Telegram as THE chat app and potential SLACK competitor
There are many articles already available about this messaging system, but I wanted to offer something more complete and convincing to try and motivate others to change from Whatsapp and Slack, which is no small feat.
First, let’s run through its present list of options (up to January 2018).
Security. Telegram is famous for being secure, offering thousands of dollars (similar to what Google does for Chrome OS) for being able to hack it. So go ahead and try, but I’m fairly sure you won’t see my messages. You can even put a password on the app in your phone, just in case you have some serious stalkers among your fellow coworkers.
Not only that, but Telegram also has a Two-Step Verification option, so even if someone tries to hack your account, they would still need the extra password to get in.
Free. Telegram will remain free. The founders did mention that if they end up in a pickle some day they would just offer extra options as a “pay in app” type of system, but its main options would always remain free.
Fast. Telegram, because of how it has its servers set up, is as fast or faster than Whatsapp in sending you messages. Try it and compare.
Very little data. It doesn’t matter if the app is not included in a data plan with unlimited messages, since the text messages are so small that it really doesn’t affect anything.
If a message with 50 characters, or about 10 words, takes around 3 kilobytes, and in a MB there are 1000 kilobytes, you can send around 330 messages per MB, or if you send only two words per message, it would be more like 1,700 messages per MB. This means that even if you sent messages all day, you would still use only about 20 MB per month.
File sharing. Share any file you want, up to 1.5 GB, so you can even send your favorite movie. This is a major advantage over other platforms and offers tremendous possibilities to businesses as well.
Does not affect the space on your phone. Everything is stored in the Cloud, so Telegram doesn’t start eating away at your precious space on your device.
Clear cache and recover storage. You can also delete the app’s cache memory even if you did download anything. This allows you to recover more space on your phone. You can also automatically delete what you download after 3 days.
Platform agnostic. You can use Telegram wherever you want (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, Web, PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
Message synchronization. Telegram’s servers are responsible for making sure you can see your posts anywhere at any time on any device.
Multiple accounts. you can have up to three accounts in the same app on Android.
Controlled Notifications. Even if you participate in large groups, you can always suspend notifications for a specific time (1 hour, 8 hours or 2 days), or indefinitely.
100,000 member groups. Another major advantage, especially for businesses or academic institutions. Most people would normally never participate in a group that big, but for an institution that needs to communicate with everyone at once, it's even better than email. (Remember that in Gmail, for example, you can only send an email to 500 participants at once). Given that email is dying, and younger generations despise it, this only adds to Telegram’s usefulness.
Other advantages of these “supergroups” is that new members can see everything from the beginning of the chat history, so they can catch up, and administrators can delete any message at any time, ensuring total control of what you see. (A normal group can be changed to a “supergroup” by going to the options for each group.)
Group links. Speaking of those large groups, you can generate a link which you can send to others so they can add themselves. I still have nightmares of when I had to add everyone to a Whatsapp group, one by one. That’s long gone with Telegram. The link is a little hidden, but when you go to add someone to the group, the option “Invite to Group via Link” will appear and from there it’s just copy / paste like normal. You owe it to yourself to save hundreds of hours this way.
Channels. Channels allow you to have a huge group similar to supergroups, but the difference is that only channel admins can post and delete messages without members being able to respond. This is great for large institutions who have to notify their members about something, while at the same time preventing others from bothering the rest.
Channel admins can also pin messages to focus their subscribers on major announcements.
Public channels. Do you want something like Twitter? That’s basically what these channels are, where you can have an unlimited number of followers which can receive your messages, but again, the participants do not respond. For example: https://t.me/jjirpro
Embeds for messages from public groups and channels. Now, you can quote any particular message from any public group or channel, and incorporate it into other pages. For example, this: t.me/telegram/81 (https://www.telegram.org/blog/themes-accounts)
Self-destruct Messages. For lovers of Snapchat because it never keeps your history, Telegram provides messages that self-destruct, and you can set a time (from 1 to 5 minutes) for the sender and receiver, so that the message is completely erased for both as if it was never sent. These are called “Secret chats”. (Just remember that these messages are never saved to Telegram’s servers so you do not have a backup of them.)
Usernames. You can share a username instead of your cellphone number (more on the cellphone number thing later on). In this case, I made it really easy for people to find me both on Twitter and on Telegram by using the same username @jasonjurotich. It even offers you a way to immediately chat with someone (https://t.me/jasonjurotich).
Yes, some might spam you, but they could already do that on Twitter as well. Either way, you can still block anyone you want. Telegram understands this problem and tries to make it as easy as possible to reduce this to a minimum. (Side note: If you just send a “hi” without offering a formal intro and petition along with it, we do think you’re spamming, keep that in mind.)
Mention people directly. Even if you did participate in a group with thousands of people, this relatively new option allows you to turn off all notifications and only receive them if you are directly mentioned, using the “@” symbol by the username. With this, who cares if you are in a group that big, you can still transform it into something personal. This is also excellent for having informal forums within a bigger conversation.
Direct replies. If the previous option wasn’t enough, now you have direct replies to any message in the group, which works by quoting the person you are replying to and allowing you to click on the quote to return to that part of the chat. Just long press on the message and the option comes out.
Quick replies. You can now swipe left and quickly reply to a message.
Formatting text. You can also format text. Putting a double asterisk (**) before and after the text makes text bold and putting double underscore (__) before and after the message put it in italics.
Drafts. Unfinished messages are clearly visible in the chats list, and the chat with an unsent draft will move to the top. What’s more, you can start typing on your phone, then continue on your computer, right where you left off.
Edit recent messages. You can even edit messages you sent up to two days after sending them, instead of, you know, begging for forgiveness for some f*&# up thing you said because you had drunk just a little too much the day before.
