Chat app Telegram challenges meta with new 'business' features and revenue-sharing launch | Tech Crunch

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

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

The features come just weeks after Telegram founder Pavel Durov said in an interview with the Financial Times that he expects the app, which now has more than 900 million users, to become profitable by 2025.

Telegram's business is apparently part of that push, leading to a future IPO that will require users to subscribe to a paid premium version to access.

Telegram Premium is a bundle of upgraded 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 does not have to share commission with app stores.)

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

Telegram Business offers another bump to Premium because it offers tools and features that business customers can use without knowing how to code.

Image Credits: Telegram

For example, businesses can choose to display their business hours and location on a map and greet customers with a customized start page for free chats, where they can choose the text and sticker that customers see before starting a conversation. Similar to features available on WhatsApp, Telegram Business offers “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 the interval after which the greeting will be shown again. They can manage their availability using away messages when the business is closed or the owner is on vacation.

Additionally, businesses can categorize their chats based on delivery, claim, orders, VIP, feedback or whatever chat folders make sense to them using color labels.

Image Credits: Telegram

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

More features will be available for Telegram Business in future updates, the company said.

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

Together, these features could introduce competition in a market where meta apps like Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp dominate business communication. Apple has also carved out a small niche in this space, with Apple Messages for businesses used by companies such as 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.

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

In addition to monetization through premium subscriptions, the Company derives revenue from Telegram advertising; It recently announced ad revenue sharing using toncoin (a token on the TON blockchain). Now the company has started a 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 US.

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