#Tech news

Chat app Telegram challenges Meta with the launch of new ‘Business’ features and revenue-sharing

Messaging app Telegram is preparing to take on Meta’s WhatsApp and Messenger with a new set of features aimed at businesses as well as support for ad-revenue sharing. Officially launched this weekend after an earlier announcement, Telegram Business introduces options like a customized start page, plus the ability to set business hours and use preset replies, greeting and away messages, chatbots, tags for chats, and more.

Meanwhile, Telegram’s public channels with at least 1,000 subscribers can now generate 50% of the revenue from ads shown in their channels.

The features arrived just a couple of 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 clearly part of that push, leading up to a future IPO, as it’s an offering that requires users to subscribe to the paid Premium version to access.

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

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

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

Image Credits: Telegram

For instance, businesses can choose to display their hours of operation and location on a map, and greet customers with a customized start page for empty chats where they can choose the text and sticker users see before beginning a conversation. Similar to features available on WhatsApp, Telegram Business will offer “quick replies,” which are shortcuts to preset messages that support formatting, links, media, stickers and files.

Image Credits: Telegram

Businesses can also set their own custom greeting messages for customers who engage with the company for the first time, and they can specify a period after which the greeting would be shown again. They can manage their availability using away messages while the business is closed or the owner is on vacation.

Plus, the businesses can categorize their chats using colored labels based on what chat folders they’re in, like delivery, claim, orders, VIP, feedback, or any others that make sense for them.

Image Credits: Telegram

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond monetizing through Premium subscriptions, the company generates revenue through Telegram Ads; it recently 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.

Previously, Telegram experimented with the TON blockchain to auction usernames and launched a crypto wallet in all markets outside the U.S.

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Chat app Telegram challenges Meta with the launch of new ‘Business’ features and revenue-sharing

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