WhatsApp Rivals Grow Nearly 1,200 Percent Ahead of Privacy Policy Deadline

WhatsApp rivals Signal and Telegram have seen a nearly 1,200 percent growth ahead of the Facebook-owned instant messaging apps’ May 15 deadline to accept a contentious privacy policy update, according to a report. Although WhatsApp recently took a step back and scrapped its last deadline, the public outrage that started in January has helped its two close alternatives attract new users. Both Signal and Telegram also utilised the outrage and took to social media platforms like Twitter to speak against WhatsApp’s privacy policy. The alternative messaging apps also promoted their privacy aspects to gain over WhatsApp.

Mobile apps analytics firm Sensor Tower has reported that Signal and Telegram saw a massive spike in their adoption in January. It was the time when WhatsApp was first spotted bringing its updated privacy policy that allows its parent company Facebook to gain user data access from the messaging app. The update was originally meant to be accepted by all users by February 8, but the deadline was later revised to May 15 — following massive criticism from users. WhatsApp, however, recently decided to scrap the deadline, though the updated policy is still in place and the users who would not accept it will encounter limited functionality on the app.

Sensor Tower said that in the first four months of 2021, Signal saw its first-time downloads growing 1,192 percent year-over-year (YoY) to 64.4 million, while Telegram’s installs surged 98 percent YoY to over 161 million. This was unlike WhatsApp installs globally that dipped 43 percent YoY to 172.3 million in the January–April period.

Signal installs in January grew 5,001 percent YoY to 50.6 million from 992,000 in the same month last year. However, the installs count fell 86 percent month-over-month to a little more than seven million.

“Although its installs have declined each month since the January spike, Signal is experiencing consistent Y/Y growth each month,” the firm said in a blog post.

Signal saw 2.8 million downloads globally in April, according to Sensor Tower data. It was more than double the 1.3 million downloads reported in April 2020.

Similar to Signal, Telegram downloads grew 283 percent YoY to 63.5 million from 16.6 million. The app, however, saw a three percent YoY dip in its downloads in April — reaching 26.2 million as compared to nearly 27 million a year earlier.

The data released by Sensor Tower shows that both Signal and Telegram saw a drop in their download velocity shortly after gaining some growth in January. Nevertheless, the apps were able to give a tough fight to WhatsApp that still leads the market of instant messaging platforms.

Sensor Tower said that even before its updated privacy policy, WhatsApp’s app installs saw a decline around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. In April 2020, the installs of WhatsApp globally dropped 28 percent month-over-month to 55.2 million from 76.5 million in March.

“The decline in its installs throughout 2020 was possibly due to potential new users — eager to communicate with friends and loved ones — opting for the desktop or Web version of WhatsApp while sheltering in place,” Sensor Tower said.


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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