This is a question that isn’t simply answered with a yes or no because a lot of factors are involved here. Now, to set the tone lets begin with the question,
“Telegram and Signal have been in existence for around six years but why weren’t they as popular as WhatsApp (which boasts around 2 billion monthly active users) despite having many functionalities that eclipse those offered by the latter?”
This question begins to give perspective on an answer to our hypothetical question. In a tech world in most cases, it always about who came first rather than who came later with better tech. Now WhatsApp came as one of the mature android messenger apps as we moved from the age of Nimbuzz, Mxit, BBM that were on different platforms like Symbian, Samsung TouchWiz. This early existence gave WhatsApp an edge as some phones were coming with WhatsApp preinstalled and this made it a household name before many players had saturated the game.
Now to make matters worse for the competition looking specifically at the Zimbabwean technology landscape major ISPs thus, Econet, NetOne and Telecel brought a “WhatsApp Bundle” which was a cheap WhatsApp access package. This alone made it easier for almost everyone to access and use WhatsApp as compared to existing alternatives. Now I can ask again would you move to an alternative messenger application like Signal or Telegram even if it means you’re now using a bit expensive data packages as compared to when you were using WhatsApp? To this question, you may respond the ISPs must just create a “Telegram or Signal bundle.”
That might be a step in making Telegram and Signal or any alternative accessible but can I quickly remind you of “Sasai”. It came out with a massive campaign with many free gifts upon registration, many cool features too and the “bundle package” but its adoption to date hasn’t been very smooth. People were like yes “Sasai” is cool and more serving on the Zimbabwean field but we are “WhatsApp guys.” This tells us massive adoption is a cake with many ingredients that must be mixed perfectly to be achieved.
Then turn back a few years ago Zimbabwe had a nationwide data network blackout and with the usage of VPNs people migrated to Telegram but as soon as the network went life again people dumped Telegram for what they’re used to which is WhatsApp. Now looking at why you can realize all age groups are now well versed with WhatsApp despite age which brings a lot of convenience in terms of communication. Teaching or allowing everyone to learn these other alternate applications will take time and for that period are you willing to not communicate with your loved ones? Are we willing to remove this tool from our daily lives considering the business is now also was being done on that platform? The most probable answer is NO meaning you will not do away with WhatsApp that easily.
At times monster functionalities of these alternative applications just rub people in the wrong way like recently someone asked me “What would I want with a group with 200000 people?” Obviously, that was Telegram in the talk, the vast functionalities and customizations to some fanatics are fantastic but to some come as huge bloatware. Imagine a baby being introduced to a 5 Michelin star buffet just after birth that’s how it’ll be for some users who’ll jump ship. With WhatsApp at least people got to see it grow and move with it every added functionality and tips on how to best use it. That alone will have a number staying loyal to WhatsApp.
Now last but not least, “How many are informed, who know why masses are leaving WhatsApp, who know the privacy risks associated with Facebook and its partnered products and more so who even care about their privacy, to begin with?”
To honestly answer this a few people read through any terms and conditions when they sign up for any application or program. People don’t care at times and that blind eye community will stay with WhatsApp and those who are informed, “Does quitting WhatsApp alone but keeping engaged in other Facebook products e.g., Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, Oculus etc. make any realizable change in your online privacy?” This ends up with a conundrum where one can’t leave without all of the aforementioned Facebook products for social or business purpose and they just give in since one way or the other Facebook is linked to their online life.
To close off I would say it is highly unlikely people will leave WhatsApp permanently it has already attached its roots to our lives in a way that if ever it’ll happen will take time to fully severe ties. But with people like Elon Musk and Edward Snowden advocating for alternative applications like Signal who knows.
Article written by Dumisani Mukuchura