Application Critique

CS3216 Application Feedback: Telegram

Telegram was founded by Russian born entrepreneur Pavel Durov in 2013 and it is a secured messaging application. In other words, our conversations in telegram are “secret” and only people involved in the conversations can view.

Summary of what the presenting team said about the application that you think is most important

Here are three points which I feel are the most important.

Firstly, Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, stay firm to the company’s values and do not share user’s data despite the fact that terrorists are using it for communication. This is a point for concern because it compromises safety and affects the branding of the company. By staying true to its core value, Telegram established itself as a messaging application that users can trust for private conversations and this builds customer loyalty. However, this could serve as a double edged sword because of the sensitive topic on terrorism. It might portray an image to the public that Telegram is supportive of terrorist activities which in turn damages the company’s reputation.

Another thing that I learned from the presentation is that Telegram does not have a monetization strategy. We all know that a business is not sustainable when it does not generate sufficient revenue to cover cost and Telegram is no exception. Telegram is currently surviving on its Founder’s money from the sale of his previous start-up. Without a monetization strategy, Telegram would only incur cost which result in loses and its funds would one day be wipe out. Hence, in order to be sustainable, Telegram should find a way to generate revenue.

Lastly, Telegram only has text messaging as its core feature for communication. It does not have a call feature unlike its competitors- WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. This puts Telegram at a disadvantage in comparison to its competitors in providing communication services. Therefore, in order for Telegram to remain competitive, they would need to provide its users more value on top of encrypted text messaging.

What are my thoughts about telegram?

Firstly, I feel that it is difficult for Telegram to compete with WhatsApp. In the past, Telegram’s encrypted messaging feature helps to differentiate itself from WhatsApp, however, this differentiation has diminished after WhatsApp implemented encryption to its conversations. Furthermore, WhatsApp has a much bigger market share than Telegram. Without a strong differentiating factor or a bigger market share, it is difficult for Telegram to compete with strong players such as WhatsApp.

Next, Telegram should consider pivoting and enter into the cyber security business. With the increasing emphasis on cyber security, I believe that this industry will bloom in the years to come and Telegram should look into this potential market. Furthermore, Telegram has a pool of talents managing its encryption services and since the brand image of Telegram is associated to security and privacy, Telegram could take advantage of its branding and venture into the cyber security.

Thirdly, Telegram should find a balance between privacy and security. Staying true to its core principles in providing secured chat services does provide Telegram with a strong branding, however, the question to consider is “whether is it right to keep dangerous conversations secured?”. This dilemma occurs when the Telegram is abused to plan and execute wrong doings and thus Telegram should re-look at its stance regarding such activities.

All in all, being a non-technical student, the seminar has shown me the perspective on how non-technical people view and critic applications. Furthermore, it has introduced me to a new format of presentation – Pecha Kucha – which is somehow fun yet challenging because we do not have control over our presentation slides. That is all for my application critic and I look forward the next class on external pitching! Actually, I am more interested in the internal pitching as I am keen to find out about the interesting ideas that my classmates have in mind! I have an idea in mind that has the potential to scale BIG and I hope to pitch it! Ok that is all for today, ciao!

Comments

  1. zevergreenz

    Hi Eugene,
    I agree with you about all the points you said except for the “balance between privacy and security”. Simply because I think they cannot do it. If an app promise about your privacy and only reveal your identity under some circumstances, this basically means the government is spying on you, and your privacy right is violated. Pavel Durov saw his sister go to the police and the police got all of her chat messages in Whatsapp, and that motivates him to make Telegram. And in his opinion, absolute privacy is more important than security, and that is the motives behind Telegram, that’s what make Telegram stand out of the crowd in term of security.
    Chi Thanh.

    1. Eugene Ng

      Hello Thanh! Thank you for the comment. Yeap I agree with you on your point and that is what made Telegraph special. I guess there are different views regarding “privacy vs security” and it is an issue that the founder would need to be careful with.

