Are WhatsApp users defecting to Telegram, Threema, other messaging apps?


Acquisitions are a common thing in the technology world, but there are few that really raise brows and there are even fewer of those which attract regular user attention. One such acquisition that fulfills both the criteria is the Facebook-WhatsApp deal.

Not only did the acquisition take the who’s who of tech industry by surprise, it also attracted the attention of privacy regulators and regular customers.

Tech industry analysts and critics questioned Facebook’s $19 billion bid and whether the messaging app was actually worth it. Whether WhatsApp has the potential of making Facebook a much more fun place or it was Zuckerberg’s gamble to increase the almost stagnant user base of Facebook.

Privacy regulators including Thilo Weichert, data protection commissioner for the German Land of Schleswig-Holstein, rang alarm bells and claimed that the deal would lead to serious data protection issues as Whatsapp’s users’ personal data will likely be merged with Facebook data.

Weichert went onto say that communication metadata and content of both the services, if merged, can be used for profiling and can be commercially exploited for advertising purposes. Weichert even suggested privacy conscious alternatives including Threema.

The acquisition news made it to the headlines of even regional newspapers and social media sites erupted with comments on the deal from regular users of both Facebook and WhatsApp. With reports such these and many others, users were forced to think whether the deal will have a negative usage experience once the acquisition is complete.

Within 24 hours of the Facebook-WhatsApp acquisition announcement, Threema revealed that it had managed to sign-up 200,000 new users and more were signing up by the hour. The app even managed to top the German App Store charts and the 3-employee company started facing issues because of huge number of support calls and increased inflow of new members.

Telegram, another messaging app, and a lot more popular than Threema revealed that it signed up an additional 4.95 million users and is at the top of iPhone charts in 48 countries.

“4.95 million people signed up for Telegram today. Telegram is # 1 most downloaded iPhone app in 48 countries. To the bad news …” read the tweet.

These numbers may sound small as compared to 450 million users on WhatsApp, but there is a trend that is emerging. Customer defections based on Privacy worries is something that will continue until WhatsApp and Facebook provide a lot more information other than “WhatsApp will stay completely independent and autonomous” as Facebook has 19 billion reasons to change that statement!