Messaging platform Telegram received a significant update today that brings three major features: video messaging, bot payments, and something the company calls Instant View.
First up is video messaging which users can access with a tap of the mic icon to switch to camera mode. Tapping and holding the camera icon begins recording up to a minute-long video, which Telegram claims is compressed and transmitted while you record to make the whole process feel snappy. In addition to this new feature the app now offers a hands-free mode for both videos and voice notes — you just need to swipe up while recording and once you’re done it’s now possible to replay the clip before sending it.
The feature is also being extended to channels, Telegram’s broadcasting feature for one-way communication with followers. These videos will also be made available through URLs called Telescopes so popular videos can now be shared to other platforms beyond Telegram.
Next up is Payments for Bots. The platform introduced chatbots nearly two years ago, and now it is opening up the functionality so brands can sell you their products or services — order a pizza, buy clothes or even pay your bills. The transactions are being handled by Stripe and Apple Pay. If this sounds familiar, Facebook implemented a similar system on its Messenger platform late last year.
Lastly, Instant View is essentially Telegram’s version of Google's AMP and Facebook's Instant Articles, allowing users to view quick-loading articles directly from within the Telegram app. Telegram is launching the Instant View Platform so anyone can create templates for their favorite websites, so website owners don’t have to do the heavy lifting themselves. These templates are sets of rules that tell a parser bot where to find useful content and what to ignore when presenting articles in a uniform and easily readable format when shared on the platform. To encourage Instant View adoption, the company is holding a contest with a $250,000 prize for those who work to enable Instant View for as many sites as possible.
Telegram bills itself as a secure messaging alternative to WhatsApp and it’s built a large user base on the back of these claims — occasionally seeing a spike in downloads when rival platforms suffer an outage.
Many encryption and security experts have refuted Telegram’s security claims, arguing that they use a homegrown encryption protocol that hasn’t been verified by cryptographers, and that it doesn’t even encrypt chats by default as their marketing campaigns might lead you to believe.
If you’re looking to communicate securely, Signal is probably your best bet followed by WhatsApp, which uses the same end-to-end encryption protocol but collects some metadata. That said Telegram is still a convenient, well-designed, cross-platform and feature packed option that’s worth a look.