Sci & Tech

Telegram More Powerful Than Other Messaging Apps

Telegram More Powerful  Than Other Messaging AppsTelegram More Powerful  Than Other Messaging Apps

Telegram Mobile Messenger application has had a meteoric rise in Iran over the past 12 months, so much so that authorities in charge of telecommunications became concerned about the sheer reach of the social media app.

Reports of government shutdowns and the software being hijacked by terrorist groups like the self-styled Islamic State or Daesh abroad only explain part of the mobile messaging applications’ wide appeal.

To understand why Telegram has taken over as the de-facto personal news feed of all social groups inside Iran, one needs to see how we got to where we are today with mobile applications inside the country.

Firstly, Telegram was not the first mobile messenger application to take the country by storm; that award has to go to Yahoo’s Desktop Messaging application back in the 1990s and early 2000. In fact, some groups are still active on the messaging application, but these are now in the single percentile range.

After the gradual demise of Yahoo Messenger, considering the technological shift away from desktop computing to more mobile forms of communication, Short Message Service gradually became the next form of popular messaging. But as the service is costlier, it has been superseded by cheaper technologies.

As universal as the SMS system remains, the incredibly fast take-up of mobile Internet services—firstly through the slower EDGE system and more recently with the granting of 3G and 4G LTE licenses–has overtaken the more traditional forms of communications.

As the number of Iranians who purchased smartphones during the last Iranian year (ended March 20, 2015)—a majority of which use the Android mobile operating system—exceeded 20 million users, according to a summer Trend report, mobile messaging apps accelerated in popularity due to their low-cost or even free service.

Viber Messenger, prior to Telegram, was Iran’s messaging system of choice, with a majority of the country’s smartphone users using that application. However, due to disconnection issues and a throttling of the service, many users moved to Telegram en masse, ultimately blowing the former right out of the water.

Telegram’s Lead

Telegram’s lead in the market has not been entirely assured, as previously reported in Financial Tribune, as the application has suffered its fair share of controversy over the summer with certain official bodies calling for its outright ban citing security issues. This coincided with attempts to foil the service, something the Telecom Ministry categorically denied it had anything to do with at the time.  

This led to a tweet by Telegram’s owner, the Russian Pavel Durov, who said the Iranian government wanted to access customers’ information. Again, the ministry quickly responded: “We did not want to access users’ data, but to control certain illicit activities” which included the spread of pornographic images.

However, as the peer-to-peer system developed, something quite unexpected emerged–the formation of Telegram “Groups” and “Channels”.

This not only allowed users to create their own groups where they could share images and audio snippets with each other, but also get the latest updates from government departments and private companies.

No industry or sector has been left untouched, with channels and groups representing every interest group, including companies, learning groups, social activists and other professional channels.

According to Alexa, an Internet monitoring company, Iranians are the top users of Telegram, accounting for 80.4% of the website’s hits.

The application also comes in the top 50 viewed inside Iran, occupying the 36th place in in-country rankings.  The closest social media websites close to Telegram is the local social network Cloob placed one notch lower.

The closest international player by Alexa’s score is the image-sharing website Instagram that ranks 55th.

Inside Iran, Telegram has reached the majority of mobile phone users. In a recent survey of nearly 800 people by a UK-based ICT monitoring company, the majority of respondents inside Iran said they prefer Telegram over other messaging apps.

However, as popular as the messaging application is inside the country, there remains a large disconnect between those coming to Iran and locals.

As one recent returnee to Iran told Financial Tribune: “People outside the country have never heard of Telegram Messenger. So don’t expect people living in London or Los Angeles to sign up to groups that are only geographically related to Iran.”

For the moment, however, the social messaging application remains the most efficient method for local companies and interest groups to get their message to their desired audience, overriding many older forms of direct communication.