Telegram is a popular cross-platform communication app that is widely used because it offers some improved privacy and encryption features, as well as support for large group chats. Also, Telegram is not tied to other social media sites (both Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook, for example), which makes the service more attractive to some. The app is cross-platform and available for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can also access Telegram via a web browser.
With its unique channels and groups, Telegram has become an important application for group communication and a place for political movements outside the Google/Facebook/Twitter hegemony. Video and voice chats can make for a more intimate experience, and fun features such as interactive emoji and high-quality stickers add to the appeal.
It’s one thing to allow third parties to learn your interests, preferences, and buying habits online. Knowing that someone might have access to your private conversations is quite another. This climate has been fertile ground for secure instant messengers, which have made a name for themselves by promising to protect your data and encrypt your conversations so that no one (including the app owners) can access them.
Getting Started With Telegram
Telegram is free to set up and use and requires only a phone number. We were surprised to find out that our mobile number was blocked. This is strange, because the last thing we used Telegram for was to communicate with Telegram itself to get some feedback on an earlier version of this review. Surely this was a coincidence. Fortunately, we were able to set up an account with our Google Voice number. Unlike most secure messengers and social networks, Telegram allows you to create multiple accounts and access them from the same app.
When you sign up, Telegram offers to upload your contacts to find other Telegram users. This is a completely optional option. Signal Private Messenger has a similar feature, but in Signal’s case a hash of numbers is used, so the company never knows the contents of your contacts. Telegram should find a way to store less information or do it more anonymously.
It is worth noting that your Telegram account automatically deletes itself after six months of inactivity, although you can change this time frame. Too many of us have too many abandoned online personas, each of which is a potential security risk. The quality of the Telegram app is immediately apparent. Everything is animated, fast and fun to use. The app is also highly customizable, with universal controls for theme, background, and other features.
Telegram Company Background Information
Telegram Messenger was founded in 2013 by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov. With over 500 million active users, it is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. The company is headquartered in London, and the development team is based in Dubai. The company is funded by a donation from Pavel.
Getting started with Telegram
To install Telegram, you need to do everything you do with any other messaging app: go to the App Store/Google Play Store, download the app, and install it. The first problem with this is that Telegram requires your phone number. You enter this phone number to get a confirmation code and activate the app. Also, the number is stored on Telegram’s servers – another potential drawback if you are very concerned about your security.
The reason why you might find sharing your number with Telegram useful is the fact that you can sync your contact lists and connect with the friends who have installed the app. The first and last names of your contacts, as well as their numbers, are also stored on Telegram’s servers. However, other information is not required: your email, profile picture, and name are all optional. The only annoyance is the fact that you receive a push notification by default as soon as one of your contacts joins Telegram.
Not only that, but the “John Doe has joined Telegram” notification is present in the app in the form of a conversation with that person. This can be annoying, especially if the person in question is not a close friend, but someone you only have in your contacts. By default, your Telegram account will be disabled if you don’t use it for six months (but you can change this period). This is a welcome feature because we all have so many inactive online accounts as it is, and knowing that one of them will automatically cease to exist when not in use is refreshing.
Chats, Groups, and Secret Chats
Chats are a familiar thing. If you’ve sent a text message since 2008, you know how it works. Your messages appear in little speech bubbles on the right side of the screen, and your friends’ messages appear in speech bubbles on the left. Unlike regular SMS chats, when you delete a message from your phone, it is also deleted from the recipient’s phone.
Secret chats are like regular chats, except they use end-to-end encryption, so not even Telegram can read the content. The company also says that there are no logs of Secret Chats, so Telegram doesn’t even know when these messages are exchanged. That’s all great, but as we explain below, we did not like to see Telegram extend this protection to all content on its platform. Facebook Messenger uses a similar system with optional E2EE chats, but winners Signal and WhatsApp encrypt all messages end-to-end by default.
In addition to text, you can send a variety of attachments, including files and photos, as well as video and audio within the app. Telegram has surprisingly extensive photo editing features that let you quickly edit images before sending them. You can set a custom self-destruct timer for photos and messages.
Telegram Third-Party Testing and Audits
Telegram told us in an email that “several researchers and security experts have analyzed Telegram’s encryption.” As an example, a paper was provided by two researchers from Italy who studied MTProto 2.0, as you can see here.
Yet we could not find any formal security review or analysis conducted by a cybersecurity firm. This is in contrast to some of the other popular secure messenger services. As we found in both the Wire and Signal reviews, these encrypted messaging apps have undergone formal third-party audits.
Advanced Features and Team Communication
Creating team chats in Telegram is simple and effective – it works just like in other instant messengers. You add the people from your contacts (up to 200,000 people), give the group a name, and you’re all set. Group chats can be used for basic team communication, but you won’t find features like screen sharing, polls, or other advanced team chat functions. Since 2014, you can also share files up to 2 GB in size.
One thing that makes Telegram almost unique is the Channels feature. Channels aren’t necessarily a form of group communication, but they are large communities of people that gather around certain interests. There are channels for pretty much everything, from memes and quotes to news and politics.
Unlike groups, Telegram Channels are used for one-way communication. They allow individuals (or brands, organizations, publications, etc.) to send their messages to a large community of people. They can be both public and private, and the number of members is unlimited.
In the instant messenger market, Telegram is a rare app that can call itself both “popular” and “secure”. With Whatsapp and Messenger’s privacy policies constantly being questioned, Telegram may soon establish itself as one of the most trusted messaging apps in the world. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean Telegram doesn’t have its own work to do. Especially in terms of security and efficient team communication, Telegram still has room for improvement.