Telegram hits one billion users within a year, founder says

Telegram hits one billion users within a year, founder says

Messaging app Telegram, one of the most popular social media platforms, is likely to cross one billion monthly active users within a year as it spreads like “wildfire”, its billionaire founder Pavel Durov said on Tuesday.

Telegram, based in Dubai, was founded by the Russian-born Durov, who left Russia in 2014 after he refused to comply with demands to shut down the opposition community on his VK social media platform, which he sold.

“We will probably cross one billion monthly active users within a year now,” Durov, who wholly owns Telegram, told US reporter Tucker Carlson according to a video interview posted on Carlson’s account on the X social media platform.

“Telegrams spread like wildfire.”

Also read: Telegram stories are no longer limited to premium users only

Durov, estimated by Forbes to have a fortune of $15.5 billion, said several governments have tried to suppress him but the app, which now has 900 million active users, should remain a “neutral platform” and not a “player in geopolitics”.

One of Telegram’s main rivals, Meta Platforms’ ( META.O ) WhatsApp, has more than two billion monthly active users. The Financial Times reported in March that Telegram may aim for a US listing once the company reaches profitability.

Telegram, which is very influential in the republic of the former Soviet Union, is listed as one of the main social media platforms, after Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok and Wechat.

After Russia launched a massive invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Telegram has become the main source of uncensored – and sometimes graphic and misleading – content from both sides about the war and the politics surrounding the conflict.

Information warfare

Durov said he came up with the idea of an encrypted messaging app as a way to communicate when he was under pressure in Russia. His younger brother, Nikolai, designed the encryption.

Durov said he left Russia because he could not take orders from any government, and dismissed questions about claims that Telegram was controlled by Russia as false rumors spread by rivals worried about Telegram’s growth.

“I’d rather be independent than take orders from anyone,” Durov said of leaving Russia and finding a home for his company that includes stints in Berlin, London, Singapore and San Francisco.

He said the bureaucracy, especially for hiring global talent, was too burdensome there and he was attacked on the street in San Francisco by men who tried to steal his phone.

More worryingly, he said, he was getting too much attention from US security agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He said the US agency was trying to hire one of its engineers to find a back door into the platform. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment during US business hours.

However, on freedom of expression, he said the biggest challenger is not the government but major competitors such as Apple (AAPL.O) and Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google.

Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov delivers a keynote speech during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 23, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

“The two platforms can basically filter everything you can read, access on your smartphone,” Durov said, adding that they had told Telegram that if it failed to comply with their guidelines it would be removed from their store.

He said he had chosen the United Arab Emirates because it was a “neutral country” that wanted to be friends with everyone and was not aligned with any major power, so he felt it was the best place for a “neutral platform”.

Telegram, he said, is used by the opposition and the government but will not take sides.

“The competition of different ideas can result in progress and a better world for everyone,” Durov said.

He said, outside of money or Bitcoin, he has no major possessions such as real estate, jets or yachts, because he wants to be free.

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