We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

What Is Telegram and Why You Should Try It

Telegram logo on a black background

Telegram is a multimedia, cross-platform messenger app that combines a lot of the features of your favorite social networks into one interface. Let’s have a look to see everything it has to offer.

Telegram has been around since 2013 but remains a hidden gem in the social media world. It’s got great tools for one-on-one chatting, group messaging, social networking, as well as voice and video calls. Telegram also offers remarkable privacy features, customization options, and cross-platform capabilities.

Take Messaging to the Next Level

Three images of the Telegram chat interface

Telegram’s most basic function is one-on-one chats. It works just like texting and the DM features in other chat apps. But there are some bonus features that you won’t find in some other services. For example, Telegram allows you to edit your messages after you’ve sent them. So, if you made an embarrassing error, you can fix it without sending a new message with the correction. Not many messengers have this capability, but others that do include Discord, Slack, and Teams.

Additionally, Telegram lets you delete messages after you’ve sent them for both you and the recipient. That comes in handy if you send a message in haste, the heat of emotion, or maybe even drunk, and want to avoid embarrassment before the recipient gets a chance to open it. Not only that, but you can also remove messages you’ve received from other users on both ends. So, you’re able to spare the drunk texters the humiliation of discovering what they said the night before when hangover time comes.

Then there’s multimedia messaging. With Telegram, you can send one-minute video messages and unlimited-length voice messages. If you want to get around the video time limit, record a long video on your phone and upload it to the chat. Videos, files, and other documents sent through Telegram can be up to 2GB in size. That’s huge compared to other messengers. In contrast, Gmail and Facebook Messenger have an upper limit of just 25MB.

Sometimes, simple text or an emoji won’t do. Telegram offers more than 20,000 animated stickers that allow you to express a full array of emotions fit to your distinct taste and style. Stickers are standard among messengers these days, but no other services match Telegram’s sheer volume of choices.

Telegram includes other nifty tools such as scheduled and silent messages. Scheduling messages comes in handy if you know that you need to remind someone about something at a particular time or know you’ll be away from the internet when you need to send a message. Messages can send at a specific time or the next time the recipient comes online. Silent messages are great for when you want to message someone at three in the morning but don’t want to wake them up with a notification. The message will arrive with no notification attached, and they’ll see it the next time they check the app.

Next Generation Social Networking

Danny Chadwick's channel on Telegram

Channels on Telegram are comparable to a Twitter feed but are far more versatile. Whereas Twitter limits the number of characters in a single post, Telegram does not. You can also gussy up your channel posts with images, links, videos, and more. Plus, if you learn how to use bots (more on that later), you’re even able to add custom reaction emojis, comments sections, and URL buttons. Channel posts appear in your subscriber’s chat feeds, making it easier for them to scroll through just your posts and not have them lost in the noise and algorithmic manipulation you find on Twitter.

Chat groups are common among messenger and social media apps. But Telegram offers a few extra perks. For example, chat groups on Telegram have an upper limit of a whopping 200,000 members. This is a double-edged sword because larger groups tend to have a considerable signal-to-noise ratio. But when groups near the 200,000-member threshold, admins can apply to convert it to an unlimited “broadcast group” where only they can post. Admins of any group size have special abilities such as group analytics, the ability to post anonymously (as the group’s name) and assign members special responsibilities.

Groups and channels can start voice chats for unlimited audiences. It’s sort of like your personal radio station. You start the voice chat and start talking away to your audience. If someone else wants to talk, they raise their hand, and you decide whether or not to bring them into the broadcast. There’s also a live chat where listeners can comment on what’s going on. Voice chats also support video and the ability to share screens from any device. It can be a lot of fun when you attract a big audience.

Native Apps for Any Device

Telegram app options for iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux.

Telegram has native apps for all mainstream mobile, desktop, and tablet platforms: iOS, macOS, Android, Windows, and Linux. If you’re one of the rare users that don’t use one of these platforms, you can always access Telegram through a browser. Plus, logging in through a browser comes in handy if you’re not around one of the devices you have Telegram installed on.

When you sign up for Telegram, you must give them your phone number. But that doesn’t mean that everyone you chat with has access to it. When you create your account, you choose a username to share with anyone you want without disclosing your personal information. However, be aware that when you sign up for Telegram and sync your contacts, everyone you know that’s already on the service will receive a notification when you sign up. But there’s a way to avoid that.

