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Signal downloads skyrocket 4200% after WhatsApp announced mandatory sharing of users data with Facebook

Someone’s loss is someone’s gain, especially when it comes to consumers, for as the saying goes – the customer is the king; it is another matter altogether that lately, this saying has been losing its sheen.

However, the customers may have emerged as a winner in the battle of customer data, privacy terms and conditions, since WhatsApp announced that it would force users to share personal data with Facebook, has not been taken very kindly.

Signal saw a phenomenal rise and millions of downloads globally as a direct outcome of WhatsApp changed privacy policy and update, including the contentious change of linking data of WhatsApp users to Facebook’s other products and services.

Signal is a California based messaging app, whose co-founder incidentally is also the co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton – in his one of the many statements had pointed out that he found What’s App’s new privacy policy “very confusing” and “hard to follow.”

The WhatsApp Battle 

WhatsApp had, on January 6, declared that the users would have to agree to let Facebook and its subsidiaries collect WhatApp data – which included phone numbers and location sharing – this they told the users would have to happen by February 8, coercion of sort, or lose access to the App.

However, this has not gone down well with the users and has created quite a stir, with many coming out in disagreement with the updated privacy policy.

WhatsApp, on its part, issued a clarification that the updated privacy policy was only applicable for the users outside the European Union and the UK and added that the change “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way.”

The surge in Signal Towers 

Data collected from the App – analytics Sensor Tower shows that Signal saw a massive spike in its user numbers following WhatsApp’s announcement.

It skyrocketed 4200%, saw 7.5 million downloads last week, and as it turns out, India was the biggest source of downloads.

This led the co-founder Brian Acton to acknowledge the role India played to up its market; in a statement, he said, “I think the Indian market has completely exceeded all expectations and the growth in the past few days has driven the company to add capacity to meet the burgeoning demand.”

Although Acton did not disclose details of the number of users or the addition in users seen in the last few days, he mentioned that Signal has been topping the iOS App Store in 40 countries and is number one in 18 countries on Google Play.

Striking Gold 

Signal has less than 50 employees; however, this has not stopped the company from shining as it steps into the spotlight.

The story goes that Acton, who had co-founded WhatsApp with Jan Koum in 2009, quit the company because he did not see eye – to – eye over how Facebook should monetize WhatsApp. 

He later went on to co-found Signal with Moxie Marlinspike in 2014, a non – profit, cross-platform end – to – end encrypted messaging service that allows users to have one – on- one conversations and group chats.

Acton has spoken on WhatsApp, Facebook update and has termed it as “complicated” and said that it is difficult for an average user to understand what WhatsApp/Facebook are doing, wanting to do, and why they are doing it.

Difference between the WhatsApp Model and Signal Model

Although both WhatsApp and Signal were co-founded by the same man, Brian Acton, as Acton points out himself, Signal scores over WhatsApp in the privacy category.

He mentioned that Signal has privacy features too, disappearing messages, and more; everything is encrypted, including metadata.

He also mentioned that Signal is called private Messenger in all their store listings. Privacy is highlighted and outlined in many places, as one uses the App.

Acton also highlighted that Signal policy is that “we have no information at all,” which keeps people and users safe and secure. This is the type of tool in utility and communication that he wants to adopt and keep safe.

Signal’s Business plan and Future planning

Signal operates on a non – profit structure, donations and grants business model that is free for all. It is focused on growing its users and making sure that they have enough donors to work with and, if needed giving them a useful tool to provide Signal with a donation if they prefer.

 

For sustaining in the long term – cultivation of large donors, starting with a $50 million investment, Acton mentioned that the company is not looking to get another investment. Instead, it would focus that the company builds a strong foundation and relationship with its users through the product’s features and capabilities. People give donations voluntarily.

Signal’s plan for India

Signal plans for India are extensive; the App already supports 12 different languages from Hindi, Urdu, and more.

Acton, in his words, “India is such a strong representation of the world that if you build for India, you build for the world.”

Signal plans to incorporate many more feature requests from India that have found their way to the company headquarters.

Signal saw 2.3 million installs in India – more than 30 % of its total new installs. 

Meanwhile, WhatsApp is in damage control mode and brought out full-page ads in all leading dailies explaining what has changed with the latest update as part of the outreach.

Earlier this week, in a blog post, WhatsApp emphasized that it does not share user’s data contact lists or data of groups with Facebook for advertisement purposes.

WhatsApp has over 400 million users in India. A reduction in its users here would impact its business as India also constitutes one of the biggest markets globally.

However, for now, it seems that WhatsApp may have indeed damaged its most significant market and self – sabotaged its prospects in one of the biggest debates currently in the world – about data privacy and sharing of user information with yet another giant – Facebook.

 

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