Telegram is one of the most remarkable messengers nowadays. It’s an excellent example of how the platform marketplace has evolved. Telegram’s creators managed to build a fast and secure app with a strong developer community around it.
In February 2016, Telegram crossed the line of 100 million monthly active users. Despite the fact that one of Telegram’s main competitors – Line – has twice as many monthly active users (not to speak of WhatsApp, with more than a billion) developers still choose Telegram messenger as the role model.
Signal is often considered Telegram’s main competitor when it comes to security. But it still only has 1+ million downloads on Google Play against Telegram’s 100+ million.
A lot of developers want to duplicate Telegram’s success. So what do you have to consider when building an app like Telegram? Let’s take a look.
How you can make a chat app like Telegram
The most emphasized advantage of Telegram is its security. Telegram is one of leaders among other secure messaging apps. The creators of Telegram prioritize security as well as speed. At the very beginning, Telegram’s owners offered $200,000 to anyone who could break their messenger’s encryption. However, that money never found its owner.
To build a messaging app with high security, you should decide what encryption protocol to use.
All messages sent through Telegram are encrypted by a combination of 256-bit symmetric AES encryption, 2048-bit RSA encryption, and Diffie-Hellman secure key exchange.
Unlike its main competitors with encryption features – Signal and WhatsApp – Telegram uses its own encryption protocol. Signal and WhatsApp use Open Whisper System’s protocol to enable end-to-end encryption in all of their chats, whereas Line’s and Telegram’s protocols are proprietary.
[Image source: Mobile Forensics]
But Telegram doesn’t protect all private chats with end-to-end encryption by default. Instead, it lets users choose whether they want to protect their messages by using the Secret Chat feature.
In Secret Chats, users can also set a timer for their messages so they’re automatically deleted after a recipient has read them.
Messages sent as secret chats aren’t stored on Telegram’s servers and can’t be forwarded. And if you try to take a screenshot of a secret chat, your partner will automatically receive a notification about your action. Media files are displayed in secret chats just by pressing and holding on them.
Additionally, secret chats can only be continued from the device on which they were initiated. In other words, you can’t start a secret chat on your phone and then continue it on your tablet.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s research, Telegram’s Secret Chats received a score of 7 of 7 for security.
Telegram shares their API and welcomes developers to use it for free in their own apps. You’re even allowed to monetize products built on the Telegram API.
[Image source: Stack Overflow]
3. Open Source code
Telegram’s code is completely open source. This move attracts developers to the community by giving them an opportunity to be part of the development process.
We’ve already investigated Telegram’s open source code. You can find the results of this investigation in our previous article:
Read also: What’s Wrong with Open Source Telegram?
4. The most remarkable features
Every group chat in Telegram can be promoted to a super group by its creator. Super groups allow users to pin an important message. They also have more advanced moderation tools. Admins of super groups can ban spammers, report them, and delete all messages from a particular user.
Telegram channels have more than 400 million views daily. Channels support a lot of convenient publishing features including Links to Post, which allows you to share a certain message with non-users; Silent Messages, which are sent without a notification, for example, if it’s late at night; and Admin Signatures, which allows you to identify the owner of a post.
Instant view allows you to post news links that open instantly on a user’s device. Telegram’s instant view supports only a handful of news websites such as Medium and TechCrunch so far, but it’s constantly improving.
[Image source: Telegram blog]
Telegram was one of the first messengers to launch their own bot platform. Chatbots on Telegram can perform a wide variety of tasks from reporting recent news to managing finances. Telegram’s Bot Platform is one of the most advanced to date.
Cloud storage is a useful feature for those who switch between different devices such as a smartphone, tablet, and desktop. The fact that Telegram is cloud-based means users can sync their messaging data across all of their devices and can start typing a message on one device and continue on another.
Telegram’s business model
From the outset, Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, said that he doesn’t plan to make money from the messenger. It’s fully sponsored by him with money he earned from selling the popular social network Vkontakte. The amount invested into Telegram is estimated at $300 million.
Eventually, however, Telegram’s creators commented that “you can’t burn cash forever.” But Durov assures us that the messenger will always be free for users, and that there will never be any advertising or subscription fees.
Now, the company is looking for a suitable business model that wouldn’t break with its principles but would allow them to keep improving the product at the same pace.
Telegram also doesn’t allow creators of bots or games to show ads in their products. Instead, in October 2016, they announced that they’re working on a unified monetization system for creators of products for the Telegram platform.
The first step towards monetizing Telegram was made in September 2016 through a third-party platform when Durov’s team released paid stickers for iMessage. The money earned from those stickers is spent on designers’ salaries and the creation of new stickers.
How does Telegram attract users and developers
The Telegram team claims that they haven’t spent a penny on promotion and advertising. Users come to the app only because of its maturity.
A number of features and tools attract users who need a channel for professional communication such as bloggers and SMM managers; developers are attracted by the opportunity to get their products on a new platform.
Telegraph is a publishing tool that lets users create fully formatted posts with media files. Moreover, posts created with Telegraph are supported by Instant View. Telegraph encourages SMM managers and bloggers to choose Telegram over another chat application for communicating with their audience.
With Gaming Platform you can create simple HTML5 games with graphics and sound. These games are loaded on-demand like regular webpages instead of being downloaded on a user’s device like an app, saving storage space.
[Image source: Telegram blog]
According to Telegram’s blog, it took just five hours for a Telegram developer to create and set up a demo time-challenge game, Corsairs, with graphics, sound, and animations. The goal of Corsairs is to avoid being shot for as long as you can.
The Bot API allows bot developers to connect their programs to the Telegram system. The Telegram team constantly updates their bot platform that attracts developers who will create their own bots for Telegram.
Money rewards for developers and designers
Telegram continuously holds competitions for developers and designers, asking them to create libraries, interfaces, or products. Here are a couple examples of such challenges.
In 2016, Durov announced that he would going to give $1 million to the developers of the best Telegram bots: $25,000 to each developer. This is one of the most effective ways to promote Telegram among developers and to improve the platform.
[Image source: Telegram blog]
In order to attract the coolest designers, at the beginning of 2016, the Stickers Contest was held for Russian designers. The winners joined Telegram’s design team and received $80 per sticker.
The secret of Telegram’s growth can’t be explained simply by its appealing contests and cool features. Whether it’s luck or a calculated plan (or even magic) we can’t say, but in 2014, right after Facebook purchased WhatsApp, Telegram got 8 million new users.
Another stroke of luck occurred in 2016. At the time, WhatsApp was temporarily blocked in Brazil, and as a result, Telegram got almost 6 million new users in one day. Brazilian mobile operators couldn’t even handle the huge number of SMS messages with verification codes.
A lot of developers are interested in creating messenger apps. Despite the fact that there are some behemoths in the market, newcomers constantly try to stand out by offering new features.