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Telegram: What it is and how to use it

The popularity of Telegram messaging platform increases when WhatsApp is outage or WhatsApp changes its privacy policies.

Fortunately, there is a social life beyond the Facebook fishing net. Telegram founder Pavel Durov claimed to have around 500 million active users in December 2020, and although that number has increased since then, it’s well below the supposed one and a half billion WhatsApp and Facebook.

But it does not matter. The highlight is that Telegram is one of the best encrypted messaging apps and offers a cloud-based, cross-platform distributed messaging app with no ads. Note that in most cases Telegram can read your messages.

Telegram is similar to Apple’s Messages, but more reliable, has dedicated apps for all platforms (PC, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS), and also lets you set up secret chats with self-destructing messages, a new level of privacy.

Telegram is not as secure as you think

However, Telegram has been widely criticized by information security experts, who say Telegram’s encryption has not been tested and is not secure enough to be used by political opponents and others who transmit highly confidential information. (This is despite Telegram being ISIS’s favorite messaging platform.)

Experts recommend using Signal or WhatsApp, which also use the Signal protocol. The main difference is that Telegram text chats are not end-to-end encrypted by default. Chats on Signal and WhatsApp.

This means that Telegram can read your messages and have to deliver them if the police knock on the door. (Telegram is legally based in London, but has some operations in Dubai, UAE.)

Telegram’s individual voice and video calls are encrypted end-to-end, but your group voice chats are not.

How to install Telegram

Telegram is very easy to set up and use. Here is a simple step-by-step guide:

1. Download the Telegram app

  • iPhone and iPad
  • android
  • Windows Phone (yes, even Windows Phone!)
  • Windows
  • Linux 64bit; Linux 32bit
  • Mac OS operating system; Mac App Store Version
  • Chrome browser extension
  • You can also use the web version.

Note: Before using the desktop versions of Telegram, you need to configure it using a mobile app.

2. Register your phone number

Immediately after doing this, Telegram sends an SMS text message to your phone with a code to verify the number. If you do not enter the verification code within three minutes, Telegram will call your phone.

3. Enter the SMS verification code

In the Telegram application, there will be a field where you enter the SMS verification code.

Screenshot of Telegram screen where you need to enter your verification code.

4. Telegram can call your phone

A robotic voice will read a five-digit code that you can then enter into the app.

5. Enter your name at least

Telegram requires you to at least provide your name. (It doesn’t have to be your real name.) You can also add an avatar for further personalization.

Other users can call you with your username without needing to know your phone number.

Screenshot of name setting screen in Telegram app for Android.

6. Allow Telegram to access your contacts

Unfortunately, you can’t just type a phone number and start texting. Before you can message anyone, you need to give Telegram permission to access your contacts. However, people who are not in your contacts can still invite you to Telegram chats.

Screenshots of Telegram communication permission process on Android.

7. (Optional) Allow Telegram to access your files and lock screen

Telegram will ask you to allow access to your photos, media and files before you can use the app to send photos and other files. It also wants to access the lock screen to show incoming calls.

You can skip these two options, but Telegram will be much more useful if you don’t.

Telegram does not require you to create a password or PIN to use the app. To access the Telegram app and your account, simply unlock your phone.

If someone else has access to your phone and can unlock it, that’s a problem. Set up a separate four-digit PIN to secure your Telegram account.

Go to the “hamburger” menu in the top left corner of the app and select Settings > Privacy & Security > Password Lock.

You will periodically need to enter PIN, ahem, “password” to continue using Telegram, but you can change the time before password entry is required.

However, be warned that if you forget the PIN, you will have to delete the Telegram app and start over. Secret Chats will disappear; Non-secret chats stored on Telegram servers should be recoverable.

Screenshots of password lock steps in Telegram app for Android.

9. (Optional) Add 2-Step Verification

You can also configure Telegram to require an alphanumeric password every time you log into a new device. (Note: This is not the same as two-factor authentication and does not provide the same amount of protection.)

Go to the “hamburger” menu in the upper left corner and select Settings > Privacy & Security > 2-Step Verification. Then set up 2-Step Verification in the same Privacy and Security section.

