New Delhi: Ten billion telegrams delivered daily, up from 1 billion telegrams in December.

This news flashed on Berlin-based messaging app Telegram’s website last week. Not a mean achievement by any standards, considering how the other companies in the messsaging ecosystem stack up.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp send a combined 45 billion messages every day as of April 2015 while WhatsApp alone delivers 30 billion messages a day as of January, as reported by Facebook. As of July 2014, Statista reports that users of Snapchat, the mobile messaging app were sending 700 million photo messages each day, up from 400 million in October 2013.

Pitted against this is little-known Telegram, launched in August 2013 and backed by the Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, also the founders of VKontakte, the Facebook equivalent of Russia.

“We launched our iOS app exactly two years ago," Telegram wrote in a blog post announcing the news. “Now we’re delivering over 10 billion messages daily — that’s roughly the number of push notifications that are sent by Telegram each day. All thanks to you."

How did Telegram start ?

There is a story about how Telegram started, that may be apocryphal but no doubt interesting. Soon after Facebook bought over WhatsApp for $19 billion in February 2014, an unadvertised free messaging app called Telegram was downloaded 4.95 million times.

This coincided with the fact that the Whatsapp service experienced a four-hour outage - unprecedented in the history of Whatsapp and messaging apps in general. But even after Whatsapp was restored, Telegram continued to grow by leaps and bounds becoming the top free download in the app store across 46 countries from Argentina to Austria, according to research firm App Annie.

By March 2014, Telegram was reporting 35 million monthly users and 15 million daily active users and in December, the company reported it was delivering more than a billion daily messages for a user base that had grown to 50 million active users and poised to touch the 1 million mark.

What is Telegram?

Ideal for messaging large groups of people like your school or college batchmates, Telegram can create groups for messaging up to 200 people. Additionally, because it is cloud-based and heavily encrypted, users can access their messages from several devices at once, including tablets and computer, and share an unlimited number of photos, videos and files (doc, zip, mp3, etc) of up to 1.5 GB.

At first glance, it looks and feels like WhatsApp, with its green double-checkmark read receipts. It offers individual and group messaging, the ability to share photos, videos and other files and has a ads free, simple user experience like WhatsApp.

Telgram’s website also claims that their multi-data center infrastructure and encryption is responsible for Telegram being more faster and secure, as compared to WhatsApp. However, the biggest difference between the Facebook-owned product and Telegram is the fact that Telegram is free and will remain free forever — free from the clutches of advertising or subscription fees. WhatsApp, in contrast, works on a subscription-based model and is very much in the business to make money.

Telegram also offers some cool features like the option to have a secret chat. All messages in secret chats use end-to-end encryption. This means only the sender and the recipient can read those messages — nobody else can decipher them, including the folks at Telegram. Messages cannot be forwarded from secret chats and when one party deletes messages, the app will prompt the user on the other side of the secret chat to delete the chat.

All secret chats in Telegram are device-specific and are not part of the Telegram cloud so the message stays on the device of origin. As if this was not enough, the secret chats have a self-destruct timer too which can be set to a specified time limit. As soon as the time runs out, the secret chat/message/photo will disappear from both devices, without leaving any traces.

While Telegram does not support audio messages or voice calls yet, it could herald a new era in messaging and give WhatsApp a run for its money!

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