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Telegram adds paid tier as it cracks 700 million users

Without so much as a mention of encryption, but with a pastel-hued emoji-heavy nod to ‘sustainable monetization’

Messaging app Telegram, which came to prominence for offering end-to-end encryption that irritated governments, has celebrated passing 700 million active monthly users with a pastel-hued announcement: a paid Premium tier of service.

A Sunday post celebrates the 700 million user milestone by announcing a $4.99/month tier. The Premium tier distinguishes itself from the freebie plebeian tier with the ability to upload 4GB files, unthrottled downloads that come as fast as users' carriers will allow, and the chance to follow up to 1000 channels, create up to 20 chat folders each containing up to 200 chats, and to run four accounts in the Telegram app.

Paying punters will also get exclusive stickers and reactions and won't see ads once they sign up to hand over coin each month.

The post does not mention encryption even once, and only uses the word "security" once – and then as a reference to the menu introducing an automatic archiving feature.

Telegram's new custom app icons

Premium users can add these custom icons to their Home Screen ‘to better match their personality or wallpaper’. Click to enlarge.

This is not, therefore, your father's Telegram – the app that Russia tried to shut down for offering terrorists a secure communications channel, Iran tried to force into hosting data onshore to bring it within reach of local authorities, and Pakistan has labelled a threat to social order.

But it is an app that offers macOS users a chance to create custom animated emoji, lets developers add a demonstration video to bots they create to run quizzes or accept payments, and promises animations will run at 120 frames per second, so will appear wonderfully smooth.

The post also states that Telegram will keep adding features for Premium and free users "and do it faster than any other massively popular app."

"Today is an important day in the history of Telegram – marking not only a new milestone, but also the beginning of Telegram's sustainable monetization," the post states, before reassuringly continuing "We believe that Telegram's development should be driven primarily by its users, not advertisers. This way our users will always remain our main priority."

All of which suggests Telegram is focussed on competition with WhatsApp and TikTok and satisfying investors – but not competing with the likes of secure messaging app Signal or doing things that are red flags to governments.

However, the app retains its encryption features, so if these new features bring in more Telegram users the product's past problems could proliferate – and authorities will have to figure out what animated emoji really mean. ®

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