Pavel Durov
Source: Getty

Pavel Durov, CEO and co-founder of Telegram at the 2015 TechCrunch Disrupt Conference.

The Telegram Messaging App Gained Millions of Users After a Facebook Outage

Kathryn Underwood - Author
By

Nov. 29 2022, Updated 4:09 p.m. ET

Telegram, a cloud-based messaging app developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, gained more than 70 million new customers in one day in Oct. 2021. The jump in membership was due to a Facebook outage that left users of WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram scrambling for a messaging service.

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The six-hour outage drew attention to the problems with relying on a single service provider for essential technology. “The daily growth rate of Telegram exceeded the norm by an order of magnitude, and we welcomed over 70 million refugees from other platforms in one day,” founder Durov wrote on his Telegram channel at the time.

Pavel Durov Is the Owner of Telegram

Pavel Durov, a 37-year-old technology entrepreneur from Russia, created and owns the Telegram messaging app. Durov’s net worth, currently estimated by Forbes at $17.2 billion, stems from the success of both Telegram and another company he founded, VKontakte (VK).

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Telegram app
Source: Getty Images

Durov ranked at #112 on the Forbes Billionaires List of 2021. He founded VKontakte to establish Russia’s biggest social network at age 22 and sold a 12 percent stake of the company in 2015 for $300 million. His work in the social media niche established him as “Russia’s Zuckerberg.”

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In 2013, Telegram was launched. According to the company's website, Pavel “supports Telegram financially and ideologically while Nikolai’s input is technological.” Nikolai Durov, Pavel’s brother, created the unique custom data protocol for Telegram. In 2018, the Durov brothers together raised $1.7 billion from investors to create TON, a new blockchain system based on Telegram.

Durov speaking with moderator Mike Butcher during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015.
Source: Getty Images

Durov speaking with moderator Mike Butcher during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015.

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What are the top features of Telegram?

Given the popularity of other messaging apps owned by Facebook like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, users might wonder what sets Telegram apart. Aside from a being an alternative in outages like the one in Oct. 2021, Telegram says it’s faster than any other app available.

Features:

  • Groups of up to 200,000 members.

  • Access to chats across multiple devices.

  • Send messages, photos, videos, and files of any type.

  • Option for device-specific secret chats with self-destruction of content.

  • Open API and code so users can create their own Telegram apps.

  • Uses less than 100 MB on your device.

  • Private messaging is free with no ads.

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Antitrust Issues in Technology Companies

The Facebook outage in Oct. 2021 frustrated users, especially those using Facebook for business. Such outages highlight calls by Elizabeth Warren and others to split up Big Tech companies to maintain competition.

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Antitrust chief of the EU Margrethe Vestager has said the outage showed the dangers of relying on just a few big players and that competition in the space is urgently needed. In 2021, she proposed the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to force major tech companies to change their business models to allow more competition.

“We need alternatives and choices in the tech market, and must not rely on a few big players, whoever they are, that's the aim of (the) DMA,” tweeted Vestager.

Both Sides Are Using Telegram in Ukrainian War

In 2019, Telegram was banned in Russia when Durov refused user data access to the Kremlin. As a result, protestors came out in support of Durov's decision. Eventually, the app was reinstated two years later and is currently being utilized in the war in Ukraine because of its security features.

Durov made a Telegram post in March 2022 explaining his desire to keep Ukrainian users' data safe, saying, "When I defied [the Kremlin's] demands, the stakes were high for me personally. I stand for our users no matter what. Their right to privacy is sacred."

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