WhatsApp's 256-limit pushing users to Telegram groups

WhatsApp's 256-limit pushing users to Telegram groups

Is Telegram a potential WhatsApp killer? Not in the immediate future, as its globally spread 200 million Monthly Average User (MAU) base is matched by WhatsApp's 200 million Indian MAU.

Yet, Indian users are shifting in droves to Telegram for a reason: its groups allow up to a lakh members, incomparably higher than WhatsApp's limit of 256.

The trend is particularly pronounced in groups active in Bengaluru. Citizen activist groups, with a high membership growth, find Telegram the right messaging platform to be focused and escape the troublesome WhatsApp forwards. But the big reason, as social media analyst Tinu Cherian points out, is to tide over the 256-member limit.

Spam-control might be WhatsApp's excuse. But Cherian says 256 is too small a number. "We are all constrained by this limit. WhatsApp should explore better means to throttle spams. It is like as if Facebook decides that you can only post five times a day," he notes.

WhatsApp's membership restriction has forced many political leaders with a massive following to start parallel Telegram groups. However, there is a catch, as Srinivas Alavilli from Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) points out: "Not everyone is keen to download the Telegram App only for, say, CfB discussions. WhatsApp is still the go-to app for chatting among friends and families."

However, this could change once Telegram reaches a critical mass. Since multimedia sharing is an intensive activity on WhatsApp, the messaging app's restrictions on the file-sharing size could pose problems. Reason: images and videos are getting heavier with 4K cameras getting standardised on smartphones. File size limit is almost non-existent on Telegram.

Founded by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov in 2013, Telegram has been quicker than WhatsApp in adopting new technologies. For instance, Telegram was the first to offer expressions called 'stickers', conveying much more than the traditional emojis smartphone users are used to. WhatsApp was forced to play catch-up.

Telegram's desktop integration is much more seamless than WhatsApp, points out Alavilli. "With WhatsApp, your phone has to be switched on. But Telegram continues to work on your PC even if your phone is off."

Besides, Telegram allows users to conduct a poll inside a group. "It is way ahead of WhatsApp in collaborations. Suppose we have a disagreement on when to hold a volunteer group meeting. We can conduct a poll with Friday, Saturday or Sunday as options," he explains.