Facebook will release its controversial update to its WhatsApp privacy policy on Saturday. WhatsApp users have to agree to the new policy in order to continue using the chat app to the full. Facebook will not delete the app if you do not agree to the new terms of use, however Features will gradually be phased out to the point that WhatsApp SMS and calls could be impossible. Inactivity due to inability to use the app may result in account termination.

Facebook may not have canceled plans to update WhatsApp’s privacy policy to collect more user data from e-commerce features in WhatsApp, but the company’s WhatsApp privacy nightmare is not quite over yet. A regulatory authority in Germany have already issued an injunction Prevent Facebook from processing WhatsApp user data. The German regulatory authority urged its European colleagues to take similar measures. Regulations aside, Facebook also has another serious problem. The WhatsApp privacy change has sparked renewed interest in competing WhatsApp chat apps. Millions of people have downloaded Signal and Telegram. A new report shows how significant the problem could be for Facebook.

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Leaving a popular platform like WhatsApp is an almost impossible task for many people. WhatsApp works on iPhone and Android and offers chats the same end-to-end encryption protection as iMessage and Signal. Telegram also supports end-to-end encryption, but is not activated by default for all conversations.

If you dump WhatsApp in favor of a different chat service, you may have to leave friends and relatives who won’t switch to a new app or who find it difficult to adapt to a different chat environment. Even so, millions of people have been looking for alternatives, especially at the beginning of 2021 when WhatsApp prompts told them that Facebook will collect more user data.

Analyze app downloads from the App Store and Google Play, SensorTower Up-to-date numbers have been produced to show how important the nightmare of the WhatsApp privacy policy change was to Facebook.

Telegram and signal downloads
Global monthly downloads of the Telegram and Signal app. Image source: SensorTower

Telegram and signal app downloads rose sharply in January. The Telegram reached 63.5 million installations, an increase of 283% from January 2020. The normalization of Telegram downloads has since normalized, as shown in the graphic above. In April, Telegram had 26.2 million installations, 3% fewer than a year ago.

Signal’s surge was even more impressive: the app grew 5,001% in January when it hit 50.6 million app installs worldwide. Signal had 992,000 downloads in January 2020. Downloads dropped dramatically in the months that followed, as did Facebook statements for the WhatsApp published privacy update and extended the deadline to accept them until May 15. Even so, Signal saw steady year-over-year growth throughout April. Last month, Signal had 2.8 million downloads worldwide, more than double the 1.3 million installs as of April 2020.

The report also provides statistics for WhatsApp downloads (see below). WhatsApp saw a drop in installs even before users were reminded of the proposed privacy change. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, installations declined as more people spent more time at home. In April 2020, the app had 55.2 million installs worldwide, compared to 76.5 million in May.

WhatsApp downloads
WhatsApp app global monthly downloads. Image source: SensorTower

WhatsApp installs dropped to 45 million in January and 43 million in February, before recovering slightly in March. However, April numbers fell to 38 million.

The numbers show what we have known since January. WhatsApp is the premier chat app in the world and it may be impossible for many people to leave it entirely. However, most iPhone and Android users experience a multi-chat universe where different chat apps are used for different groups of people. The graphs above show that millions of people are careful about how Facebook handles their privacy. And they could convince millions of others to opt for Signal, Telegram and other apps over WhatsApp in the long term.

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Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby and before he knew it he was sharing his views on technical matters with readers around the world. Whenever he’s not writing about gadgets, he miserably doesn’t stay away from them, even though he tries desperately. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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