Recently I was part of a conversion where people discussed easy ways to share files using social media apps like WhatsApp and Telegram including problems they have faced when doing so. The thing is for most people apps like WhatsApp and Telegram are the beginning and the end of the internet so it doesn’t make sense to ask them to use services such as Google Drive, Uptobox, Dropbox and OneDrive to share links.
In an ideal world, we would all have access to a fast, affordable and unfettered internet connection. We would happily share files using links to various cloud services just like they do in the developed world. You know those countries where gigabit internet is kind of the norm. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world.
The third world where WhatsApp is the internet
In Zimbabwe, just like in a lot of third world countries, social media makes up the internet for most people. We have seen it year in and year out when POTRAZ publishes its reports. For the majority of people in Zimbabwe, WhatsApp gobbles the bulk of their data while Twitter, Telegram and Facebook also have thriving communities.
Part of the reason for this is, of course, the fact that a lot of mobile network operators (who double as the largest internet service providers too) offer various social media data bundles which are often cheaper than regular data bundles. Some telcos even offer unlimited WhatsApp and Facebook if you sign up with them.
Other reasons include:
- Perception: Telegram is generally considered as safer than WhatsApp so in countries such as Ethiopia, Russia and Iran there are thriving Telegram communities.
- Habit: a lot of people buy a smartphone just so they can be on social media. They might find it more comfortable to use stay on these platforms for most tasks rather than straying to the other parts of the internet
- No ads: WhatsApp and Telegram generally don’t have the same annoying ads as seen on some file sharing sites.
- Free: WhatsApp and Telegram offer free storage. Others charge or annoy you with their pesky ads.
All these factors mean that a lot of people already share files on both WhatsApp and Telegram as opposed to the traditional way of using actual cloud storage. However, filesharing using these two platforms presents two main known problems:
- WhatsApp is famous for it’s small size limit. You can only send files of up to 100MB in size
- Telegram is more generous, they have a 2GB file size limit which should be adequate for most people. The problem here is that downloading such large files can be slow unless if you use a download accelerator.
Solving WhatsApp’s small file size problem
To share larger files using WhatsApp you need to follow these steps:
- Download a file splitting app such as Droid Splitter, if you are using Windows you can use Winrar instead
- Make sure the person to whom you are sending the files has the same software installed on their device as well. This is where Winrar has an advantage as it is supported on multiple platforms. Something to note is the fact that on other platforms it’s just called Unrar. The Win part stands for Windows obviously.
- Take the file you want to send and split it into multiple files
- Send these via WhatsApp. Sometimes you might have to change the extension of the split files into .doc. Do not change the extension of the split files into media extensions such as .jpeg or .mp4 as WhatsApp has a habit of modifying these during transit
- The person receiving the files can just download them and merge back the files using the appropriate software.
NB Sadly at the moment I am yet to figure out a way to use a tool like Internet download Manager to download files sent via WhatsApp. I am experimenting using WhatApp web at the moment but that requires me to click download before the link is captured by the manager.
This sadly means that sharing a Linux ISO using WhatsApp is going to be a pain. As you will have to manually download each piece. For Linux Mint that is about 17 parts.
Using download managers with Telegram
As already said, Telegram does not suffer from the file limit problem. Most Linux distros can easily fit into the limits set by Telegram. Except the main version of Ubuntu Desktop which is over 2.6 GB in size. With Telegram the problem is that the download speed is a bit low. If you use a download manger things improve significantly.
In order to use say Internet Download Manager with Telegram follow these steps:
- Open Telegram web by visiting https://web.telegram.org and logging in. Just use the app if you are on a phone or tablet.
- In the search field, search for the following @LinkToFilesBot
- Click start in the bot’s message field.
- Now go to the channel, group or chat with the file you want to download
- Forward the message with the file to @LinkToFilesBot
- The bot will immediately respond with a public link to that file
- Copy the link and paste it into your browser
- Solve the captcha. This step was recently introduced to stop people from using bots to abuse the bot. Yes, bots now abuse each other these days.
- Once you have a final link paste it into your download manager
- Make sure you search for the exact bot mentioned above. There are plenty of bots that offer similar functionality but not all of them work.
- The links generated this way come with an expiry date. If this happens you can always get another