First of all, let me make it clear that this article is not about comparison of Whatsapp application with other chat applications available in the market today. Some are very old and some of them have just started a year or two back. I leave the comparison of various applications to the readers, as there are many comparisons are already doing the rounds on WhatsApp! Mind it WhatsApp!
I am writing about the behaviour of readers/users who have been using Whatsapp along with its parent company since years. I started using Facebook, when it was new and hardly had any user base India. Thanks to my tech background, we got to know about new/upcoming technology a lot before common users (non-tech) even came to know. Not all new tech is tried extensively, only a handful of the latest technology products get us hooked for a long duration. The idea of facebook was different when it was created, but as it started growing, the people behind the technology started changing their goals, some of them were necessary to run the company which is offering free services to billions of users.
We all know that either we or our employers pay for the software we use in our day to day life, be it word/excel or email application. Even for corporate gmail (email) accounts, companies are paying huge amounts of money, depending on their employee count to Google (gmail service provider) or Microsoft. Infact, Facebook is also trying to enter the corporate email solutioning game, but they are keeping themselves away for their own reasons.
My father told me that nothing is free in this world, even the air we breathe is not free. We are paying for the same in some or the other form (can discuss the same in different articles). But the question here is not only about free or paid, data theft or data sharing. The question is about how much we really care about our behaviours? Are we responsible enough to understand what to do where? Either in the physical or the digital world?
With the uplifting of societies over the years, we have formed certain rules to behave in this society and the same is being practiced worldwide, like we don’t keep cash in a transparent showcase, which is visible to everyone who visits our house or company. When we eat, we follow certain rules of eating with spoons and forks. When we go out, we follow certain rules for walking and drive based on country to country. Last, but not the least, we follow various protocols when we are in office.
Then why, we as humans don’t follow any rules, when we are on digital platforms? We have been using them since years, giving them our data over the years, then why worry now? Just because some media folks have started highlighting it or Elon Musk had recommended to use Signal? I repeat, the Whatsapp alternatives were there with us for years, but very few have used them. Infact I stopped using Whatsapp for more than 3 years in the past, but due to various reasons I started using it again. One of the biggest reasons was, how many people am I going to ask to shift to better applications?
Even if I tell my contacts to start communicating with me on newer and better versions of Whatsapp alternatives, they start using it for a few days and then again stop using the new app, as I am the only one who has been communicating with them on the new app. And I m left out of the discussions. Now if I want to be part of a larger group or communicate with some important non-techy people, I have no choice but to join the mad world. It’s like either you change the world or change yourself.
I have seen big corporate leaders using Whatsapp for communicating with their employees, in spite of their tech leaders raising warning signs. In India various government bodies have given written warnings in the past about not to use Whatsapp for any critical information sharing regarding companies. But, from the top political leaders to employees working in various critical sectors, they all use Whatsapp for various communications and keep sharing secret data.
Please note, we humans, don’t change unless there are strict rules and that’s how we make mistakes sharing confidential information over free applications.
Humans behaviours are controlled by the people around them. So they behave in the same manner as their surroundings (lets not talk about exceptions). If their surroundings are using Whatsapp, they will keep using it unless they lose huge amounts of money (or a similar asset). And if the surrounding is using some other app, they will move to it too.
Going by my past experience of asking people to use alternative applications, I don’t think the new policy or old data sharing is going to affect Whatsapp in the near future. Yes, for a moment people will try new platforms but after a few months they will be deleting these new platforms due to rare engagement. And if everyone stops using Whatsapp or Whatsapp changes its data sharing policies within a year, it will be the biggest change of the decade.
Disclaimer: Author is Pooraan Jaiswal, CTO, TBZ. The views and opinion of the author are solely his.