If you decide to switch to Telegram and bring your friends along with you, don’t worry about losing those years of chat history. Telegram enables you to migrate your chats from services such as WhatsApp, Line, and KakaoTalk. It would be nice to see this ability extended to Facebook Messenger, but Facebook would have to allow Telegram access, which probably won’t happen any time soon.

Tailor Telegram to Your Tastes

Telegram's appearance customization screen on iOS.

Telegram allows you to change the look and feel of its interface through the Appearance section in the app’s settings. You can customize Dark and Night mode, the color of text bubbles, chat background, text size, message corners, and even the app icon on your smartphone. You can even create a custom theme yourself to send to other users or import one made by someone else. This level of customization is rare, if not unique, in the messenger app world.

Telegram Bots are an invaluable tool to make your experience exactly the way you want. It takes a little time to learn how to use them. But once you do, you’ll be able to create deeply personalized channel reactions, get special notifications and news feeds, integrate Telegram with other services like Gmail and YouTube, receive payments, and even build brand-new tools. If you’re a programmer or a developer, you’ll find Telegram to be a fantastic creative playground.

Lockdown Your Information

Telegram's privacy and security screen on iOS.

Telegram’s privacy and security settings have a lot to offer. The most powerful is locking down your app by requiring a passcode or Face ID to open it. You also have the option to enable two-step verification before anyone can access your app—an invaluable feature if your device is ever stolen or hacked. You can also limit who can see your phone number when you were last online, profile picture, calls, forwarded messages, and what groups and channels you’re a part of.

One of the most powerful privacy tools Telegram offers is self-destructing, end-to-end encrypted chats. Telegram calls them “secret chats,” and they’re separate from normal chats. To start a secret chat, you open a contact’s profile and select “start secret chat.” Secret chats are exclusive to the device you create them on. Once you start the secret chat, you can set messages to self-destruct after the recipient sees them. The self-destruct timer can be set from one second to one week. When you delete a secret chat, it’s gone from the Earth, leaving no trace on Telegram’s servers. So if you have super-duper secret business to conduct, secret chats are the way to go. Just be aware that nothing is perfect, and there are always flaws that determined snoopers can exploit.

Telegram employs end-to-end encryption on all video and voice calls made through their service, which means that nobody can eavesdrop on your conversations, not even Telegram. You might think that only spies and criminals need such tools. But, in a world where mass surveillance is becoming the norm, it’s good to have the peace of mind that comes with encrypted communications.

When you have a picture or a video that you want to send to someone, but you don’t want them to have it forever, Telegram lets you send them with a self-destruct timer. The timer can be set from one second to one minute, and the recipient won’t have the option to download the image in that time. As with secret chats, there’s no trace of the content left on Telegram’s servers. And although there’s nothing stopping screenshots, Telegram notifies you if the recipient nabs the pic that way.

If you decide to try out Telegram and decide it’s not for you, you don’t have to worry about your content and information staying in their system forever. When your Telegram account goes fallow, it’s automatically deleted after six months by default, with the option to set it to one, three, or 12 months.

Why Try Telegram When You Already Have Apps with Similar Features?


Telegram's website displaying the reasons why you should try it.

Most of these features aren’t unique to Telegram, and you’ll find them on other services such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, MarcoPolo, Discord, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and more. So, you might wonder why you should add yet another app onto your home screen. The answer is that no other app has all the features mentioned above. It’s the combination of all the things you love about your other messenger apps and social media platforms into one interface.

Telegram is also an excellentTelegram might be the best social media platform you’ve never heard of. Let us know if you already use Telegram, and why!  The big names in the tech world are constantly making headlines for being overtly political, censorious, and untrustworthy stewards of your personal information. Telegram prides itself on being a platform that anyone can use without fear that big tech will bring the ban-hammer down on them or use their personal information for profit.

Furthermore, Telegram has gone to bat for its users’ privacy against some of the most powerful governments in the world, most notably in Russia. In 2018, the Russian government demanded Telegram release encryption keys and private data of its users. Telegram refused and suffered a two-year ban in the country. So if they’ll stand up to governments at the risk of their own business, it’s a fair bet that you can trust them with your data.

The bottom line is that Telegram is a useful, versatile, safe, and fun app. You should at least try it out. It is best enjoyed with friends and family, so you may have to coax them to try too. But, you might be surprised by how many of them already use it.

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »