In China, WeChat may dominate the virtual communication market, but there is room for competing applications, albeit modest. After the release of the new rules imposed by WhatsApp, postponed for the time being, Signal and Telegram have witnessed a significant growth in the number of users on the platforms, something that follows trends seen in other parts of the world.
According to research firm Sensor Tower, while the first totaled 9,000 new downloads between January 8th and 12th (an increase of 500% compared to the period from January 3rd to 7th), the second was downloaded at least 17,000 times on the same days mentioned, movement 6% higher than in the previous ones. On the other hand, adherence to WhatsApp stagnated, limited to 10,000 downloads in both periods.
In the general scenario, according to the company, Telegram reached 2.7 million installations in the Asian country, Signal 458,000 and WhatsApp 9.5 million.
Censorship and artifice
The biggest Western messaging apps are not censored there. While Google’s services are largely blocked in the region, users use tools to bypass the big firewall and install encrypted messengers.
To legally operate in China, companies must store their data locally and submit information to authorities for spot-on security checks, in accordance with a cybersecurity law enacted in 2017. A Apple, for example, partners with a local cloud provider to store its Chinese users’ data.
The biggest challenges for apps like Signal in China, according to Charlie Smith of Great Fire, an organization that monitors the Chinese internet, will come from Apple, which is constantly criticized by investors and activists.
“THE Apple has a history of preemptive censorship of apps that they believe authorities would like to be censored,” noted Smith. Apple in China will run out of secure messaging options.”