AUCKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Signal and Telegram encrypted messaging apps are seeing huge gaps in downloads from Apple and Google app stores. Facebook owner WhatsApp, by contrast, saw a drop in growth after the fiasco, which forced the company to clarify the privacy update it sent to users.
Mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower said Wednesday that Signal saw 17.8 million app downloads at Apple and Google during the week of Jan. 5-12. This is a 61-fold increase from only 285,000 in the previous week. Telegram, already a popular messaging app for people around the world, saw 15.7 million downloads between January 5 and 1
WhatsApp, meanwhile, saw downloads shrink to 10.6 million from 12.7 million the previous week.
Experts believe the change could reflect a influx of conservative social media users looking for alternatives to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and the right-wing Parler site, which is now closed. Major sites stopped President Donald Trump last week and stepped up enforcement against violent motives and hate speech.
Parler, meanwhile, was unceremoniously launched from the Internet after Apple and Google banned it from their app stores because they failed to moderate the motives. Amazon then cut Parler out of its cloud hosting service. Experts worry that these moves could lead to greater ideological divisions and further hide extremism in the dark corners of the internet, making it difficult to track and counter.
Confusion about the notification complicated by Facebook’s privacy history, 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 are needed to allow users to send business messages to WhatsApp. The notice “provides additional transparency about how we collect and use data,” the company said.
WhatsApp is still the most popular messaging app of the three and so far there is no evidence of mass evictions. Sensor Tower estimates that Signal has been installed about 58.6 million times worldwide since 2014. During the same period, Telegram saw about 755.2 million installations, and WhatsApp a whopping 5.6 billion – almost eight times more than Telegram.