Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging service, which offers multimedia messages, voice and video calls, similar to Facebook Messenger.
It was founded by Nikolai and Pavel Durov in 2013, founders of Russian social media platform VK (the largest in its domestic market). Initially headquartered in St Petersburg, the Telegram team has repeatedly changed jurisdiction to evade problematic regulations. The operation is currently headquartered in Dubai, after stints in London (where it is legally registered), Berlin and Singapore.
Telegram was created with a view to challenging the primacy of WhatsApp. It differs from the latter in allowing users to access accounts from multiple devices, and Telegram has focused on being the anti-Facebook in terms of encryption and regulations. Its makers claim that its multi-data centre infrastructure and encryption makes it more secure than its Facebook-owned rival.
Users are able to have ‘secret chats’, which see messages stored on devices as opposed to the cloud. Messages can also be set to self-destruct, akin to Snapchat.
It has, however, drawn criticism from security experts. One-time login passwords conveyed by SMS have been intercepted by hackers in Iran, Russia, Brazil, and the German authorities.
Nonetheless, when users are looking for a secure service, Telegram seems to be where they defect. We saw this in 2013 when surveillance fears were raised around Kakao Talk in South Korea, and again in 2019 during the Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government. Belarus is the latest hotspot where Telegram has proven essential in 2020.
Telegram uses an open API, and welcomes developers to create their own Telegram apps. Samsung took advantage of this, launching its short-lived Socializer Messenger in 2015.
Developers are also invited to create bots and users can create sticker sets. As well as sending messages, users can subscribe to ‘channels’, which allow creators to send messages to subscribers.
Telegram does not sell ads, stating that the access to personal data gained by advertisers would go against its ethos. Funding thus far comes privately from Pavel Durov. It has stated that it would turn to user donations or a freemium model to raise revenue if necessary. In its own words, “Making profits will never be an end-goal for Telegram.”
Telegram operates in relatively secrecy, and emphasises its commitment to freedom from market pressures as well as from any nationally-imposed constraints. This has made it a very popular tool in certain parts of the world, with over 500 million monthly active users.
We have collected data and statistics on Telegram. Read on below to find out more.
Telegram key statistics
- Telegram has 500 million monthly active users
- Telegram is the most popular messaging app in Iran and Uzbekistan (SimilarWeb via ChartsBin)
- Telegram reached more than one billion times, with 430 million downloads in 2021 alone
- Over 15 billion messages were sent daily on the app in 2016
|Title 1||Title 2|
|Launch date||August 2013|
|HQ||London, UK (legal); Dubai, UAE (operational)|
|People||Pavel Durov (cofounder, CEO), Nikolai Durov (co-founder)|
Telegram does not currently generate revenue, although it has plans to launch freemium features in the near future. A botched attempt to launch a cryptocurrency was halted by the SEC in 2019, and Telegram has not attempted to relaunch it.
Telegram reached 500 million active users in 2021, making it one of the most popular messaging platforms in the world.
Telegram annual users 2014 to 2021 (mm)
Sources: Telegram, TechCrunch, Mashable
Telegram users by region
Telegram’s largest market is India, which accounts for more than 20% of its userbase. Telegram also has a large amount of users in countries with heavy censorship and surveillance, such as Iran, Russia, and Uzbekistan.
Telegram users by region 2021 (mm)
|Region||Percentage of users|
Telegram surpassed one billion downloads in 2021, with 430 million downloads that year alone. Facebook changing privacy settings on WhatsApp caused a massive spike in Telegram downloads in January 2021.
Telegram cumulative downloads 2014 to 2021 (mm)
Sources: AppMagic, Sensor Tower
How many users are added to Telegram every day?
In April 2020, Telegram was adding 1.5 million new users daily
How many Iranians use Telegram?
Before the ban, 50 million Telegram users were based in Iran. It is unclear how many have continued to use the app after (BBC)
How many Uzbek’s use Telegram?
Telegram has over 18 million users in Uzbekistan (Khikmatilla Ubaydullaev)
How many people downloaded Telegram during the Hong Kong protests?
Telegram saw a 323% year-on-year increase in first-time installs during the July 2019 protests (Sensor Tower)