“Use Signal.” With one tweet and two words, Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk managed to capture the essence of the rapid migration away from the social media giant WhatsApp and towards alternative messaging apps. But what was it that prompted this mass exodus from the favorite mobile application of millions around the globe?
Ever since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, there have been many attempts to merge the two platforms to make the best of their advertising potential. Since 98.5% of Facebook’s total revenue in 2019 was derived from advertising, there’s little question about how vital it is to Facebook’s business model. Facebook could use personal data from WhatsApp to send users more targeted advertisements and could also allow businesses on Facebook to connect with users on WhatsApp.
After the announcement, many allegations were made regarding the motivation behind this change. Some even suggested that this would allow Facebook to read users’ chats — however, it should be noted that end-to-end encryption will keep chats secure in any case. Given Facebook’s extremely poor track record with handling user data, though, the storm that followed this announcement was warranted.
In the week from 5 January to 12 January, WhatsApp registered a decrease of 2 million downloads compared to the previous week. What’s more is that WhatsApp’s leading rivals, Signal and Telegram noted a drastic uptick in downloads in that same time period. According to Sensor Tower, Signal was downloaded only 246,000 times all over the world in the week before WhatsApp’s announcement, and 8.8 million times the week after. Meanwhile, Telegram went from 6.5 million downloads in the week before WhatsApp’s announcement to 11 million the week after. In a funny twist of events, Musk’s tweet actually sent the stock price of Signal Advance soaring by over 6000%. Unfortunately, Signal Advance has nothing to do with the messaging app Signal.