OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram are seeing huge increases in downloads from Apple and Google’s app stores. In contrast, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is seeing its growth slow following a fiasco that forced the company to clarify a privacy update it sent to users.
Mobile app analytics company Sensor Tower said on Wednesday that Signal recorded 17.8 million app downloads from Apple and Google during the week of Jan.5 to Jan.12. That’s a 61-fold increase from just 285,000 the week before. Telegram, a messaging app already popular with internet users around the world, recorded 15.7 million downloads between Jan.5 and Jan.12, roughly double the 7.6 million downloads recorded the previous week.
WhatsApp, meanwhile, saw its downloads drop to 10.6 million, down from 12.7 million the previous week.
Experts fear the change reflects a stampede of conservative social media users looking for alternatives to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the now-closed right-wing Speaker. Mainstream sites suspended President Donald Trump last week and bolstered enforcement of the violent incitement and hate speech law.
Talking, meanwhile, was unceremoniously started off the internet after Apple and Google banned it from their app stores for failing to moderate the incitement. Amazon then cut Talk about its cloud hosting service. Experts fear that these movements will lead to further ideological explosion and further hide extremism in the dark corners of the internet, making it more difficult to follow and fight.
Confusion over the notice, complicated by Facebook’s history of privacy incidents, forced WhatsApp to clarify its update to users this week. The company said its update “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” adding that policy changes were needed to allow users to send messages to businesses on WhatsApp. . The notice “provides additional transparency on how we collect and use data,” the company said.
WhatsApp is still by far the most popular messaging app of the three, and so far there is no evidence of a mass exodus. Sensor Tower estimates that Signal has been installed around 58.6 million times globally since 2014. During that same period, Telegram saw around 755.2 million installs and WhatsApp 5.6 billion, or nearly eight times more than Telegram.