Telegram 5 Gains In-App Notifications and Swift Code Rebuild for Faster Speeds

Telegram received a major update today that includes new in-app notifications and a complete rewrite of the encrypted messaging app in Apple's Swift coding language, resulting in all-round faster performance and better energy efficiency.


On the face of it, the Telegram 5.0 interface looks just like the previous version, but the developers say that rebuilding the app in Swift has made it "faster, sleeker and more battery-friendly," and has also removed a bunch of persistent bugs.

The speed improvements should be immediately noticeable, particularly when viewing animations in chat threads and syncing messages across multiple devices. At the same time, the new in-app notifications allow users to keep on top of new messages without leaving conversations. From the Telegram blog:
The new expandable in-app notifications will help you focus on whatever you're doing in the app without having to ignore incoming messages. When a notification arrives, pull it down to open the relevant chat. When you’re done with the interruption, simply close it to get right back to what you were doing.
Elsewhere, the app now includes streaming support for audio files and improved navigation for busy chats, while the app icon message counter has been tweaked so that it no longer shows the number of unread messages in muted chats, which should make it a lot more informative.

Telegram is a free download for iPhone and iPad from the App Store. [Direct Link]


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Telegram Gets First Update After Six Week App Store Lockout

Telegram today received its first update in two months after an App Store update lockout caused by a dispute with the Russian government and Apple.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov yesterday explained that Apple had been blocking updates to the Telegram app on a worldwide scale since April, when the Telegram app was banned in Russia.


As back story, Russia in April banned Telegram because Telegram refused to allow government officials in the country to have backdoor access to the content of user messages. Russia's ban attempt was not entirely successful, leading Russia to demand that Apple remove Telegram from the Russian App Store.

Amid this dispute, Apple was apparently refusing all Telegram app updates dating back to mid-April. This situation caused certain Telegram features, like stickers, to break with the launch of iOS 11.4, and it prevented Telegram from complying with new GDPR rules in the European Union. From Durov's statement yesterday:
While Russia makes up only 7% of Telegram's userbase, Apple is restricting updates for all Telegram users around the world since mid-April. As a result, we've also been unable to fully comply with GDPR for our EU-users by the deadline of May 25, 2018. We are continuing our efforts to resolve the situation and will keep you updated.
Apple appears to have reversed its position on Telegram updates, and Telegram 4.8.2 is now available in the iOS App Store. The update includes a new registration process for the EU and UK along with some other small changes to the app.

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Telegram CEO Says Apple Has Been ‘Preventing’ iOS App Updates Since Russia’s Ban in April

In April, the Russian government banned secure messaging app Telegram and this month asked Apple to remove it from the iOS App Store completely in the country, citing the potential for terrorist communication via the app since Telegram refused to allow Russia to read user messages. As this unfolds, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov posted an update for users early this morning in an effort to explain why some features "don't work correctly under iOS 11.4" (via ArsTechnica).

According to Durov, Apple has been "preventing" the Telegram iOS app from updating on a global scale, dating back to when Russia banned the app in April. Durov says that his company chose to do the "only possible thing" and refused to provide Russia with decryption keys to access user messages, "preserving the right of our users privacy in a troubled country."


He continued by stating, "Unfortunately, Apple didn't side with us." The CEO says Apple's restricting of Telegram dates back to mid-April and while Russia represents a small subset of its user base (7 percent), Apple's actions affect all Telegram users around the world. Because of this, the launch of iOS 11.4 on Tuesday has broken some Telegram features like stickers, and caused the company to miss its deadline for compliance with the GDPR for users in the European Union.
Apple has been preventing Telegram from updating its iOS apps globally ever since the Russian authorities ordered Apple to remove Telegram from the App Store. Russia banned Telegram on its territory in April because we refused to provide decryption keys for all our users’ communications to Russia’s security agencies. We believe we did the only possible thing, preserving the right of our users to privacy in a troubled country.

Unfortunately, Apple didn’t side with us. While Russia makes up only 7% of Telegram’s userbase, Apple is restricting updates for all Telegram users around the world since mid-April. As a result, we’ve also been unable to fully comply with GDPR for our EU-users by the deadline of May 25, 2018. We are continuing our efforts to resolve the situation and will keep you updated.
By missing the deadline, Telegram users in Europe won't have the same level of security and privacy in comparison to compliant apps, and a lack of updates could put the platform at a higher risk of vulnerability. Apple has yet to comment on the issue or explain its stance, but Durov hopes to "resolve the situation" soon as the company continues its efforts to get the iOS app up to date for all users.

This is far from the first time Telegram has been in hot water with both Apple and Russia. Earlier in February, Apple pulled Telegram from the App Store due to reports of "inappropriate content" being hosted on the messaging service, but it made a return a few hours after disappearing, once Telegram put additional protections in place.

For Russia, the government previously threatened a ban on Telegram last summer after repeated efforts to obtain more information about the company were ignored. While seemingly innocuous, Russia's request for a "form with information" on Telegram would effectively add the company to the state regulators' registry, further requiring Telegram to retain users' chats and to share encryption keys with Russian authorities if asked. Similar requests date back to 2014.

As of writing, Telegram Messenger for iOS was last updated on March 24, 2018.

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Russia Demands Apple Remove Telegram From Russian App Store

The Russian government has asked Apple to help it block Telegram, the secure messaging app that's highly popular in the country, reports WCCFTech.

A Russian court in April ordered carriers and internet providers in the country to block Telegram back in April, after Telegram refused to provide Russia with backdoor access to user messages.


Telegram, for those unfamiliar with the app, offers end-to-end encryption for secure messaging purposes. With end-to-end encryption, no one, not even Telegram, can access the messages that are sent between users.

