Signal beeps louder in India as WhatsApp tweaks policy
Downloads spike after Tesla CEO Musk asks users to join app in a tweet.
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with over 400 million users and some experts are doubtful whether privacy concerns will make much of a dent in its dominance.
“We have seen a giant spike in India since the WhatsApp news and also with Elon Musk’s recent tweet,” Jun Harada, head of growth and communication at Signal, told ET. “We do hope to have much more growth in India in the near future. We saw a very large spike over summer in India and have seen it only continue to grow.”
Signal saw 2,200 installs on India’s app stores on Wednesday up 38% from 1,600 installs in the week ended December 30, according to mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Signal saw about 51,000 installs in December, up 11% from 46,000 in November.
Harada declined to provide numbers, citing company policy, saying the Sensor Tower data was “directionally correct, but generally the numbers are off by a few magnitudes.”
Signal has also been endorsed by whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden as well as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. It was created by Moxie Marlinspike, cofounder of the Signal Foundation, which received initial funding from WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton. Signal says it has “state-of-the-art” end-to-end encryption and is an independent nonprofit, not tied to any major tech company and cannot be acquired by one either.
In a blog post on January 4, WhatsApp said that sharing data with Facebook will help “personalisation” of content and the display of relevant advertisements across the group’s multiple social platforms. It also enables users to interlink services, such as using a Facebook Pay account to pay for things on the messaging app.
In a tweet on Thursday, Signal said verification codes as a means of registering on the app were delayed across several providers because many new users were trying to join. “We are working with carriers to resolve this as quickly as possible,” the company tweeted and later thanked carriers who “flipped the right switches so that people could keep switching.”
While WhatsApp’s update was Facebook’s most visible and widespread effort to gather data, the switch to other apps after the move will probably be led by more affluent users and most won’t be too perturbed, said Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief executive, Greyhound Research. “India is a mass market and a large segment of users do not value privacy as much as other markets,” he said. “WhatsApp is only going to go from strength to strength.”