• Friday, Feb 26, 2021
  • Last Update : 04:10 pm

The curious case of BiP: What fuels the sudden rise of the Turkish app?

  • Published at 08:10 pm January 18th, 2021
Photo: Collected

Does BiP represent a genuine challenge to the established social network juggernauts, with which user disenchantment appears to be growing by the week?

A couple of days ago, a previously little known social media app - BiP Messenger - seemingly appeared out of nowhere, threatening to break through the impenetrable social mobile monopoly of WhatsApp, Imo, and Facebook Messenger in Bangladesh. 

Does BiP represent a genuine challenge to the established social network juggernauts, with which user disenchantment appears to be growing by the week?

Or is it merely the latest flash-in-the-pan fad? 

Either way, one can’t help but notice the timing of BiP’s moment in the spotlight. The correlation between BiP’s rise and WhatsApp’s darkest hour sends out a clear message and is a reflection of the growing mood among users.

Since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, users have wondered and worried about how much data would flow between the two platforms. 

Many of them experienced a rude awakening in recent weeks, as a new in-app notification raises awareness about a step WhatsApp actually took to share more with Facebook back in 2016.

On January 4, WhatsApp updated its terms of use and privacy policy, primarily to expand its practices around how WhatsApp business users can store their communications. 

A pop-up has been notifying users that as of February 8, the app's privacy policy will change and they must accept the terms to keep using the app. 

As part of that privacy policy refresh, WhatsApp also removed a passage about opting out of sharing certain data with Facebook: “If you are an existing user, you can choose not to have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences.”

Some media outlets and confused WhatsApp users understandably assumed that this meant WhatsApp had finally crossed a line, requiring data-sharing with no alternative. 

Also Read - Turkish messaging app BiP sees sudden spike in popularity among Bangladeshis

But in fact the company says that the privacy policy deletion simply reflects how WhatsApp has shared data with Facebook since 2016 for the vast majority of its now 2 billion-plus users.

Here comes BiP Messenger.

Many users around the world, including Bangladesh, have not taken this kind of forced decision of WhatsApp lightly. So they decided to leave WhatsApp and use another app. 

As a result, at least two more apps, including BiP, Signal and Telegram, suddenly became popular. Among them, BiP has risen to number one in the Google Play Store as a messaging app in Bangladesh.

As of March 2020, the number of BiP users worldwide was 45 million. And in January 2021, the number of users in 196 countries of the world has exceeded 60 million.

The Story of BiP

BiP is actually a messaging app made in Turkey, where customers can exchange messages with audio-video calls like WhatsApp, Messenger, Emo or Viber. The app developers are making a special promise to protect privacy.

The Turkish government owns 26.2% of the company's assets. Karamehmet's company Cukurova Holding owns 13.81%, Russian private company Alpha Group owns 13.22% and the remaining 48.95% shares are in the Turkish capital market. 

The company claims that it is end-to-end encrypted, meaning that voice calls and messages will be kept secret and no one will be able to hack it. 

According to the app developers, there is also a system for secret chat. If a user wants to delete a message automatically after a certain time, the time can be set accordingly. There will be no more information later.

The Turkish mobile phone company Turkcell launched BiP in 2013. The app is being used in 192 countries around the world and most of the users were from different countries in Europe.

According to a BBC report, BiP has been the most downloaded in Germany before recent times and its use is also high there. Also, many people in France and Ukraine have downloaded the app.

At present, there is a huge demand for BiP in Europe and the Middle East, according to officials of Turkcell.

However, the popularity of this app in Bangladesh has surpassed every other. Considering the ranking of app downloads of Bangladeshi users from Google Play Store, it is seen that the download of BiP has risen 92 steps in just one day.

According to the Turkish daily Sabah, BiP has been downloaded 2 million times a day since WhatsApp announced the change in privacy policy. 

So far this app has been downloaded a total of 60 million times. Officials of Turkcell are expecting that the download of this app will cross 1 billion soon.

Muslim sentiment or privacy awareness 

However, analysts say that there may be several reasons for being attracted to BiP. 

First, people around the world are now more aware of privacy than ever before. Many users in Bangladesh also value privacy. That's why many people may have downloaded BiP.

Recently, when the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the use of BiP to leave WhatsApp, many feel that it has had an effect. And that warmth is being felt on social media as well. 

When the attention of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) was drawn to such a sudden popularity of a specific app in Bangladesh, Deputy Director (Media Wing) Md Zakir Hossain Khan told Dhaka Tribune: “When a new app comes we observe it and are aware about its activity. But we can't immediately say whether or not it is risky. The Detective Branch will notify us about its right or wrong activities after investigation.” 

Zakir Hossain Khan also mentioned Telegram, a Dubai-based messenger app that has attracted a surge of new users, from far-right extremists to militant organizations.

“If we find that the activity of BiP is suspicious like Telegram, as an app for militant organizations, we will take necessary steps immediately according to our rules,” he said.

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