It seems users were only being coquettish in looking for an alternative; they never actually dumped the app
WhatsApp’s biggest threat, Signal, is losing steam, despite an endorsement from none other than Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, and despite an initial flurry of interest from Indian users | Photo: Bloomberg
WhatsApp’s biggest threat, Signal, is losing steam, despite an endorsement from none other than Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, and despite an initial flurry of interest from Indian users.
According to data from Sensor Tower, Signal hit the most downloaded communication app on January 18 — this, after not even featuring earlier in the top 200 list of most downloaded communication apps.
The data show Signal slowly falling in the ranking from number eight on February 14 to number 15 on February 23.
Telegram still remains the most popular challenger, maintaining its rankings by holding one of the top two slots throughout this period.
Other serious challengers to WhatsApp have also fallen by the wayside. One was BiP, owned by Turkish telecom operator Turkcell. According to Sensor Tower’s data, BiP ousted WhatsApp from the number three spot amongst communication app downloads on January 15 and stayed there on January 16, even after Facebook announced that it was putting off the implementation of its new privacy rules.
BiP’s ranking among communication apps soared from 425 on January 11 to number 12 the next day — perhaps one of the sharpest jumps ever in India for a messaging platform within 24 hours. Yet, its fall has been equally dramatic, with its ranking sinking from 151 on February 15 to 224 on February 23.
Experts say the challengers to Facebook retreated for several reasons. One was that, stung by the strong adverse response to its new privacy laws that had to be accepted by all users by February if they wanted the service to continue, Facebook postponed it until May.
It also went on a campaign to explain to users that there will be no change in the encryption of messaging between friends. It clarified that the need to consent to the rules was limited to users’ communication with WhatsApp’s 19 million business accounts. In only these cases would the information sent by the user to the business or merchant be harvested by WhatsApp for business purposes.
Those in the know say that despite the hostile reaction, some of those who seemed to be deserting the WhatsApp ship were, in fact, only tinkering and experimenting with other apps. This, they say, is why WhatsApp faced no dent in its 400 million customer base in India.
“What we have seen is many WhatsApp users trying out other competing communication apps, to test them out. But they continued to use the messenger and did not remove it from their app list,” said a source who monitors the company.
Surprisingly, all the alternatives to WhatsApp were foreign companies, a very different situation from the time when the space left by India’s recent ban on short video app TikTok was filled by Indian companies such as Josh, TakaTak and Glance.
In fact, during the WhatsApp furore, the only Indian messaging app, Hike, actually shut down. Its founder, Kavin Bharti Mittal, said that India was unlikely to have its own desi messenger app because the global network effects were too strong. Until, of course, India bans them.