Update: In a comment made to TNW, a Telegram spokesperson denied all acquisition rumors with a strongly-worded rebuttal.
“This is complete bullshit. There were no acquisition talks, no plans for any such thing either.”
You may remember quite a few years ago, it was rumored that Google was looking in to buying WhatsApp for $1 billion, and again later on for $10 billion. Both times, those rumors were denied by Google and — of course — we now know that even if they did bid, the deal didn’t go down.
Facebook bought the popular messaging app for a cool $19B, but Google seemingly hasn’t given up on strengthening its messaging portfolio. Reports from Russia are claiming that Google chief, Sundar Pichai once met with Telegram’s founder to discuss a $1 billion acquisition.
Sources close to Pavel Durov, Telegram’s founder, claim that Pichai met the messaging app’s chief in the spring of last year with the express intention of discussing buying the company. This claim was backed up by several investors, according to RBC. The meeting was initiated by Google, and seemingly only involved Pavel Durov and Sundar Pichai. When asked about the meeting, Durov stated that a deal with Google was “out of the question”.
It’s been clear for some time that Google really wants to try and nail messaging. It tried to initially years ago with Gtalk, which sort-of evolved in to Hangouts. Neither product has been widely used by individual consumers or on a corporate scale, thanks to the rise of apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Slack (among others). A Telegram acquisition would certainly help the company’s aims, especially in regard to end-to-end encryption.
A WSJ report in December claimed Google is actively working on a new mobile messaging service equipped with AI, and could eventually replace Hangouts as a chatbot-powered messaging solution. In theory, it sounds very similar to the recent inclusion of chatbots in Facebook Messenger, suggesting Google has even more catching up to do now than it did 5 months ago.
Before that report was written, Google had openly been involved in a $100 million funding round for Symphony, a secure messaging startup which is similar in some ways to Telegram. Regardless, then, of whether any acquisition of Telegram goes ahead, the Mountain View company is clearly focussed on strengthening its messaging service.