Tesla boss supports discreet alternative to WhatsApp – and lets their servers fail

Exchanges and messaging services have something in common: the more people are active there, the more useful they become, because shares or messages can only be exchanged if enough others can be found in the same (virtual) place. This can mean that better offers do not prevail until they get so much going that a critical mass is reached. This is exactly what seems to be happening with an alternative to the data-hungry messenger Whatsapp: After Tesla CEO Elon Musk personally advised the switch to Signal, the app attracted a lot of traffic – which, however, initially caused its server to collapse.

Tesla boss doesn’t just help with money

Even before the brief request from the Tesla boss with his 42 million followers on Twitter last Thursday, the spread of Signal accelerated. The trigger for this was a change in the terms of use of the messenger Whatsapp, which has so far dominated by far and has belonged to Facebook since 2014. And when Musk then recommended switching to Signal on Twitter, it simply became too much for the hitherto relatively obscure alternative: In the days that followed, it rose to the top of the app charts in many countries including Germany – and the download still worked, but not the registration for many new users.

On Thursday of this week alone, Signal was downloaded at least 40 million times in the app store for Android phones, as shown by screenshots of the messenger on Twitter. According to one of the founders of the foundation behind it (who had previously also co-founded Whatsapp), it had already exceeded the mark of 500 million users worldwide on Wednesday. But shortly afterwards, problems were reported not only with new registrations, but also with communication between active users.

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That is probably not what Tesla CEO Musk had in mind when he advised the use of Signal. But he also showed that he is ready to help solve the problems he has caused: he had already donated to Signal last year, he said on Twitter, and he has more plans to do. And that he is still interested in the topic, Musk showed on Saturday: “Your server-side code is doing too much,” he wrote in a Twitter response to another signal message about technical difficulties.

So the Musk seems to have decided to help the Whatsapp alternative to break through. And in the event that the influx of new users is not self-reinforcing enough in the long run, he already mentioned a solution: Money can help, he wrote on Twitter, but more can probably be achieved by occasionally mentioning Signal. But until the technical upgrade, which is in full swing there, has been completed, he should probably hold back on it.


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