Telegram starts to look like a super app, echoing WeChat

Telegram, the popular messenger with 800 million monthly active users worldwide, is inching closer to adopting an ecosystem strategy that is reminiscent of WeChat’s super app approach. Certain aspects of the ecosystem will be decentralized with help from two heavyweights: Telegram’s crypto partner TON Foundation and WeChat’s owner Tencent. Telegram has been working on a […]

Telegram rolls out its Stories feature to all users

Telegram is officially rolling out Stories to all users, the company announced on Monday. The feature first launched to Premium users last month, and is now available to everyone on the platform. Today’s announcement comes as Telegram is celebrating its 10th birthday.

One major factor that sets Telegram’s new feature apart from Stories on other platforms is the fact that users have the option to edit them after posting. On platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and TikTok, you don’t have the option to edit a Story once it’s live. If you want to change something, you have to delete the Story and then start again. Telegram is taking a different approach with its Stories feature.

“For the first time in the history of social media, you can update any element of your story at any time – changing its visibility, caption, on-screen text, stickers or anything else – without having to delete and repost it from scratch,” Telegram wrote in a blog post.

The rest of Telegram’s Stories experience is similar to those on other platforms.

You can choose to have your Stories viewable by everyone, your contacts, a few selected contacts or a list of close friends. Stories will be placed in an expandable section at the top of your chat list. You can hide Stories posted by any contact by moving them to the “Hidden” list in your Contacts section instead of the main screen.

Users can choose when their story expires. For instance, you can have it expire in six, 12, 24 or 48 hours. Or, you can permanently display Stories on your profile page in a way that’s similar to how Instagram lets you display Story highlights. In addition, you can add captions and links to your Stories. There’s also the option to tag other people in your Stories. Plus, you will be able to post photos and videos taken with the front and rear cameras simultaneously in a BeReal-like style.

Although Stories are now available to all users and just not paid users, Telegram is still offering Premium users a perk when it comes to Stories. Premium users can enable a feature called Stealth Mode that erases their views from any stories they opened in the past five minutes, and hides what they view for the next 25 minutes.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said back in June that users had been asking for Stories for years. The company was initially against adding Stories because they “are already everywhere,” but wanted to listen to its users, Durov had said at the time.

Iraq lifts ban on Telegram after messaging app complies with authorities

Iraq’s telecom ministry lifted the ban on Telegram over the weekend, days after the agency blocked the chat app over security concerns.

The ministry said it lifted the ban because of the “response of the company that owns the application to the requirements of the security authorities,” which required Telegram to reveal sources leaking data of officials and citizens, according to a translated statement.

Telegram has shown commitment to communicating with authorities about security concerns, the ministry said, insisting that it “doesn’t stand against freedom of expression.”

Telegram told Reuters that the company forbids users from posting private data on the platform without consent. Telegram didn’t share any private user data with Iraqi authorities, the messaging app operator told the publication.

“We can confirm that our moderators took down several channels sharing personal data. However, we can also confirm that no private user data was requested from Telegram and that none has been shared,” the company told the publication in a statement.

Last week, Iraq banned the chat app saying that many channels were publishing citizen’s private data such as names, addresses, and family ties with other people. At that time, the ministry said that Telegram — which has more than 800 million users globally — didn’t respond to its requests, and as a result, the country banned the app.

Iraq has been criticized by organizations around the world for its internet censorship. In the past few months, the country has repeatedly shut down internet access on multiple days to prevent cheating in exams. In July, Amnesty International cautioned how the country’s draft laws could give the government the power to punish anyone who criticizes the authorities.

Telegram rolls out its Stories feature to Premium users

Telegram is rolling out its Stories feature to Premium users, the company confirmed in a tweet on Friday. The official rollout for Premium users comes a month after Telegram CEO Pavel Durov announced that the messaging app would be adding Stories in July. It’s currently unknown when Telegram plans to launch Stories for non-Premium users.

At the time, Durov said users had been asking for the feature for years, noting that more than half of all feature requests that Telegram receives are related to Stories. The company was initially against adding Stories because they “are already everywhere,” but wanted to listen to its users, Durov had said.

With Stories on Telegram, you can decide who can see each of your stories. You can choose to have your Stories viewable by everyone, your contacts, a few selected contacts or a list of close friends. Stories will be placed in an expandable section at the top of your chat list. You can hide Stories posted by any contact by moving them to the “Hidden” list in your Contacts section instead of the main screen.

In addition, you can add captions and links to your Stories. There’s also the option to tag other people in your Stories. Plus, you will be able to post photos and videos taken with the front and rear cameras simultaneously in a BeReal-like style.

You can choose when your story expires. For instance, you can have it expire in six, 12, 24 or 48 hours. Or, you can permanently display Stories on your profile page in a way that’s similar to how Instagram lets you display Story highlights.

Durov previously said that following internal tests of Stories, even the skeptics on the Telegram team started to appreciate the feature and that Telegram can no longer imagine the messaging service without it.

