SAN FRANCISCO — Telegram is now delivering 12 billion messages a day through its chat service, according to its founder Pavel Durov. This announcement of a 2 billion increase from August comes with a shot against the market leader WhatsApp, which Durov said “sucks.”
At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Durov derided the Facebook-owned chat service, saying that its walled garden doesn’t let users keep their messages across whatever device they’re using. “If you have WhatsApp and your phone goes down, you don’t have access to your messages,” he said. “You can’t send documents and it’s not private. I’m not sure if I’m a big fan of WhatsApp three years ago, and not so sure now.”
WhatsApp has over 900 million monthly active users so it’s the industry’s top dog, but Durov isn’t hung up on the whole “releasing numbers” issue. The company last reported in May that it has over 62 million MAUs.
Durov also disclosed that one of the things that could be coming soon is a payments API, which would certainly help put the messaging service on par with the likes of Facebook Messenger. He said that Telegram probably won’t build the payments product itself, but would instead partner with third-party providers.
On the issue of privacy, which seems to be a major selling point for Telegram, Durov was asked about if there’s exceptions to the rule. Specifically, he acknowledged that ISIS is using the service, so does it keep him up at night knowing that terrorists use it? “That’s a good question,” he started. “Privacy is ultimately more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism. If you look at ISIS, yes, there’s a war going on in the Middle East. Ultimately, ISIS will find a way to communicate with its cells, and if any means doesn’t feel secure to them, they’ll [find something else]. We shouldn’t feel guilty about it. We’re still doing the right thing, protecting our users’ privacy.”
A two-year-old company, Telegram hasn’t taken any money from outside investors. The company appears to be bootstrapped through money derived from Durov’s sale of his shares in the Russian social network Vkontakte. He declined to tell how much money he garnered from the sale, although it’s reported that his stake was worth $300 million.
Would he ever take outside investment for Telegram? Doubtful, as Durov said the company likes being independent and has enough money to go on for a while.