Popular messaging app WhatsApp, which has nearly one billion active users, has today started a shady method of discouraging its users from switching to one of its primary competitors, Telegram. Telegram has been gaining in popularity recently and WhatsApp clearly is threatened by that. With a silent update pushed to WhatsApp this morning, the company began blocking links to Telegram.
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The messages containing the links still appear, but they do not register as hyperlinks, nor are they able to be copy and pasted. This means that users who send each other Telegram links must manually enter each URL into their browser. This block applies to links to user profiles, individual chats, and group chats.
Telegram confirmed to The Verge that WhatsApp is indeed responsible for the issue. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which has used this link-blocking method before to prevent users from visiting torrent sites both in the news feed and in its Messenger app. Facebook has faced criticism for this practice before, but this is the first time it has applied the strategy to WhatsApp.
Telegram does not seem worried about the practice, however. “Typically after a media backlash, FB steps back and blames their intelligent filtering for the problem,” a Telegram spokesperson told The Verge. “We expect the same to happen this time as well.”
WhatsApp and Facebook have yet to comment on the practice and WhatsApp has not even acknowledged that an update was pushed this morning.