Telegram is adding a new group voice chats feature that’s similar to an always-on Discord room. Voice chats are now part of existing text chats, and operate as a persistent option to speak live with friends or family. As they’re always available, you can dip in and out of voice chats just like you would in a Discord room or call.
Telegram is supporting “a few thousand participants,” so even bigger groups for things like live events will include voice chats. The feature appears at the top of an existing group chat, if enabled, allowing anyone to join the conversation freely. On the desktop versions of Telegram for Windows and Mac, you can also use a push-to-talk key for voice chats to control your microphone input.
Telegram has also built a useful voice chat overlay for Android, which operates as a system-wide floating widget. It lets you see who’s talking or operate microphone and mute options when Telegram is running in the background.
At the moment group voice chats is focused on audio, but Telegram says it’s adding video and screen sharing features in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in trying out group voice chats you’ll need to be an admin of a group to enable the feature in the group settings menu.
Alongside the group voice chats option, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has revealed that the service is nearing 500 million users. Telegram now plans to monetize its service with an ad platform that’s designed for one-to-many public channels. Durov describes the platform as “one that is user-friendly, respects privacy and allows us to cover the costs of servers and traffic.”
Update December 23rd 6:15AM ET: Article updated with Telegram monetization plans.