Encrypted messaging app Signal and Telegram are seeing a surge in downloads from Apple and Google’s App Store. In contrast, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has seen the decline of its development following a fiasco that forced the company to clarify a privacy update sent to users.
Mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower said on Wednesday that Signal downloaded 17.8 million apps on Apple and Google during the week of January 5 through January 5. This is a 61-fold increase from the previous week’s 285,000. Telegram, which is already a popular messaging app for people around the world, generated 15.7 million downloads from January 5 to January 12, almost twice the 7.6 million downloads it saw last week.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp saw 10.7 million downloads shrink, down from 12.7 million a week earlier.
Experts believe the shift may reflect crowds of conservative social media users, who are exploring alternatives to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and the now-closed right-wing site Parlor. Mainstream sites suspended President Donald Trump last week and tightened enforcement on violent incitement and hate speech.
Parler, meanwhile, was banned from the Internet without Apple and Google failing to provoke liberals from their App Store. Amazon then cut Parler from its cloud-hosting service. Experts worry that these steps could lead to more ideological fickleness and further hide extremism in dark corners of the Internet, making it harder to track and resist.
Confusion about the notice, complicated by Facebook’s history of privacy disturbances, forced WhatsApp to clarify its update to users this week. The company said its update “in no way affects the privacy of your messages with friends or family,” adding that policy changes were necessary to allow users to message businesses on WhatsApp. “We provide greater transparency on how we collect and use data,” the notice stated.
WhatsApp is still the most popular messaging app among the three, and so far there is no evidence of mass exodus. The sensor tower is estimated to have installed the signal approximately 58.6 million times globally since 2014. In the same period Telegram has been viewed as 755.2 million installations and WhatsApp 5.6 billion – almost eight times Telegram.