Telegram has just pushed out an update that adds a major feature that some found to be a bit controversial, bringing group audio calls that have been compared to platforms like Discord. That, however, has been eclipsed by the revelation made by the popular encrypted chat service’s founder made alongside that update. Telegram, Pavel Durov boasts, is nearing 500 million users but that number comes with the challenge of finding a sustainable way to support its operations without selling out to companies like Facebook.
There are, of course, several options on how to make a profit from a service but the most common ones will most likely be shot down immediately by Telegram’s almost 500 million users. In order to keep the service free, at least for the majority of users, the only options Durov presents are either to sell the company like what WhatsApp did or to earn it some other way. That some other way happens to be the thing that everyone loves to hate: advertisements.
Before you get out your torches and pitchforks, however, there are a few important details about this planned monetization strategy. The most important is that you won’t be seeing ads in your private and group chats, as the ads will only be intended for public and one-to-many channels. The founder says that these channels are already using some third-party ad platforms that present those ads like regular messages.
Durov himself finds these ads intrusive and promises that Telegram’s own ad platform will respect privacy the way the chat service also does. It will admittedly be a tough balancing act but other companies have more or less been able to pull it off. Telegram will start putting these ads in channels starting 2021.
Durov also says that all free features today will currently stay free but there might be some new features that will be available only to paying premium users. Telegram is also looking into partnering with artists to sell premium stickers as another but smaller monetization option.