Facebook was down for over 12 hours, starting yesterday and running into the early hours of this morning.
For those who are hooked to the service – which is almost everyone who accesses the internet in the country – that meant several hours away from all the gossip, group chats and whatnot.
Even worse, the outage started at prime time in Kenya, when everyone has just got home from work or school and went on when hot UEFA Champions League fixtures were on, a time that usually sees increased activity on social media among football fans.
The outage wasn’t limited to just Facebook’s main application, it also affected all services that run by it. Like Tinder and Spotify. The two apps have an option that allows users to sign up using their Facebook account and, subsequently, that becomes their primary mode of signing in. It also extended to other Facebook properties: popular apps Instagram and WhatsApp.
One thing is common across all the popular Facebook properties: messaging. Facebook’s main app has chat built in (though it exists today as a separate product, Messenger) while chatting is the main pre-occupation of all of us who can’t live without WhatsApp. Instagram, which is centred around visual content, also lets users chat privately. So now, what happens when users of such apps can’t access them and keep their communication going?
They will look for alternatives, of course. 12-14 hours is quite a long time to not be in touch with the people that matter the most to you. Heck, even Facebook had to turn to another service, Twitter, to confirm the outage and assure its users that it was working on fixing things.
So, look for alternatives they did and guess who was the main beneficiary?
Yes, Telegram, that application that we always care to document new features it introduces every time it is updated, seems to have caught the attention of who turned to it in the wake of Facebook’s outage.
According to Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov, the messenger app gained 3 million users over the 24-hour period during which Facebook’s outage also took place.
“We have true privacy and unlimited space for everyone,” Durov added, alluding to Telegram’s optional end-to-end encryption which was in place long before Facebook’s WhatsApp implemented it. The app also has a built-in self-destructing message feature that not only deletes chats after the set time has elapsed, but also logs and notifies the other party when a screen grab of the conversation is taken.
This is not the first time that Telegram, which has built a reputation for itself as being privacy-focused in the wake of accusations of privacy violations on Facebook-owned platforms, is benefiting from Facebook outages.
Spurred by the need to stay in touch, Brazilians took to Telegram in their millions in December 2015 when a judge banned WhatsApp in their country. Telegram registered 1.5 million new users within hours of the decision being effected in the world’s 5th largest country by population.
In February 2014, when WhatsApp went down for 4 hours, nearly 5 million people signed up for Telegram. Earlier that month, another occurrence, WhatApp’s acquisition by Facebook, had seen the nascent service net 8 million app downloads and top app stores in several countries.