional SMS system, users across the board have systematically shifted to another application.

The name of that app is Telegram Messenger. The app is similar to Viber, but without the voice and video calling functionality, currently has just over 50 million users worldwide. The application hosted in Germany and created by the Russian brothers who created Russia's answer to Facebook called VK, now seem to have Iran's smartphone users moving over to their camp. In the past month alone, many respondents said they too have moved over to the application, they also noted that daily at least two or three names appear in their notifications panel.

If a user opts for Telegram, they will have the MTProto protocol with 256-bit symmetric AES encoding, RSA 2048 encoding as well as the Diffie-Hellman secure key feature. Telegram is pretty certain of their security services, so certain that they even offered a reward of $200,000 to anyone who can hack into their communication platform. So far no one has won the prize.

Internationally the picture is rather different. When quizzing people through email, and social media this week around the world, a unique patchwork-quilt of applications begins to take shape. Respondents from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay said Whatsapp and Facebook's Messenger app are most popular, in Malaysia Viber and Whatsapp are top dogs, and finally in Europe Whatsapp continues to reign supreme. Interestingly Japan and China continue to buck the wider global trend with Line and QQ being used in those countries respectively said one respondent.

We contacted Telegram to see if they can confirm the spike in Iranian registered mobile numbers. They weren't available for comment.

The mobile industry is a fickle beast, with the application business even more transient. Applications may be the talk of the town today; though, in a matter of a few short years, an overloaded system and buyouts by American corporate giants, they can quickly fall from grace at a moment's notice. In our research, however, we can now see that the main issues for Iranian users is the speed of delivery and with secure messaging; also not having to pay an annual fee helps as Iranian mobile users are unable to pay for annual subscriptions to apps like Whatsapp.