Telegram raises $210 million through bond sales

Telegram has raised $210 million through bond sales this week from a number of investors, including its founder and chief executive Pavel Durov, as it navigates the slowing economy that has evaporated public markets’ appetite for listings.

The messaging app, used by over 800 million users each month, raised the capital by issuing bonds worth $270 million. “Because interest rates have gone up significantly since 2021, the bonds have a different issue price,” John Hyman, Telegram Chief Investment Adviser, told TechCrunch.

Telegram is still not profitable and the new financing is aimed at taking it closer to the “break-even” point, said Durov, claiming that his app was “closer to profitability in absolute numbers” than competitors including Twitter and Snap.

A set of “well-known funds with stellar reputations” purchased the bonds, Durov said without identifying them. Telegram’s Hyman told TechCrunch that these backers are “highly sophisticated global funds who specialise in bonds.”

Durov said in his post that he “personally bought” about a quarter of the new Telegram bonds, investing “tens of millions into Telegram’s growth.” Over the last 10 years, Durov said, he has spent hundreds of millions on the app to keep it operational.

Telegram has grown fast in recent years even as new social offerings continue to mushroom. The app has added over 300 million users in the past two and a half years and is attracting 2.5 million new signups each day.

For the Dubai-headquartered firm, improving the finances and becoming self-sufficient is the bigger challenge. Telegram — which has kickstarted its monetization engine in recent years, including launch of a subscription service — raised over $1 billion in debt financing by selling 5-year pre-IPO convertible bonds more than two years ago.

Telegram has been looking to go public for several years — it even tried a token sale (which was blocked by the SEC) — but the ongoing weakening global market condition means that it will have to continue to rely on private investors to bankroll its operations.

Several other social media startups, including Twitter, Discord and Reddit, have seen their valuations slashed by mutual fund investors after Meta and Snap shed tens of billions of dollars in value in the public market.

Telegram is adding Stories next month

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov announced today that the messaging app is adding Stories in early July. Durov says users have been asking for the feature for years, noting that more than half of all feature requests that Telegram receives are related to Stories. The company was initially against adding Stories because they “are already everywhere,” but wanted to listen to its users, Durov says.

With Stories on Telegram, users will be able to decide who can see each of their stories. You can choose to have your Stories viewable by everyone, your contacts, a few selected contacts or a list of close friends. Stories will be placed in an expandable section at the top of your chat list. Users will be able to hide Stories posted by any contact by moving them to the ‘Hidden’ list in their Contacts section instead of the main screen.

Users will have the option to add captions and links to their Stories. There’s also the option to tag other people in your Stories. Notably, you will be able to post photos and videos taken by the front and the rear cameras simultaneously in a BeReal-like style.

In addition, you will be able to choose when your story expires. You can have it expire in six, 12, 24, or 48 hours. Or, you can permanently display stories on your profile page, in a way that’s similar to how Instagram lets you display Story highlights.

“The ability to save your stories to the profile page will make Telegram profiles more informative and colorful,” Durov wrote in his announcement post. “You will not only be able to explore more content from your closest contacts, but finally discover more information about users you connect with in groups or channel comments. Speaking of channels, they will benefit from more exposure and subscribers: once we launch the ability to repost messages from channels to stories, going viral on Telegram will become a lot easier.”

Durov says following internal tests of Stories, even the skeptics on the Telegram team started to appreciate the feature, and that Telegram can no longer imagine the messaging service without it.

Stories are in their last testing phase and will become available in early July. Durov believes the feature will “herald a new era on Telegram,” and allow the platform to become more social that it currently is.

Telegram is adding Stories next month by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

WhatsApp is working on introducing usernames to the app

WhatsApp has long relied on phone numbers as the only identity for accounts. Users need a phone number to create an account. Anyone in an individual or a group chat can see your phone number. This might be changing as WhatsApp is working on introducing usernames.

The latest beta version of WhatsApp’s app suggests that the company could introduce this feature in the future, according to a report from WABetaInfo. The report noted that the username section will be visible on the Profile page in Settings.

Image Credits: WABetaInfo

Separately, TechCrunch was able to confirm WABetaInfo’s report. We looked at the code of the latest Android app and found references to the username field.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

It’s not clear what process the Meta-owned app might introduce for users to pick a username as there are currently 2 billion people using the messaging app. The company didn’t comment on the story and didn’t share any details about the feature.

WhatsApp’s competing messaging app Telegram has given the ability for users to hide their contact and show their usernames instead. Last year, Telegram also launched auctions for premium usernames based on the TON blockchain. It will be interesting to see how WhatsApp approaches claims for premium usernames and how it plans to protect them.

At the moment, WhatsApp users in groups and communities can see each others’ phone numbers. When this feature rolls out, the app will most likely let people hide their phone numbers from people who are not in their contact book.

