The free messaging app Telegram is getting into the subscription game.
Founder Pavel Durov confirmed today that later this month there will be a paid offering that goes beyond the current free experience – that is, a premium offering – with no negative changes to existing features for (unpaid) users.
Indeed, it is claimed that users who do not pay for Telegram do not Not see a degradation in their experience, but can benefit from it by being able to (freely) access certain premium extras – like the ability to view “extra large” documents, media and stickers sent by premium users, or premium Add reactions if they have already been pinned to a message.
According to Durov, the move is intended to respond to user demands for additional storage/bandwidth – without such superusers destroying Telegram’s ability to maintain a free service for everyone else.
“After giving it some thought, we realized that the only way to offer more to our most demanding fans while keeping our existing features free is to make these increased limits a paid option,” he writes.
Exact details of what Premium users will get – and how much it will cost – are not provided in Durov’s post. However, over the past few days, press reports of incoming premium features and pricing have surfaced via the beta app, suggesting that they could include things like increased file upload size, faster download speeds, voice-to-text conversion, premium Might include stickers and advanced chat management functions and more (no ads!).
A price of $4.99 per month was also reported based on analysis of the beta app. However, it remains to be seen what the official prices will be in the different regions.
In his post, Durov summarizes Telegram Premium as “a subscription plan that allows anyone to purchase additional features, speed, and resources.” He’s also filming it as a kind of patronage – by nominating Telegram superfans who want to support the platform with a financial contribution. Those who do get the benefit of joining a premium “club,” which gets new features first, he adds.
It’s not clear if Telegram’s premium game is only intended to cover the cost of additional resources or to generate additional income. But given Durov’s wording of “support,” it could be that he’s hoping to convert a significant portion of Telegram’s superfans into sustainable backers. (However, this of course depends 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 after Telegram’s messaging joy ride. (And many months after an earlier attempted foray into crypto failed.)
More recently, Telegram has resorted to external funding to pay its server bills — including more than $1 billion in debt funding last year.
In terms of monetization, Durov has spoken of wanting a non-intrusive, privacy-friendly way to sustain usage over the long term. Although the platform has experimented with ads on public one-to-many channels. Still, Telegram’s principled founder seems wary of relying on an ad-supported model, writing today, “I believe Telegram should be primarily funded by its users, not advertisers.”