App-a-Day: Telegram

Monday 5-18-2015


Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to App-a-Day. Today’s app, Telegram, is inspired by a very interesting and thought provoking article I stumbled upon this morning. The article is published in Mashable and is titled “A long way from Moscow - ‘Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg’ took on the Kremlin and lost his country and the business he build,” written by Christopher Miller.



In the article, the writer (quite accurately, I might add) refers to billionaire Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov as “Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg” and tells the sobering story of how he went from superstar founder and CEO of Russian social media giant VKontakte, one of the richest and most influential people in the tech world, to a dishonored outcast, fired from the company he helped build and banished from the country he once loved.



“VKontakte, meaning ‘in contact,’ is Russia’s most popular social network, dwarfing Facebook and Twitter in Russia with its more than 69 million monthly users.”



Pavel Durov, along with his brother Nikolai and business partner Vyacheslav Mirilashvili founded the company in 2006 to rival up-and-coming Palo Alto based social network Facebook. VKontakte was a huge hit in Russia and quickly became the most popular social network in the country, trumping Facebook and Twitter.



That was then. At the young age of 22, Durov was at the helm of social media unicorn VKontakte, he was a multimillionaire celebrity, he was on top of the world.


Today, at age 30, although still considered extremely successful, Durov is no longer head of VKontakte. Currently residing in New York, the Russian entrepreneur spoke with Mashable about his tremendous journey from being one of the most influential entrepreneurs in Russia, to being outcast by his own government, losing all control of the company he helped build.





The Mashable article describes this in length and is a very interesting read.

Long story short, in recent years the Kremlin has become increasingly aware of the potential social and political impact online services like VKontakte can make and have begun ramping up efforts to censor and control the flow of information.



Pavel Durov, who is known for his cynical attitude towards the Russian government, of course did not cooperate. The young entrepreneur went so far as to write, “on Victory Day when Russians celebrate their defeat of Nazis, that Josef Stalin had ‘defended from Hitler his right to suppress the Soviet people.’ a satirical remark that drew the ire of many Russians at the time of mounting nationalism.”

In late 2011, when the Kremlin demanded that VKontakte take down anti-government groups and block the profiles of key opposition leaders, Durov did not budge. Little did he know at the time that his actions of defiance against Russia’s political powers would eventually cost him his country and his job.

In the wake of his fallout with the Russian government, losing his company in the process, combined with the news of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s flight to Moscow, Durov realised that security from the prying eyes of corporations and governments was a growing and frightening concern.





Which brings up back to today’s app. Telegram



Telegram was created by Pavel Durov. A faster and more secure messaging app. With over 50 million users worldwide, the app has since earned its place among privacy conscious users. Unlike many other messaging services, Telegram vows to never spy on its users.



“Durov insists there are no outside investors involved in Telegram - and there never will be. He learned his lesson with VKontakte.”


Telegram’s messaging service is lightning fast and the overall app experience is exceedingly fluid, but Telegram’s biggest selling point by far is its extremely secure encryption protocols that keeps user’s conversations private. It’s “secret chats” feature provides users with an added level of security.

The app itself is free and has no ads.  Behind Pavel Durov, Telegram has firmly positioned itself as a strong proponent of internet privacy and security in an age where governments, corporations, and agencies are vying to track your every move.