You’d better make a note of this password, because if you forget it, you’ll be limited to using Telegram on only one device.

Screenshots of the 2-step verification steps in the Telegram Android app.

How to use Telegram

Using Telegram to send a message is as easy as selecting a contact and starting typing.

Start a one-on-one chat on Telegram

Click the new message button (pen), choose a contact and start typing.

By default, all communications are encrypted between your device and Telegram servers and then Telegram servers and your contact, but Telegram can read your conversations.

Screenshot of Telegram app home screen.

Start a Telegram Group Chat

You can also create a new group conversation by clicking New Group and selecting multiple contacts from your contact list. Groups can contain up to 20,000 members, but cannot be end-to-end encrypted. Everything said in the group chat can be read by Telegram.

Telegram also offers group voice chats.

Screenshots of the steps to start a group chat in the Telegram app for Android.

Start a secret Telegram chat

Telegram has the ability to set up secret conversations with your friends.

Tap the pencil icon, then tap New Secret Chat to start a Secret Chat. Then select the person you want to Secret Chat with.

Secret Chat matches the privacy and security of WhatsApp or Signal because communications are fully encrypted from one device to another and Telegram cannot read your conversations.

Your phone’s screenshot functionality will be disabled during Secret Chats and messages sent during Secret Chats cannot be forwarded to other users. Also, you cannot access Secret Chat on a device other than the one you started it with.

Screenshots of how to start Secret Chat in Telegram app for Android.

(Optional) Set secret chats to self-destruct

Click on the three-dot menu in the upper right corner of the Secret Chat screen to set the self-destruct timer.

This means that every message you send during Secret Chat will have an expiration time before it disappears from the conversation. The timer can be set from one second to one week.

Screenshot of the self-destruct settings in the Telegram app for Android.

Join a Telegram channel

Channels are like radio stations that broadcast messages from a single source to an unlimited number of Telegram subscribers on those channels. However, you cannot reply to channel messages the same way you reply to a message posted on Twitter or Facebook.

Channels can post text, photos, videos, files, and podcasts. From March 2021, they can also host mass voice group chats, similar to Clubhouse. Channels can be public or private.

To subscribe to a public Telegram channel, tap the magnifying glass icon at the top of the Telegram homepage and enter the name of the channel you’re looking for.

Select the correct search result and you will see a preview of the latest posts in that channel. If it appeals to you, tap “Join” at the bottom of the screen.

Screenshot of Telegram channel search functionality in Android app.

Start a channel on Telegram

Starting a Telegram channel is as easy as starting a chat. Simply tap the pencil icon on the home screen and then tap “New Channel”.

You will need to give your new channel a name and can optionally provide a description.

Then you decide whether your channel is private or public. If it is public, any Telegram user can search for it by name; if it’s private, you’ll get a link that you can send to the people you want to invite.

Telegram does not publish lists of public Telegram channels, but you can use Google to find some. Here are some lists.

Screenshot of the steps to create a Telegram channel.

Start a Telegram voice or video call

Like WhatsApp, Telegram also allows you to make voice and video calls. Go to the “hamburger” menu in the upper left corner, tap Contacts and choose one from your contact list.

Tap that contact, tap the three vertical dots at the top of the screen that appears and select Call or Video call.

If you haven’t given Telegram permission to take photos, record audio and video yet, now is the time.

Screenshot of the Telegram screen where the voice or video call will be started.

Other great features of Telegram

The app has other privacy features. In the settings menu, you can choose to delete the payment or shipping information sent on every call you make.

The app also has the option to destroy your account and all related data – if you forget to do it yourself – if you haven’t used it for more than six months. You can change this to a month, three months or a year.

Screenshot of the self-destruct settings screen of the Telegram account in the Android app.

The “Anonymous forwarding” option, when enabled, ensures that only your name is displayed if someone forwards your messages. The name will not be linked to your account.

There’s more to learn, including customizing notifications for groups, channels, and private chats; font size, backgrounds, list mode and color themes for chats; and night mode, emojis and animations. It’s all in the Settings menu.