Earlier this month, WhatsApp rolled out a new privacy feature that allows users to hide and lock individual conversations. These conversations can only be unlocked with a device’s biometric authentication or password.

WhatsApp is working on introducing usernames to the app by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Telegram introduces a Power Saving Mode for battery preservation

Telegram has introduced a new Power Saving Mode to preserve the battery of your device. The mode kicks in when the battery dips below a certain percentage — which is configurable — and turns off resource-intensive features like auto-playing videos and GIFs, sticker animations, and background updates.

The new feature has its own menu in settings, which also has individual toggles for auto-playing videos, GIFs, sticker animations, emoji animations, interface effects, preloading media, and background updates (for iOS only). Users can turn these off permanently to save battery. The company said that it tested more than 200 Android phones and created “optimized default settings” for them.

Telegram Power saving mode

Image Credits: Telegram

Notably, WhatsApp doesn’t have a power saver mode, but it has settings to disable auto-download of media to save battery and storage.

Apart from the new battery-saving mode, Telegram has also rolled out a playback speed control for videos in chat. You can choose default speeds like 0.5x,1x,1.5x, and 2x, or use the slider to choose a custom speed.

Telegram playback speed

Image Credits: Telegram

What’s more, Telegram is introducing an auto-invite group links feature. When you are selecting people to join a group, if they have disabled auto-joining, they will be sent an invite link.

Along with this, Telegram is also pushing features like read time for messages in groups with less than 100 members, new animated emojis and interactive reactions, translated bot descriptions, and improved folder support on iOS.

These features are rolling out to all users with the latest Telegram update.

Last year, Telegram launched a premium subscription for $5 a month in June with features like exclusive stickers and reactions, and the ability to upload large files. In December, the company said that it had crossed the mark of 1 million paying users.

Telegram introduces a Power Saving Mode for battery preservation by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Telegram is auctioning phone numbers to let users sign up to the service without any SIM

After putting unique usernames on the auction on the TON blockchain, Telegram is now putting anonymous numbers up for bidding. These numbers could be used to sign up for Telegram without needing any SIM card.

Just like the username auction, you can buy these virtual numbers on Fragment, which is a site specially created for Telegram-related auctions. To buy a number, you will have to link your TON wallet (Tonkeeper) to the website.

You can buy a random number for as low as 9 toncoins, which is equivalent to roughly $16.50 at the time of writing. Some of the premium virtual numbers — such as +888-8-888 — are selling for 31,500 toncoins (~$58,200).

Telegram virtual numbers

How Telegram virtual numbers work Image Credits: Telegram

Notably, you can only use this number to sign up for Telegram. You can’t use it to receive SMS or calls or use it to register for another service.

For Telegram, this is another way of asking its most loyal supporters to support the app by helping it make some money. The company launched its premium subscription plan earlier this year. On Tuesday, the chat app’s founder Pavel Durov said that Telegram has more than 1 million paid users just a few months after the launch of its premium features. While Telegram offers features like cross-device sync and large groups, it’s important to remember that chats are not protected by end-to-end encryption.

As for folks who want anonymization, Telegram already offers you to hide your phone number. Alternatively, there are tons of virtual phone number services out there — including Google Voice, Hushed, and India-based Doosra — that allow you receive calls and SMS as well.

Telegram is auctioning phone numbers to let users sign up to the service without any SIM by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Telegram Premium tops 1 million subscribers

Telegram Premium has amassed over 1 million subscribers, less than six months after the popular instant messaging app launched the paid offering and began a serious effort to monetize the business.

Pavel Durov shared the update on his Telegram channel Tuesday, calling the milestone “one of the most successful examples of a social media subscription plan ever launched.”

The subscription, however, still “represents just a fraction of Telegram’s overall revenue,” he shared in the same update, optimistically hoping that one day Premium will rake in just as much money as ads.

The app, used by over 700 million monthly active users, launched Premium in late June, offering customers a range of additional features such as the ability to send files as large as 4 GB and faster downloads. The monthly subscription costs about $6 in the U.S. and the UK, and $2.2 in emerging markets such as India.

Telegram’s push to monetization comes at a time when its chief rival, WhatsApp, is also scrambling to find ways to make money. WhatsApp remains free and has no paid tier, but its parent firm Meta is increasingly bringing businesses to the instant messaging app. The firm appears to have dialled up its effort in recent months — and not everyone is happy about it.

The Dubai-headquartered Telegram, which has said in the past that it needed to make money to keep the platform afloat, citing computing costs, plans to expand its monetization efforts next year, Durov said. The firm is developing a host of decentralized tools, including non-custodial wallets and exchanges, he said late last month.

“Thanks to successful monetization, Telegram will be able to pay for the servers, traffic and wages necessary to keep building new features and supporting existing ones. While some other apps consider their users a tool to maximize revenue, we consider revenue a tool to maximize value for our users,” he wrote Tuesday.

Telegram Premium tops 1 million subscribers by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch