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How To Use WhatsApp Rival ‘Telegram’ on Ubuntu Desktop

Webogram in Unity

Telegram with Unity Features

With some 35 million monthly users, cross-platform open-source messaging service Telegram is fast living up to its claim of being a fully-fledged alternative to WhatsApp.

While the service only provides official applications for Android and iOS users, their decision to provide a robust API has allowed third-party developers to create all manner of apps and integration with other operating systems, including Windows Phone, OS X and Google Chrome.

Now a new app for Unity brings integration with the web version to the Ubuntu desktop.

Why Telegram?

Before we look at what this app offers let’s recap what the service is, and what it lets you do.

Like WhatsApp, Telegram is a messaging service that uses your phone number as your user ID that allows text, photos, videos and virtually all types of files to be sent between users. Signing up requires a valid mobile number and can, for now, only be done through the official Android and iOS applications.

Web version of telegram (image: Rafael Cervera Moreno)

Web version of telegram (image: Rafael Cervera Moreno)

‘Normal’ conversations are stored on Telegram servers and encrypted with their home-grown MTProto protocol. The service also supports ‘secret chats’. These offer secure end-to-end encryption, are not stored on the Telegram servers and offer a Snapchat-like auto-destruct option after a set period of time.

While fans of Telegram tout the security and privacy aspects as being key to its uniqueness, the robustness of the Russian-founded service’s home-grown encryption protocol has been questioned by some. Similarly, the fact the service is provided for free with no distinct business model has also led to qualms over their motives.

Telegram has, and continues, to refute much of the cynicism directed towards them. And to show their commitment to security they’re offering a $200,000 bounty to anyone who can crack their encryption protocol. As of writing, no one has.

2Telegram Unity Web App

Like other web apps built for Unity, the Telegram web app is able to blur the lines between web-based and native apps.

The ‘webogram’ service that this app uses is easy to use and offers a wide set of features. Integrating into the desktop, the Unity app offers:

  • Notifications of new messages
  • Unread message count badge on Launcher item
  • Messaging Menu integration
  • Runs in own window (14.04)

The handy web app can be installed on Ubuntu 13.10 and 14.04 LTS through the Terminal using the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:costales/unity-webapps-telegram
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-webapps-telegram

Or if you’d prefer, you can grab the deb installer directly instead.

After installation has completed, launch the application from the Unity Dash by searching for ‘telegram’.