There’s a lot to talk about here, but now that we’ve provided the basics, try Telegram and have fun. (Antivirus maker Kaspersky has a long list of additional Telegram privacy options.) Note that it’s not as private as Signal or WhatsApp until you activate the incognito mode.


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Telegram: What it is and how to use it

The messaging platform Telegram’s popularity soars whenever there’s a WhatsApp outage or WhatsApp changes its privacy policies.
Fortunately, there’s social life beyond Facebook’s fishnet. Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, claimed in December 2020 that it had nearly 500 million active users, and while that number has grown since then, then it’s still well short of WhatsApp and Facebook’s alleged one-point-something billion.
But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Telegram is one of the best encrypted messaging apps, offering a cross-platform, cloud-based distributed messaging app that has no ads. Just bear in mind that in many cases, Telegram itself can read your messages.
Telegram is similar to Apple’s Messages, but it’s more reliable, has dedicated apps for all platforms — PC, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS — and it also allows you to set up secret chats with messages that can self-destruct, giving you a new level of privacy.
Telegram is not as secure as you might think
However, Telegram has been widely criticized by information-security experts, who say Telegram’s cryptography is untested and that it’s simply not secure enough to be used by political dissidents and other people transmitting highly sensitive information. (That’s despite the fact that Telegram was ISIS’s favorite messaging platform.) 
Experts recommend using Signal instead, or WhatsApp, which also uses the Signal protocol. The main difference is that Telegram text chats are not end-to-end encrypted by default. Chats on Signal and WhatsApp are. 
That means Telegram can read your messages and may have to hand them over if the police come knocking. (Telegram is legally based in London but has some operations in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.)
Telegram one-to-one voice and video calls are end-to-end encrypted, but its group voice chats are not. 
How to install Telegram
Installing and using Telegram is very easy. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

1. Download the Telegram app
iPhone and iPad
Android
Windows Phone (yes, even Windows Phone!)
Windows
Linux 64-bit; Linux 32-bit
macOS ; Mac App Store version
Chrome browser extension
You can also use the web version.
Note: Before using the desktop versions of Telegram, you have to set it up using a mobile app.
2. Register your phone number
Immediately after you do this, Telegram will send your phone an SMS text message containing a code for number verification. If you don’t enter the verification code within three minutes, Telegram will call your phone.

3. Enter the SMS verification code
The Telegram app will have a field into which you input the SMS verification code.

4. Telegram may call your phone instead
A robotic voice will read out a five-digit code, which you can then enter into the app.

5. Enter at least your first name
Telegram requires that you give it at least your first name. (It doesn’t have to be your real first name.) You can also add an avatar for more personalization.
Other users can search for you by your username without needing to know your phone number.

6. Let Telegram access your contacts
Unfortunately, you can’t just type in a phone number and start messaging. You’ll need to grant Telegram permission to access your contacts before you can message anyone. However, people who are not in your contacts can still invite you to Telegram chats.

7. (Optional) Let Telegram access your files and lockscreen
Telegram will ask you to let it access your photos, media and files so that you can use the app to send photos and other files. It also wants to access your lockscreen  so it can show you incoming calls. 
You can pass on both these options, but Telegram will be a lot more useful if you don’t.

8. (Recommended) Set a separate Telegram PIN
Telegram doesn’t require you to create a password or PIN to use the app. Just unlocking your phone will be enough to gain access to the Telegram app and your account.
That’s a problem if someone else gets access to your phone and can unlock it. To protect your Telegram account, set up a separate four-digit PIN. 
Go to the “hamburger” menu in the top left corner of the app and select Settings > Privacy & Security > Passcode Lock.
You’ll have to enter the PIN, ahem, “passcode,” periodically to keep using Telegram, but you can change the amount of time before the passcode entry is required.
But be forewarned that if you forget the PIN, you’ll have to delete the Telegram app and start over again. Secret Chats will be lost; non-Secret chats that are stored on Telegram’s servers should be retrievable.