Search everything. Telegram has awesome search options where you can search for anything you want, whether that be in any chat in your list, or just in one particular chat. You can even filter out things like files or images, etc. under “Media” (web) or “Shared media” (app).
Voice calls. You can call people in the app just like normal cellular phone calls, but the advantage is that the number of the person you call is not necessary. Use WiFi or your data plan. A 7 minute call only takes about 1MB of data.
Voice and Video Messaging. Yes, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger lovers, it does have voice and video messaging, so you can send as many eternally long and boring messages as you want. You can also have your own public Vlogging page with Telescope, Telegram’s new platform to share videos like this: https://telesco.pe/jjirpro.
Video streaming. Now on Android, you no longer have to wait to see a video. You can already see it immediately while it’s downloading.
Read message indicators. Similar to Whatsapp, but different. One checkmark means the person has received it, and two means the message was read. Telegram finds it a little useless to tell you your message got to their servers simply because they presuppose that it should, otherwise the app is not fulfilling its duty.
Bots. Yes, these things actually work and are very useful. You have ones that can remind you of things, send you news articles, let you add GIFs, YouTube videos, or even music to your chat. You can even have your email forwarded to Telegram. You can now even send money and sell things through Telegram. Check out the inline bots here.
Blogging. Telegram also offers a platform for blogging called Telegraph. Telegraph has no plans to compete with Medium, but for those who want to share in the world of Telegram, this option also exists, just keep in mind you will need a specific telegram bot to group all your blogs into your account. The posts are normally shared in a channel you already have and you can put up to 59,000 characters (10,000 words) in each post.
Cryptocurrency coming soon … Hopefully this year, we will also have a cryptocurrency (Grams), backed by Telegram. It should come out soon, and would be for payments and sales made through Telegram.
Stickers. These are glorified emojis essentially, but are really fun, expressive, and add a lot more to the chat than boring emojis, and you can pretty much add thousands of collections. You can even create your own and share them with the world.
Personal assistant. This is basically a simple way to imitate the “Slackbot” in Slack. You can send messages to yourself and add bots to that chat as well to keep tabs on everything you want to get done.
Modify the style and visual format for Telegram on the web. Yes, you can even do this, and change it to anything you want. Check out the options here. You can put a theme to your Android app to make it look however you like!
Auto Night Mode. Telegram for Android can now automatically switch to the dark version of the interface after nightfall or in low-light conditions. To set up Auto-Night Mode, go to Settings > Theme > Auto-Night Mode.
Send multiple photos. You can also send various pics in one message and order them before you send them.
Bookmark messages. You can now bookmark messages under “Saved messages” and then clicking on them will take you right back to the original message.
Pin contacts. You can also pin contacts in your chat list.
Live location sharing. There is also live location sharing which allows you to share for 15 min, 1 hour or 8 hours.
Forward multiple messages. In Android, you can forward a message to multiple contacts.
Personal Bio. You can add a bio to your profile to help people know who you are.
The Argument for Telegram
Right now, I am pushing businesses and academic institutions to use Telegram. Besides the reasons mentioned above, it offers many of the options (albeit in a simplified manner) that Slack has, and at the same time fulfills the psychological desire today to chat instead of sending emails.
One of the teams I am presently helping started off with Slack, but because it was a paid system, and their notifications sometimes took a whole minute to get to the receiver, it became frustrating to use. But, when I proposed Telegram, after having used it for a few weeks, it felt more natural to them, so we switched. We lost very little, to be perfectly honest.
Emails are a dying breed. I know that many businesses use them for formal messaging still and for having a history that cannot be erased (which most chat systems allow you to do) but there are ways around this, like quoting someone or taking a screenshot, so it’s really not impossible to have some sort of accountability even on these platforms, so this didn’t bother the team either.
Everyone today wants to chat, so using a platform that offers employees the incentive to have constant communication with each other is a plus, and it has helped the team to remain focused and on the ball, while at the same time allowing them to be themselves and joke around which increases team unity in the long run.
Telegram does not offer video chat. They may add it later on, when it becomes popular enough (which it has not). Right now, it has in no way affected the way the team works, and is really seen as an extra, given that you already have voice calling built in.
Either way, up to now, I would have to say that only Google’s future Duo has the adequate characteristics to be a truly efficient versatile video chatting app, so I think it was wise that Telegram waited on this one, because no video chat is MUCH better than a bad, choppy video chat.
Telegram is still connected somewhat to your cellphone number, but in a weak sort of way. Telegram uses it to identify you, not so much to control you, like in Whatsapp. They use it to get you started using Telegram, by SMS, although funny enough, when you want to use Telegram afterwards on the web or anywhere else, it will send you a message in Telegram itself, without the need for SMS. As well, it is very easy to change your number and your account remains just like it was.
I have my Google voice number as my original ID for Telegram at this moment, but telegram did NOT like this, although it let me leave it there, for now. This may not work for you, nor may it work for me in the future, so just keep in mind that virtual cellphone numbers are a hit-and-miss there.
Dare to try it
Make the jump. I know that most of my readers may be using Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp, or even Slack at this moment, but Telegram really does blow them out of the water in relation to essential options and its price tag (free). I have to admit that both Slack and Facebook Messenger are trying to catch up, but they still lack some of the most important options, which is why I can confidently say that, for now, Telegram is the best for instantaneous communication.
I think that small and medium-sized institutions will be pleasantly surprised with what you can do with Telegram and how you can channel it to do what you need. Take a look, try it out, and please leave any comments about your experiences with Telegram below. If there is anything I have erroneously mentioned here or something I should add to the list, please let me know and I’ll make the changes lickety split.
Keep on innovating. Cheers.