This weekend the divisive new data sharing policy that WhatsApp began pushing at the beginning of the year takes effect. The poor communication surrounding that policy update in January saw a mass exodus of users from the instant messaging platform as they turned to Telegram and Signal as alternatives.
While the other two messaging services thrived in those early months of the year, the full impact that this update would have on WhatsApp was relatively unknown.
According to a new mobile growth report from research firm Sensor Tower, it looks like the mass exodus many were noting (including ourselves) may have been misinterpreted. This as WhatsApp still saw 172.3 million global installs between January and April despite that representing a 43 percent decline year-on-year.
During that same period, Telegram saw massive growth in installs at 98 percent year-on-year, resulting in a total number of installs at 161 million. Signal saw an even bigger surge during the first four months of 2021, with 1 192 percent year-on-year growth and 64.6 million total installs.
While Telegram and Signal can potentially catch up to WhatsApp in terms of installs, with time, the sheer scale of the platform means that it seems too big too fail at this stage. Unsurprising given that is has an estimated 2 billion monthly active users.
What could prove telling down the line is what will happen after the aforementioned 15th May deadline, where WhatsApp will slowly begin restricting access to features and tools, along with firing several notifications to users prompting them to update. It remains to be seen if that will prompt an actual mass exodus or whether frustrated users will simply acquiesce over time.
“However, the situation is still developing and made all the more complex by shifting user behavior. Parts of the world are beginning to reopen, while others are still besieged by the ongoing pandemic. As the circumstances continue to evolve, we will likely see changes to the way consumers message and the platforms they gravitate to,” she adds.
It looks like the initial outrage and exodus from WhatsApp may have done some damage to the brand, but for now, installs are still happening at a regular enough rate.