Now that the coronavirus pandemic has made video calls increasingly popular and critical, services like Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp and Telegram are vying for attention. Telegram seems to think it can get ahead by focusing on security. Today, the messaging app announced that it will offer secure group video calls sometime this year.
“Video calls in 2020 are much like messaging in 2013. There are apps that are either secure or usable, but not both. We'd like to fix that,” Telegram wrote in a blog post.
While Telegram didn’t release many details about the feature, it appears to be taking a dig at Zoom, which is facing pressure to fix several privacy issues. In response, Zoom has created a security council and promised upgrades, but that won’t stop competitors from taking advantage of its blunders.
Telegram does have a solid track record. It’s one of our most trusted messaging apps. It lets users retroactively delete messages, and during the Hong Kong protests it added a feature to better protect users’ identities. The service says it now has 400 million monthly users, up from 300 million a year ago. That’s not insignificant, but compared to Zoom, which just reached 300 million daily users, it’s a much smaller slice of the pie.
We don’t know yet how many users will be able to join Telegram’s group video calls at once. For reference, WhatsApp just increased the number of people its video chats can support from four to eight. We also don’t know exactly when the service will be ready, but chances are the need for secure group video calls is only going to become more pressing.