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Forget Zoom — Telegram is adding group video calls next month

The Telegram logo on an iPhone.
(Image credit: NurPhoto / Getty Images)

Telegram is about to take on the likes of Zoom and Skype. All thanks to a new update that promises to add group video calls and video conferencing to the private messaging app.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov announced this news on his personal Telegram channel yesterday afternoon, noting the update won’t just affect the mobile app either, with web-based video conferencing also on the way.

Despite everything that’s happened during the coronavirus pandemic, and the rise in popularity of services like Zoom, Telegram has been incredibly slow to adapt. 

In fact Telegram only added support for video calls last August, so it’s been very slow off the mark in this respect. Especially since the other best encrypted messaging apps have been offering these features for years.

Zoom has moved faster, but has been criticised for its poor handling of security and its seeming reluctance to offer end-to-end encryption to free users.

But things are changing for Telegram and Durov promises that Telegram will be getting “everything you can expect from a modern video conferencing tool." That includes screen sharing, encryption, noise-cancelling, desktop and tablet support, but bundled into Telegram’s own UI, speed, and encryption.

The only question we have is whether the group video calls will be end-to-end encrypted, and whether it will be switched on by default. Because that’s not the case with its instant messaging, with users forced to switch on the “secret chats” function for every individual contact.

Fortunately Telegram’s solo video calls were end-to-end encrypted, and hopefully that will be carried over to the group expansion. But the fact that there’s any amount of doubt shows that Telegram needs to try harder. Especially given criticisms and claims that Telegram’s custom brand of encryption may not be as secure as it could be.

It may be one of the best WhatsApp alternatives, but you can understand why people in the know tend to recommend the privacy-first Signal messenger instead.

Durov didn’t specify an exact date for the group video call rollout, just that it’s happening in May. So it could be anytime within the next week to the next month.