The messaging service Telegram, which claims to have around 500 million active users worldwide, is getting serious about introducing a payment model that has been under discussion for a year and a half. The “Telegram Premium” subscription function will be introduced in June, founder Pawel Durow announced on Friday on his own channel on the platform. He promised paying users “additional functions, speed and resources”.
Existing functions remain free
“Don’t worry,” Durow addresses all existing members of the Telegram community who want to continue communicating about it for free. “All existing functions remain free.” There would even be many new free features added. Users who have not subscribed to the premium version that has been in preparation since the end of 2020 would also enjoy a number of advantages: “For example, they can view extra-large documents, media and stickers sent by premium users”. It’s also possible to tap on reactions from paying customers “already pinned to a message to react in the same way.”
Durow has not yet given details of what premium users receive and what they have to spend on it. In the past few days, however, reports of a relevant beta version of the drilled app had already surfaced. It includes increased file upload size, faster download speeds, speech-to-text conversion, more stickers and emojis, and advanced chat management features. A monthly price of $4.99 per month was last discussed, although there could be regional differences.
Funded by users – not by advertisers
“To date, our limits for chats, media and file uploads are unmatched,” explains Durow. “Yet many have asked us to raise the current limits even further. So we thought about how we could let you go beyond what is already a great offer.” “If we were to remove all limits for everyone, our server and traffic costs would be unmanageable,” the 37-year-old points out. Then “the party would unfortunately be over for everyone”. The only way to “offer more to our most demanding fans” while at least keeping everything the same for the rest is through a paid add-on option.
Telegram has also experimented with “privacy-friendly advertising” in public channels, reported Durov, who is thought to be Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg. These were “more successful” than we had expected”. But he still believes that the service “should be funded primarily by its users and not by advertisers.” In this way, members would “always remain our main priority”. Telegram had recently resorted to external financing worth billions to pay for its own server bills alone.
Contacts and Complaints Procedure
The chat service has existed since 2013 and was initially particularly popular with opposition figures in authoritarian countries. In the meantime, however, he has come under the spotlight of German authorities, for example, because of questionable groups and criminal activities.
The new payment approach could also affect the dispute between the local judiciary and Telegram over the application of the Network Enforcement Act. The Federal Office of Justice has long complained that the provider has not named a contact person for authorities and has not set up a complaints procedure for criminal content. The operator faces penalties of up to 55 million euros. In order to enforce a possible fine, Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) can imagine intervening in the financial flows to the company. For this, however, it would first have to earn money.
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