The Telegram logo of a paper airplane shooting messages across the sky. The app made by Russian … [+]
SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
Trump’s final days at the White House have been a boon to Telegram.
The messaging app, created by Pavel Durov and banned from his Intel service in Russia for not giving them encryption keys for police investigation, has never been this good.
Durov became a superstar against the Russian FSB. Then he became the darling of the crypto communities. And now, after all of the censorship that went amok by Trump in Washington over the past few days, nearly 100 million new users have accumulated.
People spent the final days of 2020 and the early days of 2021 fleeing old social media platforms due to big tech censorship, regardless of which side of the political corridor they were on. From Europe to Brazil they fled in droves after Signal and Telegram.
Signal recorded around 17.8 million app downloads on Apple AAPL and Google toget in the week of January 5-12. The Telegram rose by 15.7 million downloads in the same period, which corresponds to about double the 7.6 million downloads in the previous week.
Part of WhatsApp’s exodus was due to new privacy regulations that were recently repealed.
Pavel Durov. At least in Crypto, his app is celebrated for its privacy rules. A decentralized one … [+]
2015 Getty Images
But not all of the flow was due to it. Most people don’t spend more than five seconds going through data protection agreements. You scroll down and click Accept.
In the first week of January, Telegram exceeded 500 million monthly active users, and 25 million new users joined Telegram within three days of the New Year.
The new users came from all over the world – 38% from Asia, 27% from Europe, 21% from Latin America, and 8% from the Middle East, not just the US. The US censorship headlines had a lot to do with it.
That’s a significant increase from 2020, says Durov, when an average of 1.5 million new users signed up one day. “During our 7 year history of protecting user privacy, there have been numerous downloads. But this time it’s different, ”he says. “People no longer want to trade their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by technology monopolies who seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users. We take our responsibility seriously. We will not let you down, ”he wrote on his Telegram channel last week.
For some, this is a sign that old social media has reached its peak. Similar to traditional media companies, they have peaked. People may not know, but a general disgust for social media is helping the decentralized web fans have something to cheer about.
One executive who refused to be quoted said, “This is absolutely a trend as people are beginning to distrust traditional big tech giants, most of whom are in bed with governments. There is strong demand for private platforms, especially given the obvious and concerted efforts of large tech companies to delist the competition and censor users. This has really come to a head with Trump’s de-platform. Many believe that if it can happen to him and his employees, it can happen to anyone. “
With the censorship and the shutdown of Parler by Amazon Web Service, which made a strange (and probably terrible) decision to use network servers in Russia instead, interest in decentralization became apparent in early 2021.
Tech experts tell me that these kinds of censorship movements are a media-driven theater because in the new age of a decentralized Internet, new applications outside of the big companies like Amazon, Apple and Google are surviving and thriving anyway.
Some seem to be able to use technologies that are difficult to regulate or litigate, although this is outside of my area of expertise.
I know that the infrastructure for a decentralized internet has been expanded even further with the growth of blockchain and crypto technologies. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO) have been around for at least five years and I know them. These censorship-resistant networks will thrive this year, especially as social networks continue their post-Trump hellish landscape.
Venture capital firms will be looking at them this year, I suspect.
The MeWe social networking platform can be seen on an Apple laptop in this photo illustration in Warsaw. … [+]
NurPhoto via Getty Images
According to Maxim Nurov, founder of Digital Reserve Currency, the activity of chat groups on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter has been dampened by the central authorities that regulate the content published on these platforms. It’s too difficult for some to do business on YouTube and they’re moving to other platforms like Locals.com, where Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently opened a store and famous cartoonist and YouTuber Scott Adams one late last year Have hung stone.
While this isn’t a decentralized internet story, it is an integral part of people leaving older platforms. If Locals is on AWS who knows, they might be shut down next if Jeff Bezos somehow disapproves of this. Big brother watches, listens and scolds.
“Data protection concerns will be the driver,” says Nurov about the reason for continuing to build decentralized web platforms.
A central Internet is based on powerful, centrally controlled servers such as Amazon AWS. A decentralized one is peer-to-peer and, in contrast to the server structure of the central Internet, these users and their devices would host the website themselves. So a world of mini-servers.
“The censorship of online activities is becoming a more difficult endeavor even with a decentralized web,” says Nurov in an article in Medium. “Some developers are already creating decentralized web browsers and social media platforms.” His start-up was founded during the pandemic and aims to become a decentralized digital store of value (SoV) with a limited supply and an inflation rate of zero. It is primarily aimed at the decentralized financial industry, an offshoot of the decentralized web and, in many ways, part of the crypto universe.
We have reached Peak Twitter
Twitter stocks have been hammered out of the “exodus” and a broad perception of censorship … [+]
The “exodus” – if you can call it that – pumps the cause of a decentralized web. Like the good ol ‘days of cable TV when it was ad-free, the internet and its biggest brands like YouTube have become mere extensions of the big media.
If you don’t like it where are you going
One of the earliest and most famous forms of decentralized Internet was BitTorrent, a protocol that supports peer-to-peer file sharing to distribute large amounts of data around the world.
Torrent sites were notorious for copyright infringement. I remember Brazilians would use it all the time to download new movie releases for free. Some would get video games, all stolen, of course.
Another newer form of the decentralized web is the InterPlanetary File System, a distributed system for storing and accessing files, websites, applications, and data.
There has been nearly a decade of critical analysis and challenges regarding human rights and privacy concerns within Big Tech. Since the early 2000s, organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and many others have raised concerns about the mining data of large users by large companies in order to pass that information on to other companies. This has since become a powerful tool for algae that can target messages and other information for individuals based on previous website click-throughs, spending, and other habits.
Data protection plus censorship corresponds to Peak Twitter, Peak Google, Peak Facebook
Offices of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the first to do this … [+]
The Washington Post via Getty Images
“In the last 10 years in particular, the largest social media platforms have prevailed as insurgents to become the market leader in dominating the market in providing platforms for people to communicate with. By centralizing the connection of hundreds of millions of people, that data becomes infinitely valuable, ”said Arnie Hill, founder of ADD.xyz, a startup supported by blockchain venture capital funds such as NGC Ventures in Singapore and Torchlight Ventures, Nabais Capital and Goldbaum & Partner based in Europe. Changelly.com and Bitcoin.com Exchange helped ADD raise $ 1.5 million for their decentralized funding.
“I was an activist at the heart of these privacy issues in 2010 and saw these tech companies grow and take over the industry,” Hill says. “There were already indications of the potential political problems this could create and we are seeing them now.”
Returning to the Telegram, Durov said that political activist groups advocating violence will not find it easy to deal with the Telegram.
“We are witnessing possibly the greatest digital migration in human history,” said Durov, adding that there was a surge in membership shortly after the January 6 attacks on the Capitol Building in Washington. The US accounts for less than 2% of Telegram’s user base.
“Telegram welcomes peaceful debates and protests, but our Terms of Service specifically prohibit the spread of public calls for violence,” says Durov, sounding a lot like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey for a moment.
In early January, the Telegram moderation team received an increased number of reports on public activity related to the United States on its platform. According to Durov, the team acted decisively by cracking down on US channels that advocated violence.
The story doesn’t end there. As Signal and Telegram gain users, the value begins to break the barriers, Hill noted in an email to me last week.
“You will be tempted to get them, maybe for hundreds of millions of dollars, at some point in the future,” says Hill.
This is where the decentralized web developers see how doors open.
“Some are looking for opportunities for self-hosted decentralized social media applications,” says Hill. “One has to ask: is there a way to deactivate the current system for something that is not currently centrally controlled, but could inevitably one day be censored?”