WhatsApp, Telegram, Threema: Messenger in comparison

Cologne –

Is WhatsApp still trendy or is Telegram now attracting more users? We show the similarities and differences between the two messenger services and clarify questions about functions, data protection and Co.

  • WhatsApp and Telegram in comparison
  • What do channels at Telegram offer?
  • Data protection with WhatsApp and Telegram

A life without Messenger is now almost unthinkable for most people. We use the apps every day, sometimes even for several hours at a time.

But how do the two services WhatsApp and Telegram, which are particularly popular in Germany, differ? The messenger apps in the large EXPRESS check.

Messenger apps: WhatsApp and Telegram

The instant messaging service (English: instant messaging between two or more participants), WhatsApp, founded in 2009, is currently the most popular in the world.

WhatsApp has been part of Facebook since 2014 and is now used by around 2 billion people. WhatsApp is still number one among the messenger apps, closely followed by Facebook Messenger with 1.3 billion users worldwide and the Chinese messenger app WeChat with 1.2 billion users.

Readers can also reach the EXPRESS editorial team via WhatsApp.

You can reach the EXPRESS via WhatsApp on the mobile number 01713387655.


picture alliance / dpa (symbol photo)

WhatsApp users primarily appreciate the ease of use and of course the large number of users.

But the community is also growing at Telegram – at the beginning of January 2021, the company broke the 500 million active users mark. Telegram founder Pawel Durow announced on January 12th that there had been 25 million new registrations within the last 72 hours alone.

The main reason for this is likely to have been the announced amendment to WhatsApp’s terms and conditions, with which WhatsApp can now expressly transmit data to Facebook (more below).

Other messenger alternatives, such as Signal and Threema, have also experienced an upswing after the WhatsApp announcement of new terms of use, as the digital magazine t3n writes.

Telegram: Chats are cloud-based

Telegram is a company owned by the Russian brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durow. As with WhatsApp, text messages, voice messages, photos, videos and documents can also be sent via Telegram.

The handling at Telegram is also similar to WhatsApp. With both services it is possible to communicate with each other via private messages, but also in group chats.

In contrast to WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based, which means that users can access content on mobile devices as well as on their computer. In addition, infinitely large amounts of files can be sent via this service.

Sounds practical at first, but the messenger service uses client-server encryption for all private and group chats, which enables Telegram to access the content of the chats via the server and, in theory, to forward them.

In addition, Telegram stores phone numbers as well as first and last names of contacts from the address book when the contact synchronization is used. Without access to the address book – unlike Android – it is not possible to start a chat with iOS, as reported by the consumer advice center.

WhatsApp chats are end-to-end encrypted

WhatsApp can also be opened as a web version in the browser, but the capacity of the content to be sent is limited here, as this is usually done by the smartphone.

WhatsApp is regularly criticized for its data protection. The company also initially did not allow end-to-end encryption. Since 2016, WhatsApp has been protecting messages with end-to-end encryption as standard – provided both chat participants have the latest version of the app installed.

The end-to-end encryption ensures that no one can read chats, not even WhatsApp itself.

WhatsApp: criticism of new terms of use

Since WhatsApp has been part of Facebook Inc. since 2014, the company is managed by a billion-dollar Internet giant. Since 2016, the WhatsApp data protection guidelines have allowed user data to be passed on to Facebook.

This should be possible for advertising purposes. According to its own statement, the US company is currently not using the WhatsApp account information for advertising purposes, at least in Germany, reports the consumer advice center (as of February 2021).

WhatsApp also works with « forced updates » in this context. On January 4, 2021, the company changed its terms of use and privacy policy and asks users for their consent.

At its core, it is about the exchange of data and the use of user data within the Facebook group and for companies that use WhatsApp. If you do not agree to the change, you will no longer be able to use the Messenger app as usual in the future.

Telegram: Protect data with secret chats

At Telegram, there is very little transparency about the company itself. Telegram also has no data protection declaration in German.

However, the so-called “secret chats” at Telegram should be positively emphasized. Within this, messages are only visible to the sender and recipient. Telegram cannot access the content there. At the same time, only these secret chats, which have to be specially selected, guarantee end-to-end encryption. They are not available for group discussions.

Since Telegram’s secret chats are not cloud-based, they can only be called up on the device on which the messages were sent or received. Another function of the secret chat is the ability to self-destruct messages after a certain period of time.

WhatsApp and Telegram are free and ad-free

An advantage of WhatsApp and Telegram: Both services can be used without advertising, so they do not contain any annoying advertising blocks between chats.

Messenger apps are available free of charge for Android, iOS and Windows Phone in the popular app stores. WhatsApp can also be used via macOS and Windows.

WhatsApp and Telegram: differences

Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram also offers users the option of subscribing to channels. The Telegram channels are accessible to an unlimited number of subscribers who can use this function to subscribe to messages, if necessary in the form of push messages.

Sending the « broadcast » messages, which are sent simultaneously to all subscribers of a channel, is reserved only for the administrators of the respective channel.

A distinction must be made between public and private channels. Public channels can be found and subscribed to by any Telegram user using the channel’s username.

Private channels, on the other hand, are only accessible to selected people, they must be added by the creator or join via an invitation link.

EXPRESS sends the latest news from Cologne and the world on Telegram.

On Telegram, EXPRESS sends the latest news from Cologne, the Rhineland and the world directly to your smartphone.


picture alliance / dpa / TASS (symbol photo)

We at EXPRESS also send messages via our public Telegram channel, primarily breaking news from the categories News, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Sport, Celebrities, etc.

Simply click on the Express Telegram Channel and join directly.

Here you will find an overview of all EXPRESS social media channels.

In order to start conversations with its subscribers as a channel owner, Telegram also offers the function of discussion groups. Channel admins can expand their channel with a discussion group. Each new post from the channel would then be automatically forwarded to the discussion group. EXPRESS does not currently use a discussion group.

Facebook Messenger without end-to-end encryption

The social network Facebook now connects almost 1.9 billion users worldwide. 349 million of them in Europe alone.

The platform offers numerous opportunities to communicate and exchange ideas with one another. This also includes the messenger function, which enables you to chat with one or more participants. Some portals, news services and the like also offer the option of subscribing to push notifications via Facebook Messenger.

The messenger either requires a profile on Facebook or the specification of a mobile phone number in order to be able to use the app. By default, there is no end-to-end encryption of the chats, notes the consumer advice center.

However, encryption can be activated for conversations with only two participants. This option is not available for group chats.

In the data protection declaration, Facebook states that “content, communications and other information” are recorded. This also includes exchanging messages and communicating with others.

According to Facebook, the information is used, among other things, for advertising that is geared towards the interests of the user. Even if encryption is activated in the individual chat, so-called “metadata” is generated, which can also be used for personalization.

Threema: alternative to WhatsApp and Telegram

In a comparison of several messenger services, the consumer center comes to the conclusion that only the Threema app can be used without any personal information.

How does this work? The Swiss company assigns a randomly generated ID under which you are displayed to other users.

But users can also choose their own name. According to its own information, Threema only stores your telephone number and / or e-mail address on request and in encrypted form.

To find friends, the app can match the phone numbers or email addresses of your contacts. However, the data from the private address book is not stored permanently, it is only a temporary encryption or pseudonymization technique, after which the data is deleted.

The only small drawback to Threema: To be able to use the app, there is a one-time fee of around four euros in the common app stores. (jba / jbo)

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