  2. dereknam

    Hi Eugene,

    I don’t think Telegram should consider pivoting into the cyber security business. There are things that Telegram does that are very different. And I believe the market has enough space to fit both companies (more, even). For instance, KakaoTalk is the thing in Korea right now.

    Honestly, an end user doesn’t really care that much about whether end-to-end encryption is used. Of course thats a sweet perk, but I think as long as their friends and social circle is still on the app, it will be hard to get them to change.

    I think one thing that Telegram stands out from WhatsApp are stickers and bots. I fell for Telegram when they released their API. I think it is very cool to be able to support 3rd party interaction in the form of a bot. Stickers are also another thing about Telegram that whatsapp doesn’t have. Have you seen those pusheen tickets that they spam in group conversations?

    Cheers,
    Derek

    1. Eugene Ng

      Hi Derek! Thank you for the comment! Yeap totally agree with you that users will use it as long as their friends are on it and this leads to the problem of user acquisition again. Oh yes I saw those cute little cat animations through Telegram. Perhaps I am not a target audience that they are targeting at because I am indifferent to such emoticons HAHA.

  3. leon mak

    Hi Eugene,
    I feel that telegram has a different motivation from whatsapp which may explain the different approaches that they take. While both aim to be the de facto chat app, telegram offers other things like an open API for developers to build cilent side apps on, where whatsapp is against bots. Also telegram as a non-commercial project probably will only charge for non-essentials like sticker sets if they run out of funds as they claim so developing a revenue stream probably is not their priority. The idea I think is that the more users are using the app, the more dependent they will be on say it’s bot services and the higher likelihood of them supporting it if there are any financial issues.

    1. Eugene Ng

      Hello Leon, thank you for the comment! It seems like a lot of people are talking about the Telegram bot. I think it is time for me to check out the wonders of this “bot” that everyone has been mentioning.

  4. Irvin Lim

    I think it’s important to note of the history of Telegram and how it was conceived. Pavel Durov was the founder of VKontakte, but was kind of ousted as its CEO by having unpopular opinion amongst the rest of its Putin-supporting committee, by refusing to shut down VK groups that promoted and organised anti-Putin protests, and is hugely against governments having any control over a property so common that is the Internet.

    Telegram was then borne out of his and his brother’s needs, to create a platform to enable secure communication that can ensure that governments cannot spy or intercept chats (e.g. NSA).

    It is apt that controversial content is being hosted from within Durov’s platform yet again, in this case the ISIS channels which he had refused to shut down. In Russia where Durov is fairly famous, it would be apparent that what Telegram chose to do (i.e. refusal to publish user data) was entirely justifiable considering Durov’s motivations from the onset. However, I do agree that others (especially those not based in Russia) may take offence and consider Telegram to be even “harbouring” terrorists.

    I personally feel that it would not be a strong point for opponents of Telegram to slam the company for this; after all it is doing well in its core purpose – to deliver secure messaging. Furthermore, if terrorists wanted to carry out secure messaging (which they probably are doing), they have all means to implement their own homebrew of their own chat app, and with Telegram being open source, even more so can they do so.

    The greater issue would be whether terrorists are entitled a secure means of communication, which unfortunately no one can fully stop them from doing so. However, if people knew the motivations behind the making of Telegram, users who take pride in security and encryption would fully appreciate what Telegram aims to achieve, and that it is doing well in that aspect.

    Though Telegram was made for this purpose, most of my peers who use Telegram usually use it because of its cute (and customizable) stickers, and I can’t blame them though… I just think that society in general could afford to care more about their own personal information security, and that Telegram is a great first step to help users to do so.

    1. Eugene Ng

      Hello Irvin, thank you for sharing information on the origins of Telegram. It must be tough for the founder to remain true to his core values despite opposing views from the public. Haha yeah the stickers are definitely something interesting for communication purposes that even other messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger have adopted.

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