9. (Optional) Add two-step verification
You can also set up Telegram to require an alphanumeric password every time you log in on a new device. (Note: This is not the same thing as two-factor authentication and doesn’t provide the same amount of protection.)
Go to the “hamburger” menu in the top left corner and select Settings > Privacy & Security > Two-Step Verification. Then set up Two-Step Verification in the same Privacy & Security section.
You’d better write down that password, because if you forget it, you’ll be limited to using Telegram on only one device.

How to use Telegram
Using Telegram to send a message is as easy as selecting a contact and starting to write.

Start a Telegram one-on-one chat
Click on the new message button (the pencil), select a contact, and start writing. 
By default, all communications are encrypted between your device and Telegram’s servers, and then between Telegram’s servers and your contact, but Telegram will be able to read your conversations.

Start a Telegram group conversation
You can also create a new group conversation by clicking on New Group and selecting multiple contacts from your contact list. Groups can contain up to 20,000 members, but they cannot be end-to-end encrypted. Anything said in a Group chat can be read by Telegram.
Telegram also offers voice Group chats.

Start a Telegram Secret Chat
Telegram has the ability to set up Secret Chats with your friends. 
To start a Secret Chat, tap the pencil icon, then tap New Secret Chat. Then select the contact with whom you’d like to have a Secret Chat.
A Secret Chat matches the privacy and security of WhatsApp or Signal because the communications are fully encrypted from one device to the other, and Telegram will not be able to read your conversations.
Your phone screenshot functionality will be disabled during Secret Chats, and messages send during Secret Chats cannot be forwarded to other users. You also can’t access a Secret Chat on a device different from the one you started it on.

(Optional) Set Secret Chats to self-destruct
Click on the three-dot menu on the top right corner of the Secret Chat screen to set up a self-destruct timer. 
This means that every message you send during a Secret Chat will have an expiration time before it disappears from the conversation. The timer can be set from anything from one second to one week.

Join a Telegram channel
Channels are like radio stations, broadcasting messages from a single source to an unlimited number of Telegram subscribers to those channels. But you can’t respond to channel messages the way you could to a message broadcast on Twitter or Facebook.
Channels can broadcast text, photos, videos, files and podcasts. As of March 2021, they can also host mass voice group chats, akin to Clubhouse. Channels can be public or private. 
To subscribe to a public Telegram channel, tap the magnifying-glass icon at the top of the Telegram home page, then type in the name of the channel you’re looking for. 
Select the right search result, and you’ll be shown a preview of the latest posts to that channel. If it looks appealing to you, tap “Join” at the bottom of the screen.

Start a Telegram channel
It’s just as easy to start a Telegram channel as it is to start a chat. Just tap the pencil icon on the home screen and then tap “New Channel.” 
You’ll have to give your new channel a name and can provide an optional description. 
Then you decide whether your channel is private or public. If it’s public, any Telegram user can search for it by name; if it’s private, you’ll be given a link that you can sent to people who you want to invite.
Telegram itself doesn’t post lists of public Telegram channels, but you can use Google to find some. Here are a couple of lists.

Start a Telegram voice or video call
Like WhatsApp, Telegram lets you make voice and video calls. Go to the “hamburger”  menu on the top left, tap Contacts and select someone from your contact list.
Tap that contact, then tap the three vertical dots on the top of the resulting screen and select either Call or Video Call.
If you haven’t already given Telegram permission to take pictures and record audio and video, now’s the time. 

Other cool Telegram features
The app has other privacy features. From the Settings menu you can choose to delete any payment or shipping information sent in all conversations you have.
The app also has an option to destroy your account and all associated data if you don’t use it in more than six months — in case you forget to do it yourself. You can change that to one month, three months or a year.

An “anonymous forwarding” option makes sure, when enabled, that only your name is displayed if anyone forwards your messages. The name will not link back to your account.

There’s a lot more to learn, including customization of notifications for groups, channels and private chats; font size, backgrounds, list mode and color themes for chats; and night mode, emojis and animations. All of those are in the Settings menu.
There’s just too much to go into here, but now that we’ve given you the basics, try Telegram and have fun. (Antivirus maker Kaspersky has a long list of additional Telegram privacy options.) Just be aware that it’s not as private as Signal or WhatsApp until you turn on the Secret Chat mode.

#Telegram


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