You may think that privacy is dead in the social media and messaging world.
We would almost agree, if it wasn’t for the presence of Telegram.
The messaging platform recently got a boost of 3.5 million new users in a single day when Facebook and its associated group of apps were partially down.
Telegram has never promoted its app with ads. It has all been word of mouth. Now, the name is used by more than 200 million users a month.
Its founders took the best of both the social media and the messaging app worlds and cooked up their own version which continues to evolve with a constant central theme: privacy.
It has all sorts of features including messaging, Slack like channels, bots, secret chats and more.
So, let’s take a look at them one by one and find out how we can live a life outside of Facebook.
Telegram is a cloud-based platform. This means that all of the messaging you do on it can be viewed on a PC, Mac, iPhone or an Android phone.
The account is based on the mobile number of the user. So if you want to set up the app on your PC or Mac, you need to first set it up on your smartphone.
- Search the app on your particular app store and then download it.
- Once installed, open it up, you will be prompted for your phone number.
- Once you give the app your phone number, you will receive a message with a 4 digit code. You may also receive a call from Telegram to verify your mobile number.
- Once you enter the number, if it isn’t already entered automatically, you will be asked to grant media/lock screen permission. You can ignore both and still be able to use the app however it is better that you grant it.
Once the permissions are granted your app is ready.
You can add an additional layer of protection by adding a two-factor authentication, however it is not mandatory.
You can access it in the Passcode options of the Privacy & Security section of the settings for the app.
Once your account is set up, you can install the desktop version on your macOS, Windows or Linux.
Telegram will detect people who are already using the app from your contact list. All you have to do is select the new message button, select a contact from your contact list and write your message.
New Group, Channel and Secret Chat
You can also make a new group and send a message to all of the participants. To do that, just click on the New Group icon and then add the contacts you want.
Once done, you can send a message to the group the same way as you would to a single user.
Groups can have up to 5000 users where anyone can send messages.
For a larger audience of people, Telegram offers super groups which have a member limit of 100,000 users and work the same way as normal groups.
Although all the messaging that is being done on Telegram is already encrypted, the secret messaging option adds a couple of more features.
The first is that the device’s screenshot functionality will be blocked so that you cannot take a screenshot of the chat.
The second is the ability to self-destruct. You can set up a timer for the chat to be deleted.
Here is how you do it:
- Go to the Menu and select New Secret Chat.
- Select acontact name.
- When the window opens, send your chosen contact a message.
- While remaining in the secret chat, tap your contact’s name on top of the screen.
- Select Info.
- Here you can set up the Self-Destruct timer for anywhere from a second to a week by tapping on the Self-Destruct Timer setting.
Once that time is over, the messages will delete and no longer be available.
While chatting, you can also send different kinds of media files. These include:
- Pictures from your gallery, camera or the internet.
- Videos, again from the video folder or camera.
- A sound clip.
- Any file which does not exceed 1.5 GB in size.
- A contact.
- Your live location which you can set up to remain visible from 15 minutes to 8 hours.
In a group, multiple users may share their live location resulting in a single interactive map with multiple users’ location.
To send any sort of media, simply click the paper clip sign on the right side of the message box to access the available options.
Telegram also offers users the ability to share stickers. While you can share your emotions with the emojis, the stickers offer a wider, more vivid expression.
They are free to use and are mostly the contribution of third-party developers.
Telegram offers the ability to edit or delete messages within 48 hours of them being sent. It doesn’t matter if the receivers have viewed the message or not, if deleted, the message will be removed from both sides.
Channels are different from groups in two ways. Firstly, the channel is a broadcast mode of communication instead of two-way communication. The admin sends a message which is viewed by subscribers. Each message has its own view counter.
Secondly, channels may have an unlimited number of users. They have a permanent URL and alias for easy access. Users may join or leave at any time.
Channels may be public where anyone can join, or private where only the admin can add new subscribers. In private channels, adding a permanent URL turns it public.
Bots are small programs which act as robot users in different chats. They perform different functions which may be too cumbersome for human users and automate the process of managing groups and channels.
Bots reside on the server side of the app and respond to mentions or messages. Some of them can even charge payments on behalf of users. They are also used by admins to send invites.
Bots are created by third-party developers with the help of Telegram BOT API.
Other Cool Features
Telegram makes use of already established features like hash tag, which makes it easier to find specifically tagged chat messages or broadcasts. It also has some new features like the ability to delete specific information from all of your chats, for example banking information, by simply accessing the option from the settings menu.
You also have the ability to use the Self-Destruct option on your own account and all associated data if you remain inactive for a chosen period of time. This can range from 1 month to a year.
There is also the option of using a dark mode for your interface.
Security by Design
Telegram’s core philosophy is to provide everyone with equal freedom to share ideas freely. That is why they were not only the first to offer end to end encryption but have also promised to never sell out, instead keeping the platform free.
However, their encryption has been criticized by industry experts and deemed less effective than WhatsApp. The difference lies in the underlying protocols, Signal for WhatsApp, and a non-tested custom designed protocol for Telegram.
Regardless, it is best to not rely on the app alone and have other means of securing your online privacy as well.