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Chat app Telegram launches new ‘business’ features and revenue sharing to challenge Meta

Messaging app Telegram is preparing to challenge Meta’s WhatsApp and Messenger with a slew of new features aimed at businesses and support for ad revenue sharing. Telegram Business officially launched this weekend after earlier announcements, introducing options like a custom start page, as well as features such as setting business hours, using canned replies, greeting and away messages, chatbots, chat labels, and more.

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

A few weeks ago, Telegram founder Pavel Durov told the Financial Times that he expected the app, which currently has more than 900 million users, to become profitable by 2025.

Telegram Business is clearly part of the push for a future IPO, as it is a product that requires users to subscribe to a paid premium version to access.

Telegram Premium is a set of upgraded features that costs $4.99 per month on iOS and Android and is also available in three-month, six-month or one-year plans. (Premium is also available as an in-app purchase via @PremiumBot on Android, desktop, and Mac. This is discounted because Telegram doesn’t need to share commissions with the app store.)

As of December 2022, the number of Telegram Premium subscribers exceeded 1 million for the first time. In January 2024, Durov announced that the number of Premium subscribers had grown to 5 million, and last month it had reached 4 million, indicating that subscriber growth is accelerating.

Telegram Business may give Premium another boost, as it offers tools and features that enterprise customers can use without knowing how to code.

For example, businesses can choose to display their business hours and locations on a map and greet customers with a custom, empty chat start page, and they can choose the text and stickers users see before starting a conversation. Similar to the features available on WhatsApp, Telegram Business will offer “Quick Replies,” shortcuts to preset messages that support formats, links, media, stickers, and files.

Businesses can also set their own custom greetings for customers who interact with the company for the first time, and can specify a time period during which the greeting will appear again. When a business is closed or an owner is on vacation, they can use away messages to manage their availability.

Additionally, businesses can use colored tags to categorize chats based on where the chat folders are located, such as Delivery, Claims, Orders, VIP, Feedback, or any other folder that makes sense to them.

Additionally, businesses can create a chat link to instantly open a Telegram chat and request actions such as tracking an order or reserving a table. Business customers can also add Telegram bots (including those from other tools or AI assistants) to reply to messages on their behalf.

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

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

Overall, these features are likely to bring competition to a market where apps like Meta’s Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp dominate the business communications space. Even Apple has only a small presence in this space, with its Apple Messages for Businesses used by the likes of Shopify, Aramark, Four Seasons, Harry & David, Delta, American Express, Dish, Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s, and Wells Fargo Use, West Elm, Kimpton Hotels, Vodafone Germany and more.

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

In addition to monetizing premium subscriptions, the company also generates revenue through Telegram ads; it recently announced the use of toncoin, a token on the TON blockchain, for ad revenue sharing. The company said on Sunday it has now launched a revenue-sharing program.

Telegram has previously tried to use the TON blockchain to auction usernames and launched crypto wallets in all markets except the United States.

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