• In the aftermath of its new policy announcement, WhatsApp is losing mindshare as well as potentially future user share
  • Amongst the contenders, Telegram is gaining traction over Signal in terms of current awareness and potential usage
  • Brand Trust and security of instant messaging apps are absolutely critical

Gurugram, 29 Jan 2021: Amidst the raging controversy over the recently updated WhatsApp Privacy Policy announcement, Indians are reconsidering their WhatsApp usage, with some even contemplating to leave WhatsApp post-implementation of the new Terms of Service. As per new research by CyberMedia Research (CMR), 76% of those surveyed are aware of the new WhatsApp Privacy Policy. An overwhelming 79% are reconsidering using WhatsApp, with 28% of those even planning to leave WhatsApp after implementation of its new policy in May 2021.

In response to the WhatsApp ‘take it or leave it policy’, consumers ascribed a range of emotions ranging from feeling angry (49%), to not trusting WhatsApp ever again (45%), to feeling a breach of trust (35%). A mere 10% of consumers remain indifferent to the new Policy announcement.

Commenting on the study findings, Satya Mohanty, Head- Industry Consulting Group (ICG), CMR, “When it comes to messaging with loved ones, or communicating with the world, WhatsApp has been the default choice. However, as our study findings point out, the current debate goes much beyond privacy oriented consumers, with some even contemplating stopping their WhatsApp usage, and considering alternatives, such as Telegram or Signal. Consumer preference is being driven by word of mouth, as well as by the array of features the platform offers.”

For users of instant messaging apps, trust and security of instant messaging apps are absolutely critical.

According to Prabhu Ram, Head- Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, “We are at the cusp of a potential seminal shift in consumer’s understanding and perspectives around privacy, security and most importantly, brand trust. For consumers, WhatsApp was their own, free and intimate messaging platform. As WhatsApp eventually moves into a much closer integration with the Facebook ecosystem from hereon, it risks an erosion in brand trust and brand loyalty – both key determinants for enduring competitive market advantage.”

As per the study results, 41% of those surveyed indicated planning to shift to Telegram, whereas 35% preferred Signal. Telegram scores over Signal in terms of awareness (55%) and actual usage (39%). Over the past one year, 37% of users have actually used Telegram, compared to a mere 10% for Signal, a rather nascent messaging app that is enjoying a spike in downloads in recent days.

“I believe the current shift in social networking-cum-messaging platforms is not transient. Driven by network effects, the emerging privacy-focused messaging alternatives can swiftly gain enduring traction. Our research points out that Telegram, in particular, has gained traction amongst users over the past year, much before the recent WhatsApp PR fiasco. While Signal has enjoyed a recent burst in its popularity, it has not been able to scale swiftly enough, and users have faced challenges with it, ” added Prabhu.

Here are some other major highlights from the Social Safe study:

  • Majority of users on WhatsApp and FB Messenger do not feel convenient and safe while storing their chat backup on third party or non-end-to-end encrypted platforms such as Google Drive or iCloud. Among the alternatives, Telegram users retain high trust in the dedicated cloud that Telegram offers (49%).
  • 55% of WhatsApp users face the challenge of media files (photos, videos, documents, PPT) from messenger apps, eating up phone memory.
  • Almost 50% of those surveyed have received suspicious messages from unknown numbers, with potential phishing, malicious links. The occurrence of phishing is high amongst WhatsApp users (52%), and lowest amongst Telegram users (28%).
  • Three in every four IM users face challenges frequently or sometimes in re-sharing the content on Groups whenever new members join in.
  • >71% people feels safe while joining any mass Group or Channel on Telegram as they don’t need to reveal their phone number to strangers.
  • The occurrence of spam is high with incumbents, with >50% of WhatsApp and FB Messenger users facing spams daily.
  • Only one-third of IM users feel acknowledged on abusive content reporting methods of their messaging applications. For instance, 73% of WhatsApp users feel helpless to counter illegal, abusive and copyrighted content, whereas Telegram users are most acknowledged while reporting such content through in-app buttons, and an Abuse Notification Channel.

Notes for Editors

The CMR Social Safe study is based on an extensive primary consumer survey covering 1500 consumers spread across the top eight cities of India, viz., Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.

For results based on a randomly chosen sample of this size, there is 95% confidence that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 3% of what they would be if the entire population had been surveyed.