January 13, 2021
For Jaydev*, a New Delhi-based technology journalist, one of the first signs that end-to-end encryption messaging app Signal had begun taking off beyond his network of self-described “privacy nerds” was when he saw a flurry of notifications at the start of the year: more of his friends in India had suddenly joined.
Between January 6 and 10, Signal saw 2.3 million new downloads; its competitor Telegram saw 1.5 million new downloads. At the same time, India’s most popular messaging service, Facebook-owned WhatsApp, with over 400 million users, saw downloads drop 35%, according to data from SensorTower.
Signal quickly became the most downloaded app in Apple’s app store in India, and the third-most downloaded app in the Google Play store in the past week. While this recent uptick marks a change in how the average Indian user has begun viewing their privacy, whether it’s enough to supplant WhatsApp, or Facebook’s growing power in India, is less of a given.