South Africans who are switching out WhatsApp for Telegram as their preferred messaging app should take note that the platform plans to introduce adverts this year.
Telegram surpassed 500 million users in early January following backlash over a controversial WhatsApp policy update.
While it is currently free to download and use, its tremendous growth means founder Pavel Durov can no longer pay for the company’s expenses out of his own personal savings.
In December 2020, even before the significant increase in downloads and new users, Durov said that the platform’s growth would require further funding.
Durov stated that with Telegram on its way to a billion users, it would have to incur more expenses for traffic and servers.
“A project of our size needs at least a few hundred million dollars per year to keep going,” Durov said.
“When a tech project reaches this scale, typically there are two options – start earning money to cover the costs, or sell the company,” he added.
Unlike what happened with WhatsApp, however, Durov said his company will not be sold.
“The world needs Telegram to stay independent as a place where users are respected and high-quality service is ensured,”
“Telegram must continue to serve the world as an example of a tech company that strives for perfection and integrity. And, as the sad examples of our predecessors show, that is impossible if you become part of a corporation.”
New features and ads
This means that Telegram will have to start generating revenue in some form – which will include the addition of certain paid-for features.
While all the features which are currently free will stay that way, Durov said business teams or power users will have the option of new features that will require more resources and will be paid for by these premium users.
In addition, Telegram plans to start serving ads in the app.
However, these ads will not be shown in private one-on-one or group chats, Durov emphasised, but rather on Telegram’s public one-to-many channels.
These social networking-type channels are effectively super-sized broadcasting groups which function similarly to a Twitter feed.
“In many markets the owners of such channels display ads to earn money, sometimes using third-party ad platforms,” Durov said.
He stated that the owners of these channels have in certain markets started displaying ads to earn money, sometimes by using third-party ad platforms.
These ads will sometimes look like regular messages and can be intrusive, he added.
“We will fix this by introducing our own Ad Platform for public one-to-many channels – one that is user-friendly, respects privacy, and allows us to cover the costs of servers and traffic,” Durov stated.
“We will do it in accordance with our values and the pledges we have made over the last 7 years. Thanks to our current scale, we will be able to do it in a non-intrusive way. Most users will hardly notice any change,” he said.
Community will benefit
Durov has also emphasised that Telegram will never use users’ personal information for targeted advertising.
Telegram will also let the community benefit if it starts to earn money from these changes.
“If we monetize large public one-to-many channels via the Ad Platform, the owners of these channels will receive free traffic in proportion to their size.”
“Or, if Telegram introduces premium stickers with additional expressive features, the artists who make stickers of this new type will also get a part of the profit.”
“We want millions of Telegram-based creators and small businesses to thrive, enriching the experience of all our users.”