Telegram is great…when it works. Unfortunately, the crypto world’s favorite messaging app is prone to periodically going down due to technical failures and what seems like repeated attempts by the Russian security services to meddle. Over-reliance on Telegram is a classic case of over-centralization. For cryptocurrency projects seeking a fallback alternative, the following options are worth a look.
Telegram’s Centralized Tech Can’t Be Trusted
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov embodies many of the qualities that cryptocurrency users espouse. In addition to being passionate about bitcoin, he’s defiant against governments that seek to backdoor or shut down his encrypted messaging app, refusing to be cowed. Durov is only one man though, and for political and technical reasons, his network is prone to sporadic outages. Pavel Durov might be trustworthy, but Telegram is obviously not.
When the network is knocked offline, it tends to affect specific regions, leaving members of some Telegram groups talking to themselves and others unable to connect. From cryptocurrency projects launching ICOs to bitcoin news teams working remotely, Telegram forms a vital hub. The next time that hub becomes temporarily unavailable, the following platforms can serve as substitutes – or even as permanent replacements.
Six Telegram Alternatives to Try
Slack: Slack is what everyone was using before Telegram. Crypto communities left en masse however when the phishing and spammy links got too much, and haven’t returned since. Slack’s still fine for keeping small communities and crypto teams in the loop, but for hosting open groups, such as ICOs, it’s unsuitable.
Discord: Discord is basically Slack for gamers, but even if you’ve never blasted your way through PUBG and don’t know your L2 from your R1, the platform is easy to master. It doesn’t scale as well as Telegram so large groups can get unwieldy, but at least it isn’t prone to tapping out without warning. Among the cons to consider is the fact that Discord is less private than Telegram, and does not employ end-to-end encryption.
Keybase: Basically an open-source Slack with end-to-end encryption, Keybase looks very crypto-friendly and privacy-oriented. It has yet to be stress-tested at scale, but the signs are promising. Keybase also allows teams to securely store and share files.
Wire: Wire is more enterprise-oriented, but has end-to-end encryption, secure file sharing, screen sharing and a bunch of other useful features. Its group chats are limited to 128 users though, so don’t expect to be able to migrate your 50k Telegram group over. Wire subscriptions start at €4 per month.
Viber: Popular in Russian and privacy-focused territories, Viber encrypts everything and claims not to store user data on its servers. Group chats are capped at 250, so again it’s not a Telegram killer, but for smaller crypto communities it’s more than up to the task.
Signal: Arguably the most private messaging platform on this list, endorsed by such figures as Edward Snowden, Bruce Schneier, and cryptographer Matt Green, Signal carries some clout. There’s no limit on group sizes, but the platform is designed as more of a closed messaging system than an open network like Telegram in which anyone can enter a group at will. For the privacy-conscious though, Signal is about as good as it gets.
This list is by no means exhaustive; messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Wechat also serve as Telegram surrogates. One of the reasons why Telegram has become the crypto community’s go-to platform is because it does big and small very well: it’s as adept at one-to-one messaging as it is at following large groups where the discourse moves fast. Regardless, crypto communities that are reliant on Telegram would do well to establish a backup they can default to, so that the next time it goes down, business can continue elsewhere.
We are also seeing the beginnings of next-generation decentralized messaging platforms in Memo.cash – a messaging solution based on the blockchain of Bitcoin Cash, where users can interact in certain ways. It’s still far off from competing with Telegram and its likes, but some day soon it or another decentralized app will offer real competition.
Decentralization is a sliding scale, not a switch. The cryptocurrency community can’t control external forces that might threaten their ability to interact. But they can certainly do their best to ensure that no entity, including messaging applications, gains undue control. Through diversification, bitcoin, and the cryptosphere it supports, become stronger.