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Trading WhatsApp for Signal or Telegram? Facebook isn’t fazed

While downloads of alternative messaging apps skyrocket, who is actually deleting WhatsApp?
Image: Shutterstock

There’s been a furor around WhatsApp this week. New terms of service that seemed to suggest the encrypted messaging app would start sharing a lot more data with Facebook, its parent company, sent users into a frenzy. Elon Musk even advocated use of a rival service, Signal, to his 42 million Twitter followers.

How much will this matter to Facebook? Very little. People are spending just as much time on WhatsApp this week as they were before the new user agreements were announced, according to app analytics firm Apptopia.

Read/ listen: Updated policy results in mass exodus of WhatsApp users

And this kind of thing happens every few years. Facebook makes changes to make more money from its services, which span WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. A slew of users get upset about the new terms, which generally include a data grab to feed the company’s advertising business. But then they promptly return to using the apps in much the same way they did before. There’s little to suggest things will be any different this time around.

To be sure, more people are now downloading Signal and Telegram, another messaging app that offers encryption. In the week before WhatsApp started alerting users to the new terms, Signal averaged 43 689 downloads a day, according to Apptopia. This week, it’s averaging 1.6 million daily installations. That doesn’t mean they’re deleting WhatsApp.

Signal certainly is a good alternative, as it’s run by a non-profit foundation and captures very little user data.

Creator Moxie Marlinspike wrote in a blog post last year that, when the US government obtained access to Signal user data through a grand jury subpoena, the only information it contained was the date of the account’s creation and its last date of use.

Data gathering

Conversely WhatsApp, while it can’t read the content of your messages, does capture data on who you contacted and when, how much and how often you use the app, and plenty more besides. But it was already gathering and sharing such data with Facebook — it has been since 2016. The new terms of use pertain to how the businesses you interact with on WhatsApp use your data, and how they share this with Facebook to serve ads and other services on its core “blue app”, as the eponymous social network is known.

The changes are clearly part of Facebook’s efforts to make more money from WhatsApp’s users. Its November agreement to acquire Kustomer, a software company that helps businesses manage customer conversations, for US$1-billion will surely support the push. User engagement with Facebook’s main app is waning in North America and Europe. So far, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has managed to offset that with soaring Instagram revenue growth. WhatsApp is a largely untapped resource.

But he needs to be careful not to aggravate regulators. Germany’s Federal Cartel Office censured Facebook in 2019 for the way it gathered data about the websites its users visited outside of its services, saying it abused its dominant market position to impose unfavourable terms and conditions. A court upheld the order to stop the practice last year. The WhatsApp play looks similar — people won’t be able to use the app after next month if they reject the new agreement.

Even as more people download rival services, there’s little evidence that they’re using WhatsApp any less as a consequence. The service’s user base is simply so big that people essentially have to stay on the platform if they want to keep communicating with specific contacts. Even after the recent surge, Signal only has 8.3 million daily users and Telegram has 44 million, per Apptopia estimates — these amount to rounding errors compared to the two billion users on WhatsApp. The upshot is likely to be that people will simply have more messaging apps installed on their phones.

Remember the first “Quit Facebook Day” back in 2010, in reaction to the company’s data-harvesting practices? Since then, Facebook has grown revenue 100-fold and added 1.8 billion monthly users. History has shown that it is able to impose new terms and conditions on users with little negative consequence. Rinse and repeat.

(c) 2021 Bloomberg

COMMENTS   33

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You make some good points. I use tech daily and have found some of it helpful. My biggest concern with not only Facebook, but Twitter and the like is:
1.) Their size – “power corrupts” – and ability to do whatever they want, even censor free speech. 2.) The AI algorithms they use are breaking us apart. These algorithms are designed to give us what we want to hear and see. This means that we all live in caves listening to our own echoes or the echoes of those that are like us. This is very dangerous as it means that society is polarising, with terrible consequences. We need to have meaningful dialogue and this is not possible when these companies build such strong AI that actually prevent this by keeping us apart.

Interestingly, one Nicholas Maduro, the Venezuelan dictator, still has an active Twitter account. Here we’re talking about Venezuela, that paragon of human rights and enlightened government, which would never dream of imprisoning dissidents, starving its own population or making political opponents disappear.

THAT is the problem with Deep Tech: their arrogant, Marxist politics, and Big Brother like censorship of non-Marxists.

Whatsapp have aborted the latest conditions ufn

Zuckerberg probably realised he has opposition in alternative apps

If only @MichaelfromKlerksdorp can read this. Maybe he will understand what is going on from this comment. like I said earlier. If you watch either “the Hacker” or “the social Dilemma”… you would have a better understanding of what is going on.

@Simple_man

No one should fear WA or FB, or Telegram, or free VPNs, or free Gmail…where one’s ‘metadata’ gets sold to advertising companies (i.e. they cannot see your message contents, be in text, video calls or PDF docs or images, through E2E encryption. They’re not interested in it, as it cannot be monetised. It’s all about your behaviour, interests, that is of value to advertisers to be monetised.) Ever thought how “free” apps make a living?

Funny then, the older generation among us can still remember of the Telkom Phone Books for each city/region. Here we had a well used system of providing, for free…and to anyone, the following info:
(i) your Name
(ii) your landline tel nr
(iii) …best of all…your PHYSICAL ADDRESS!

WA does not share your physical address, yet we go ballistic about privacy *lol*

Please steer clear of mass hysteria.

