Over three billion people have used messaging apps in 2021, making them one of the most popular app types.
For most people, mobile messaging consists of two platforms: Facebook and WhatsApp. Collectively, over 2.5 billion people use one of these two platforms, in some markets the two apps hold over 90 percent marketshare.
This dominance has led to alternative messaging communities which look to be the opposite of Facebook. Telegram and Signal were both founded with strong pro-encryption ideals, and regularly attack Facebook for its commercialisation of messaging.
Country or region specific messaging apps have also performed well. Line is the most popular messaging platform in Japan, KakaoTalk in South Korea and WeChat in China, although the latter is also due to China banning Facebook and WhatsApp.
In Eastern Europe and Africa, Viber is competitive with WhatsApp for most downloads and usage.
Ever since the early 2010s, Facebook has had a commanding lead over others in messaging. With its large userbase, it was able to make its messaging platform a standalone app, Messenger, which quickly became one of the most downloaded apps of all time.
In the East, some of these platforms have transformed into super-apps, offering all sorts of features like payments, taxis, live videos, m-commerce and mini-programs that work inside the messaging platform.
Facebook has embedded some features into its Messenger platform, although in Europe it pulled most of them due to new EU privacy rules.
We have collected data and statistics on messaging apps. Read on below to find out more.
Top messaging apps
|The most popular messaging app in the world, with over five billion downloads and two billion active users|
|Facebook Messenger||Facebook’s own messaging app isn’t too shabby either, reaching five billion downloads a year after WhatsApp|
|Snapchat||Snapchat kickstarted photo sharing and has since branched out its platform into a fully-fledged social network|
|Telegram||Popular alternative messaging app in Central Asia and the Middle East, known for strong pro-privacy stance|
|China’s messaging super-app, with more than one billion users in the country and thousands of mini-programs|
|LINE||Popular in Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand. Part of Naver and SoftBank’s tech conglomerate, Z Holdings|
|iMessage||Apple’s messaging platform has about one billion users, although how many use it as the primary platform is unknown|
|Discord||Originally built as a communications platform for gamers, Discord has branched out into a whole host of other communities|
|Signal||Hyper-focused on privacy and security, Signal has built a loyal following of disgruntled ex-WhatsApp and Facebook users|
|Viber||Another messaging app that has been able to target emerging markets, such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East|
|KakaoTalk||South Korea’s homegrown messaging app which is also the most popular in the country, with over 40 million active users|
Messaging app users
The number of people using messaging apps surpassed three billion in 2021, with the vast majority using three services: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.
Messaging users by app
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app worldwide, and is the most used app in over 150 countries. Viber and Telegram have both become popular in certain countries and regions, like the Africa, the Middle East and South America.
Messaging app downloads
WhatsApp had the most downloads in 2021 but saw its total downloads fall from 2020. Telegram and Signal were the only messaging apps to see more downloads this year than last. Facebook Messenger has had two years of declining downloads.
Messaging app marketshare (US)
Facebook Messenger is the clear favourite for US users. Apple’s iMessage is also popular in the country, with high levels of iPhone lock-in due to it only being available on iOS, however we are unable to track sessions for the app.
Messaging app marketshare (UK)
Compared to the US, a higher percentage of the UK uses WhatsApp. Facebook Messenger is still the clear leader in total sessions, with apps like Telegram and Signal scrapping for 1% marketshare.
Messaging app marketshare (India)
The dominance of Facebook and WhatsApp is even more apparent in India, with 92% of all sessions on these two apps. Penetration of Telegram and Signal, which saw its usage skyrocket during WhatsApp’s privacy update, has not made much of dent in total sessions.
Note on messaging marketshare:
In countries like Belarus, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, alternative messaging platforms like Telegram, Line and Viber have more than 40% marketshare.