Chat app Telegram challenges Meta by launching new ‘Business’ features and revenue sharing

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Messaging app Telegram is gearing up to take on WhatsApp and Meta’s Messenger with a new set of features aimed at businesses, as well as support for ad revenue sharing. Officially launched this weekend after a previous announcement, Telegram Business introduces options like a personalized homepage, plus the ability to set business hours, use default replies, greeting and away messages, chatbots, chat tags and more .

Meanwhile, public Telegram channels with at least 1,000 subscribers can now generate 50% of revenue from ads displayed on their channels.

The features came just weeks after Telegram founder Pavel Durov told the Financial Times in an interview that he expected the app, which now has over 900 million users, to become profitable by 2025.

Telegram Business is obviously part of that push, leading to an upcoming IPO, as it is an offering that requires users to subscribe to the paid Premium version to access.

Telegram Premium is a bundle of enhanced features that costs $4.99 per month on iOS and Android and is also available as a three-month, six-month, or one-year plan. (Premium can also be purchased in-app, via @PremiumBot on Android, Desktop and Mac. This comes at a discounted rate, as Telegram doesn’t have to share a commission with app stores.)

As of December 2022, Telegram Premium topped the first million subscribers. In January 2024, Durov announced that Premium had grown to 5 million subscribers, after reaching 4 million just a month earlier, indicating that subscriber growth is accelerating.

Telegram Business is likely to give Premium another shot as it offers tools and features that can be used by business customers without needing to know how to code.

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For example, businesses can choose to display their hours of operation and location on a map, and greet customers with a custom chat landing page where they can choose the text and sticker users see before starting a chat. . Similar to the features available on WhatsApp, Telegram Business will offer “quick replies”, which are shortcuts to predefined messages that support formatting, links, media, stickers and files.

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Businesses can also set their own custom greeting messages for customers engaging with the company for the first time, and they can specify a period after which the greeting will appear again. They can manage their availability using remote messaging when the business is closed or the owner is on vacation.

Plus, businesses can categorize their chats using color-coded labels based on the chat folders they’re in, such as delivery, claim, orders, VIP, reviews or anything else that is meaningful to them.

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In addition, businesses can create chat links that will instantly open a Telegram chat with a request to take an action such as tracking an order or reserving a table, among others. Business customers can also add Telegram bots, including those from other tools or AI assistants, to respond to messages on their behalf.

The company said more features will be rolled out to Telegram Business in future updates.

Durov hinted at what these might involve, having told the FT earlier this month that Telegram aims to launch AI-powered chatbots for business users.

Overall, the features could bring competition in a market where Meta apps like Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp have an impact on business communication. Even Apple has carved out a small niche in this space, with its Apple Messages for Business used by companies like Shopify, Aramark, Four Seasons, Harry & David, Delta, American Express, Dish, Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo, West Elm, Kimpton Hotels, Vodafone Germany and others.

Although access to Telegram’s new business features requires a Premium subscription, there is no additional cost beyond that to enable the new options. (They can be found in Settings > Telegram Business in the app.)

Beyond making money through Premium subscriptions, the company generates revenue through advertising on Telegram; recently it announced ad revenue sharing using toncoin (a token on the TON blockchain). Now, the company has started the revenue sharing program, it said on Sunday.

Telegram previously experimented with the TON blockchain to auction usernames and launched a crypto wallet in all markets outside the US



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