Telegram and Signal are growing, but WhatsApp remains dominant in South Africa

New data shows that Telegram and Signal have seen a big usage increase in South Africa after WhatsApp announced its new privacy policy on 8 January.

WhatsApp, however, is still the dominant player and traffic on its platform has not declined over the past week despite the negative press.

WhatsApp informed users about its new terms of service and privacy policy last week, which included a clause that allows Facebook to share data from WhatsApp across its other products.

This caused an outcry on social media which resulted in a media storm around WhatsApp privacy.

Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, tried to calm fears by highlighting that WhatsApp’s terms of service and privacy policy are only about business messaging.

It added that there will be no change in WhatsApp’s data sharing with Facebook for non-business chats and account information.

WhatsApp also did damage control and assured users that they continue to protect private messages with end-to-end encryption and that they cannot see private messages or hear calls.

“We will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat. We also don’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling and can’t see your shared location, and neither can Facebook,” it said.

WhatsApp added that they don’t share your contacts with Facebook, groups remain private, users can set their messages to disappear, and anyone can download their data.

WhatsApp versus Telegram versus Signal

Many people vowed to dump WhatsApp and start using Telegram and Signal which collect less information about their users, and there was indeed a spike in Telegram users.

Telegram product manager Pavel Durov said in the first week of January, Telegram surpassed 500 million monthly active users.

He added that 25 million new users joined Telegram in the first three days since the WhatsApp privacy policy update. This trend continued.

“The already massive influx of new users to Telegram has only accelerated. We may be witnessing the largest digital migration in human history,” he said on 14 January.

While Telegram enjoyed the strongest growth it has ever seen, it does not mean WhatsApp has seen a decline.

To stop using WhatsApp is easier said than done. It is the dominant mobile messaging platform, which means that most mobile users have an account.

Telegram and Signal are still far less pervasive which means most mobile users cannot be reached through them.

Habits are also hard to break. For most people, WhatsApp is their primary communication platform, and they are not keen to learn something new.

It is so dominant it has become a verb. What Google is to search (you Google something), WhatsApp is to mobile messaging (you WhatsApp someone).

WhatsApp’s tremendous lead over Telegram and Signal in South Africa is clearly illustrated by the latest usage charts.

The graphs below, which comes from a prominent service provider, shows the traffic on each platform over the last week. The table at the end shows the peak traffic.

What it reveals is that WhatsApp’s traffic is around 100-times higher than that of Signal and Telegram.

It further reveals that while Telegram and Signal showed strong growth over the last week, WhatsApp’s traffic did not decline.

WhatsApp traffic

Telegram traffic

Signal traffic

Peak traffic

Peak Traffic
Messaging Platform Peak Data (relative measure)
WhatsApp 6,115
Telegram 62
Signal 62

Now read: WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram vs Facebook – The data apps collect about you

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Telegram and Signal are growing, but WhatsApp remains dominant in South Africa