The company will begin employing new monetization methods in 2021, but the core business of chatting will remain free for everyone.
These new monetization methods include ads on public one-to-many channels (which function like Twitter feeds), premium features for business teams and power users, and paid sticker packs. Some of these funds will go back to users in the form of enhanced visibility for channels or payments to creators of unique sticker packs.
Since Telegram stores chats and files on a remote server instead of your device, you can also access everything (except secret chats) from the web. Access it via the web portal or any of several Chrome extensions.
The company also makes its API publicly available for free and invites developers to create clients on other platforms. Users can also create custom bots, themes, stickers, and more free of charge.
Telegram’s main feature list may cross over with other apps, but there are many specific differences between it and its competitors. Here is a short list some of the major features that may push you to switch messaging apps.
The aforementioned secret chats are where you can take part in end-to-end encrypted messaging with a contact. But that’s not its only benefit: Secret chats also don’t allow a person forward messages from there or take screenshots. Of course, someone could take a picture of the screen with another device, but it’s still discouraged, and it’s bolstered by another feature: self-destruct timers.
If you don’t want messages in your secret chats to hang around forever, Telegram lets you set self-destruct timers to permanently remove them. After a message is received, it remains in the chat for a predetermined period – you can choose times between one second and one week before disappearing.
You’ll have to be especially concerned with privacy to want to do this – it means you’ll never have a chat log – nonetheless, it’s a nice option that Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat don’t have.
Since non-secret chats and files are stored in the cloud, you can access them from any device by logging into your account. You will never have to worry about on-device storage or losing important files, but the trade-off is that you lose a bit of privacy and security.
Since an update in 2019, Telegram has allowed users to delete messages sent by other users, across all devices. It’s a somewhat divisive feature. Having your messages deleted by someone else doesn’t feel very good. But if your conversation is between you and a person you trust, it’s another handy way to control your online communications.
As mentioned above, the use of usernames instead of phone numbers means your account isn’t tied to just one phone. This makes it easier to log in on other devices, allows you to have multiple accounts on the same device, and makes it so you don’t have to share your phone number with someone to add them as a contact in Telegram.
If you want to send big files, Telegram has much of the competition beat with support for up to 2GB files. Meanwhile, WhatsApp’s limit is a measly 100MB, WeChat’s limit is also 100MB, and Skype’s limit is 300MB. Telegram files are also stored in the cloud, so you can access them from other devices.
Telegram comes with some customization options absent from many of its competitors where you can choose the dominant app color, how the app opens links, whether or not the UI shows animations, and more. There is also chatbot integration where you can make use of bots to improve the experience. You can even create your own themes, bots, and full apps using the Telegram API. Over the years, Telegram has built up an extensive bot ecosystem that adds even more functionality to the app.