Despite issuing the block order back in April, Russia has only been able to disrupt Telegram's operations in the country by 15 to 30 percent.

Given the government's inability to block the app, Roskomnadzor, the division of the government that controls media and telecommunications, has demanded that Apple remove the Telegram app from the Russian App Store. The group first asked Apple to remove the app in April, but is appealing to Apple again.

"In order to avoid possible action by Roskomnadzor for violations of the functioning of the above-mentioned Apple Inc. service, we ask you to inform us as soon as possible about your company's further actions to resolve the problematic issue," the regulator wrote.

Roskomnadzor has given Apple one month to remove the Telegram app from the App Store. Roskomnadzor's director Alexander Zharov said he did not want to "forecast further actions" should Apple not comply with the request following the 30 day period.

The Russian government said that it needed access to Telegram to read messages and prevent future terror attacks in the country.

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Russia Bans Access to Telegram Encrypted Messenger Service

A Russian law court has ordered that access to the Telegram encrypted messaging service should be blocked, according to Russian news agencies on Friday (via Reuters).

The development follows last week's news that Russia's media regulator had filed legal proceedings to block the app in the country because the company refused to enable state security services to access users' messages.

The Telegram platform allows people to communicate with each other using end-to-end encryption, meaning no-one – not even Telegram – has access to messages sent between users.

The app has over 200 million users globally. They include Kremlin staff, who use Telegram to coordinate conference calls with Vladimir Putin's spokesman. Many government officials also use the messenger app to communicate with media, according to Reuters.
When Reuters asked a person in the Russian government on how they would operate without access to Telegram, the person, who asked not be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, replied by sending a screenshot of his mobile phone with an open VPN app.
Telegram becomes the second global network after LinkedIn to be blocked in Russia. In 2016, a court found LinkedIn guilty of violating a law that requires companies holding Russian citizens' data to store it on servers within Russia.

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Russia Moves to Ban Telegram Encrypted Messaging Platform

Russia appears to be following through on its threat last year to block access to the Telegram encrypted messaging platform.

The BBC reports today that the Roskomnadzor media regulator has begun legal proceedings to block the app in the country, after Dubai-based Telegram refused to comply with requests that it hand over the encryption keys.

Telegram was given a deadline of 4 April to hand over the keys, but the company has refused, explaining that the way the service is built means it has no access to them.
Russia's main security agency, the FSB, wants the keys so it can read messages and prevent future terror attacks in the country. In its court filing, Roskomnadzor said the legal action was related to the FSB request and Telegram's non-compliance with its legal requirements as a "distributor of information".
Telegram's lawyer, Pavel Chikov, called the Russian attempt to block the app "groundless" and said the FSB's demand to access users' chat logs was "unconstitutional, baseless, which cannot be fulfilled technically and legally".

Telegram had a legal challenge to the demand dismissed in a Moscow court in March, but the platform creator Pavel Durov has said Telegram, which is widely used in Russia, will not "give up" the private data of its users.



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Telegram Messenger 4.5 Update Brings Albums, Saved Messages, and Better Search

Encrypted messenger app Telegram received an update today that brings additional features and enhancements to the platform, including media albums, saved messages, and an improved search function.

Starting with Telegram 4.5, whenever users send multiple photos or videos they will be grouped into albums. Each album can include up to 10 photos or videos, which are displayed in chat threads as "elegantly proportioned thumbnails", the upshot being that recipients will be notified just the once instead of ten times over.


The order in which the photos are sent can now be controlled within the app, too. Photos selected for sharing get a sequence number, so users can send "before and after" pictures in the correct order. In addition, users should find profile photos easier to navigate, thanks to thumbnails that show in the lower part of the screen.

Elsewhere, Telegram users can now bookmark important messages and media by forwarding them to a personal cloud storage area called Saved Messages. Each saved message also has a "go to" button that takes users to the place in the chat where it was originally posted. Saved Messages can be found in the Chats list and in Settings.

The developers have also improved the global search algorithm used for finding public channels, groups, and bots. It's now possible to search for public channels and bots by their titles, and most popular items will always be displayed first.

Lastly, Channel admins can now pin messages to focus their subscribers' attention on important announcements, while the settings screen and context menu has been redesigned. The app has also been tweaked for iPhone X.

Telegram is a free download for iPhone and iPad from the App Store. [Direct Link]


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Afghan Government Moves to Block WhatsApp, Telegram Messaging Services

Afghanistan's government has ordered a block on messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram, according to a letter sent to the country's internet providers that was widely shared over social media on Saturday.

The letter was reportedly sent to Afghan ISPs after the country's National Directorate for Security ordered the move, in what some observers believe is an attempt to prevent use of the encrypted messaging services by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

According to Reuters, the letter by telecoms regulator ATRA, dated November 1 and signed by an official of the regulator, directed internet companies to block Telegram and Facebook's WhatsApp services "without delay" for a period of 20 days.

However, the temporary ban does not yet appear to have been enforced, with both services said to be still working normally on Saturday on both state-owned operator Salaam and private service providers.


Public use of mobile phones has boomed in Afghanistan since the Taliban was removed from power by a U.S-led campaign in 2001, while use of services like WhatsApp, Messenger, and Viber are popular among the country's politicians as well as the Taliban, which also maintains a sophisticated social media operation.

However, civil rights groups and Afghan social media users have criticized the attempt to block the chat platforms. Many argue such a ban is unenforceable anyway because it can be circumvented by the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).

Prominent newspaper editor Parwiz Kawa told the BBC that his country was finally an open society after years of censorship, therefore any ban on social media would not be tolerated.

"The public reaction - including our own front page - is to resist," he said. "We can't tolerate any ban on social media or any censorship."

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