Telegram is a new messaging app developed by the founders of Russia’s largest social networking platform, and it offers speed, security, and self-destructing messages, as well as end-to-end encryption.
Nikolai and Pavel Durov, who founded VK (originally called VKontakte in 2006), launched Telegram 18 months ago as a research project.
The first public revelations concerning Edward Snowden about NSA and PRISM emphasized the importance of Telegram.
It made many people feel frightened and concerned about the current state of affairs. I spoke with Telegram founder Pavel over the phone and he said that we are among many people who began to think about ways to solve the problem.
The importance of being open and non-profit when gaining trust
Mathematician Nikolai Durov developed MTProto, which is the data protocol used by Telegram.
Separate from the app’s ordinary chat function, the app’s secret chats are end-to-end encrypted.
A certain number of days after they are created, they are set to self-destruct. Telegram’s secret chats are stored in the app’s server, which means you can only access the messages from your device of origin.
The main difference between secret and regular chats is that secret chats are not stored in Telegram’s cloud.
Through its non-profit, open-platform initiative, Telegram aims to earn its users’ trust.
It was important for us to make it clear that nobody should trust anyone. “Telegram is not taken for granted by people,” Pavel Durov says.
According to Durov, Telegram has about 100,000 daily active users and its open API and protocol should be used by users and developers alike.
Durov explains that, by doing so, “we will be able to have everyone inspect the code of Telegram and review the messaging algorithm we use.
“Our client-side encryption can earn their trust since it is something we can accomplish. Therefore, anyone interested in checking the app can ensure that it does what it claims to do and doesn’t distribute any information to third parties.”
Founders of Telegram say they will maintain the app’s non-profit status in order to avoid commercial and legal pressures.
Users can donate money to Telegram or purchase additional services as in-app purchases if they eventually need to scale up. There are also options to replace a mobile number with a virtual one, ensuring more privacy.
A top priority for Telegram’s staff is to make the messaging app stand out with speed, security, and reliance on crowd-sourcing and community involvement.
Its open API makes VK a favourite among developers building alternatives. “, says Durov. It is a non-profit project, so Telegram will hopefully be able to attract users who share the vision behind it even more than VK.”
From Telegram’s experience with VK, its team learned to stay away from the Russian government. In addition to hosting data at several data centres around the world, the app also has servers in London, Singapore and Helsinki.
Because we are an offshore company and foreign company, we are not subject to the laws of countries like Saudi Arabia, China, etc., says Durov.
As such, Telegram could not provide end-to-end encrypted chat data upon request from the government or legal organizations since security keys are generated on individual devices, not the server.
Founded by the Durov brothers, Digital Fortress is the first project from the new company. Despite Durov’s uncertainty about whether he will develop the next project directly or as an addition to Telegram, the next project will involve voice communication.
Telegram’s small engineering team is working on enabling permanent deletion of accounts as one of their main priorities.
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Durov says that “we will develop solutions to ensure that people’s data is completely deleted.”. A transparent approach means considering several options and choosing the best one.