Encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram are seeing huge spikes in downloads from the Apple and Google app stores. By contrast, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is seeing growth decline following a fiasco that forced the company to clarify a privacy update it had sent out to users.
Mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower said Wednesday that Signal saw 17.8 million app downloads from Apple and Google during the week of January 5-12. That’s a 61-fold increase from just 285,000 the previous week. Telegram, an already popular messaging app for people around the world, saw 15.7 million downloads in the January 5-12 period, roughly double the 7.6 million downloads it saw the previous week.
For its part, WhatsApp saw downloads exceed 10.6 million, compared to 12.7 million the previous week.
Experts believe the change may reflect a flood of conservative social media users seeking alternatives to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the now-closed right-wing Parler site. The major sites suspended President Donald Trump last week and have tightened enforcement of the law on incitement and hate speech.
Parler, for his part, was unceremoniously ripped off the internet after Apple and Google banned him from their app stores for failing to moderate the incitement. Amazon cut Parler from its cloud hosting service. Experts fear that these moves could lead to a more ideological splinter and further conceal extremism in the dark corners of the internet, making it difficult to monitor and control.
Confusion over the notice, complicated by the history of Facebook privacy mishaps, forced WhatsApp to clarify its update to users this week. The company said its update “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” adding that the policy changes were necessary to allow users to message businesses on WhatsApp. The notice “provides more transparency on how we collect and use data,” the company said.
WhatsApp remains by far the most popular messaging app of the three, and so far there is no evidence of a mass exodus. Sensor Tower estimates that Signal has been installed around 58.6 million times worldwide since 2014. In that same period, Telegram has seen around 755.2 million installations and WhatsApp a whopping 5.6 billion, almost eight times more than Telegram.
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