Whatsapp will insert “promoted” adverts in conversations, much like Twitter does

There will be no setting to turn this interference off

This may be a turn off to using Whatsapp

Migrating personal contacts from Whatsapp to Telegram is not instant but sticking a finger at Gestapo Zuckhead is refreshing

What is “Twitter”?

Pretty funny seeing muppets threatening to leave Whatsapp and Facebook for which they pay nothing for to use. Trust me..your sorry broke a$$es wont be missed!!

Marketing expenses should be capped by law. The negative tax revenue impacts of unrestricted expensing is enough reason. The recorded tracking of people is too easily abused and should be outlawed same as hacking.
The business model for these social media moguls is financed by the public purse through the excessive expensing of marketing. Their behaviour is now overtly political and they are clearly publishers.
A glaring example of the corrupt use of untethered self-enrichment to disuade authority from applying the laws that exist. The surge of partisan control of US authority gives no hope for change in this sector and indeed bodes ill for democracy itself. Corporate globalists will be very pleased with their progress towards their New World Order.

Oh please, the supreme leader of the lemmings in their fight against the NWO is none other than Trumpski whos companies have a presence in a dozen countries, not to mention the orange goons secret accounts in China, Panama and Russia.. that we know off.

Oh please, the behemoth pf the delinquent self-seeking billionaire/oligarch sector makes Trump look like a geriatric pip squeak.

This article has the feel of shillery about it. The new WhatsApp terms are far more intrusive than the quick gloss-over suggests. They enable wholesale plundering of metadata which approaches the content of conversations in value. The fact that Facebook isn’t enforcing the new terms in the EU with its strict privacy laws should tell one what a big deal this is.

And yes, people make all sorts of threats to walk away from social media, but this time it is different. By the time I deleted WhatsApp myself last week, several of my contacts had already done so.

All my key contacts have now migrated to Telegram, and most of the high earners either deleted WhatsApp before I did or say they will. Not surprising – these are educated people who have tolerated ongoing privacy infringements but are now drawing a line.

So yes, while this won’t kill WhatsApp in the short term, it will die eventually if it loses too many of these users who are most valuable to advertisers. With Telegram being a drop-in replacement for WhatsApp, Facebook wouldn’t be going on massive PR drives against the backlash if it wasn’t worried. Especially with the Indian government now asking the pointed question of why the developing world gets different terms than the EU.

“This article has the feel of shillery about it.”

Yes, I never read an article any longer before checking it’s source or who wrote it.

In this case it’s Bloomberg, there you have it.

Gathering your info has been around for ages. As soon as I dare search for something – I searched for a new laser printer the other day – I get bombarded by ads for printers. That’s not Facebook, it’s Google. But that’s not what this is about. It is about Deep Tech getting too big for its shoes, and deciding on behalf of its victims which political views they may have. That’s why I’ve switched over to Telegram, to register my protest at companies who are too big, too arrogant and who meddle in freedom of speech.

The only people who will migrate are the sour faced and gormless tinfoil hat wearing Trump/Q Anonsense supporters crying foul over their supreme leader getting his toys taken away for trying to instigate a coup. They are are screaming about the lack of freedom of speech but conveniently turn a blind eye to the attack on democracy by their sorry excuse for a idol!!

Yes, fortunately only paragons of good governance such as the Iranians and Nicholas Maduro will be allowed the use of social media in future. All hail the Deep Media!

Are you from the U arsed A?

BLM commie supporter no doubt…. don’t forget to pick up your social services cheque.

Quite the contrary, I am a life long Republican who does not prescribe to an opportunist who is in it for himself. The party and country will rebuild once we have got rid of this cancer masquerading as a ‘patriot’.

Ahhh, you’re a RINO. Should’ve led wih that.

Did you take your meds? You feeling better now?

Talking off RINO’s, that is Trump to the tee. The only reason he joined the Republican ticket in 2016 was his hate for Obama, no other reason. Trump has never nor will prescribe to Republican values!!

The war against Big Brother Tech is only starting.Twitter is not financially viable.Twitter and Facebook have seen $51 billion of combined market value lost. What gives social media moguls the the right to impose censorship on freedom of speech? Zuckiebaby pumped $500 million into US election to get Deamoncrats victory and is scared that Trump will make a comeback in 2024.

Facebook share on 16 Jan 2020 – $222… Facebook share price on 16 Jan 2021 – $248. Explain that bozo seeing their is a war against Facebook!

As for Trump, the Democrat controlled senate (thanks to Trump) is going to approve impeachment and Diaper Donnie is then barred from running in 2024..ha ha ha!

The myopic turncoat dimwitted RINOs have cooked the Republican goose. No crystal ball needed to see that the grey Republican nonentity will never again see the support they have enjoyed whilst riding on the back of Trump support ever again. Trump can disrupt the anti-Democrat wet dream even from his grave. You don’t change peoples minds by cheating on them.

Trumpism is history when the senate votes to impeach him and he is bared from politics. Donnie JNR and Ivanka presidential dreams are non-starters!!

The first amendment limits the ability of the US government to restrict freedom of speech. Companies own their services and can do what they want. I will grant that it should be even-handed : ban left and right nuts.

When we go down the route of telling companies who they must accept as customers we are heading down the rabbit hole.

Billy Boy have a crush on Trump.

Comment removed

Hmm, a sudden degeneration in the comments of this forum. Looks like the Americans have infiltrated Moneyweb, their comments always degenerate into gross personal irrelevant comments

Facebook not fazed? I am not so sure unless they have nerves of steel. Facebooks’ share price has already dropped by 10%.

but still up on last year.

End of comments.

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