Signal Surges 5200%, Fuelled by Elon Musk

As WhatsApp announced its new privacy policy on 8th Jan, Signal saw a 5200% surge in downloads in India, following Elon Musk’s Emblematic Tweet.

While that growth came off of a small base - 0.1% Reach on 1st Jan, 2021 - by 13th Jan, 2021, about 5.34% of Indian Smartphone users had installed Signal. 

Where 1% reach equals roughly 4.5 million users, Signal gained roughly 24 million users just in India!


Telegram, on the other hand, already enjoyed a decent reach (~28%) even before the “contentious” announcement; even so, it saw a ~5% increase in penetration since.

WhatsApp is a great service. In fact, when people purchase a new phone, it is literally the first app they install. And yes, there’s data behind that statement.

Even so, with nearly 400 million Monthly Active Users in India, the resulting dip in WhatsApp has still been negligible (approx. -0.03%).

Don’t be surprised though. WhatsApp is the embodiment of network effects. What binds us to the platform is the fact that our personal & professional life - happens to be on WhatsApp. 

Conveniently, Signal has shared how to migrate groups from WhatsApp… 

A Signal of the Times to Come?

Telegram remained more or less static in terms of Daily Active Users (DAU), between the 1st and 2nd week of January, whereas Signal saw a sharp rise of 220% over the same period.

A deep dive into Signal’s usage metrics is in line with what you may expect of any app experiencing a huge influx of new users – Session Time (time spent on the platform in a day), as well as Open Rates, saw a significant dip since 8th Jan. This might be what you expect to see during a period of switch over or trial.


Telegram and WhatsApp don’t show any significant change in open rates and session times. YET.

WhatsApp plays a key role in Facebook's long-term strategy. They’re in damage control mode with a series of "redressals", ranging from full page print ads, to “status” updates, and most significantly, delaying the migration to the new policy (to 15th May from the previous 8th Feb). 

What does this mean for Facebook?

For Facebook, we (the users) are the products, and the best way to monetize us is via advertisements. To do that most efficiently, they need data. 

The uproar around Privacy isn’t just about WhatsApp. It follows a global backlash against Tech giants - the effect of content personalization on the news, shared truths and democratic values.

There are other ways for Facebook to monetize WhatsApp apart from Advertising - payments are one. Whether they’re able to, will depend on them being able to make a larger shift towards other modes of generating revenue, allaying user fears and growing Anti-Trust regulation around the world.


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