Since its launch in 2013, Telegram has gained immense popularity around the world. Messenger app downloaded 1 billion times. India, Indonesia and Russia are the countries with the most installs. During the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took to Telegram to address his country. Even for terrorists, Telegram has become their ‘app of choice’!
But how did Telegram get so big? Here’s a brief history of Telegram, explaining the idea, popularity and relevance of Telegram today.
Who founded Telegram?
Pavel Durov and Nikolai Durov are the founders and owners of messaging app Telegram. The two brothers still live in Russia, they founded Telegram in 2013. Famous as Russian Mark Zuckerberg, Pavel Durov, like the Matrix character Neo, is known for his unique sense of dress, as he only wears the color “black”. We are on a mission to provide the world with safe and anonymous communications. But his techno journey to his utopian dream wasn’t always easy.
A little inside story
The year is 2006. Pavel Durov fresh out of St. Petersburg State University designed VKontakte, a social platform, also known as VK, which means “in touch” in Russian. Originally conceived as a platform for college students, VKontakte became popular among the general public and began welcoming all users. Seeing this, Nikolai Durov, Pavel’s older brother, joins as Chief Technology Officer. The Durov brothers work together to achieve one goal. In other words, create a version of Facebook for Russian cyberspace, but only faster and better.
VK had all the features that a typical Facebook user would be familiar with: user profiles, direct messages, a wall for posting content, and most importantly displaying a user’s personal information. Pavel considered this website a non-anonymous extension of the university forum spbgu.ru (also created by him), available only by invitation from other users. As VK quickly became popular, the app removed the invitation requirement and user numbers began to skyrocket.
VK gains momentum
In less than a year, VK has overthrown domestic rival Odnoklassniki to become the most popular social network in Russian cyberspace. Odnoklassniki founder Albert Popov attributed this sudden explosion of popularity in part to his VK’s willingness to tolerate explicit content and piracy. While Odnoklassniki focused on connecting middle-aged people with former schoolmates, VK has evolved into a one-stop-shop platform catering to young people and hipsters. Users visited his VK to connect with old friends, find new friends, and look for jobs. It was YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify all rolled into one.
Trouble begins with VK
By the early 2010s, VK had over 100 million users. Its wide range attracted the attention of the Russian government. In December 2011, a wave of protests against the results of parliamentary elections swept the country. In an attempt to save the situation, the Federal Security Service has asked VK to shut down groups and pages that use the site to coordinate and rally protests. Pavel responded to their request by posting a photo of a dog in a hooded jacket sticking out its tongue.