Free messaging app Telegram joins the subscription game.
Founder Pavel Durov confirmed today that there will be a paid offer later this month that goes beyond the current free experience – thus a premium offer – without, according to the post on his Telegram channel, negative changes to existing features for (non-paying ) users.
Indeed, the claim is that users who do not pay for Telegram not only not see a degradation of their experience, but benefit from being able to use (for free) certain premium extras – such as the ability to view “oversized” documents, media and stickers sent by Premium users; or add premium comments if they’re already pinned to a post.
Durov says the move is intended to satisfy users’ demands for additional storage/bandwidth — without such superusers destroying Telegram’s ability to maintain a free service for everyone else.
“After thinking about it for a while, we realized that the only way to let our most demanding fans get more while keeping our existing features free is to turn those increased limits into a paid option,” he writes.
Exact details of what Premium users will get — and how much it will cost — aren’t detailed in Durov’s post. But in recent days there have been press releases about incoming premium features and pricing, via the beta app, suggesting it could include things like larger file upload size, faster download speeds, speech-to-text conversion, premium stickers, advanced chat management features, and more ( no ads!).
A price of $4.99 per month has also been reported based on analysis of the beta app. But it remains to be seen what the official prices will be in different regions.
In his post, Durov summarizes Telegram Premium as “a subscription that allows anyone to get extra features, speed and resources”. He also runs it as a kind of patronage layer – he pitches Telegram superfans who want to support the platform by making a financial contribution. Those who do will get the benefit of joining a Premium “club” that will be the first to get new features, he adds.
It’s not clear whether the Premium game is intended by Telegram to just cover the cost of additional resources or to generate additional revenue. But given Durov’s phrasing of “support,” he may be hoping to turn a meaningful portion of Telegram’s superfans into lasting financiers. (Although that will depend on the acceptance of the Premium product.)
The startup’s plan to monetize its 500 million+ monthly active users is still not crystal clear — some nine years into Telegram’s messaging joy ride. (And many months after a previous cryptocurrency attempt failed.)
In recent times, Telegram has resorted to outside financing to pay its server bills, including more than $1 billion in debt financing last year.
In terms of monetization, Durov has talked about wanting a non-intrusive, privacy-friendly way to support long-term use. Although the platform has experimented with advertising in public one-to-many channels. Yet Telegram’s principled founder still seems wary of relying on an ad-funded model, writing today, “I believe that Telegram should be funded primarily by its users, not advertisers.”