India has banned a total of 59 apps that are linked to China on the grounds of ensuring safe cyberspace in the country. The list, released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Monday evening, has some big names that have been blocked, including ByteDance's TikTok, Xiaomi's Mi Community, Tencent's WeChat, and Alibaba's UC Browser among 55 others. One of the biggest markets for TikTok is India, which has over 200 million users in India, has said it is talking to the government over the unprecedented moratorium, while other companies have remained mum so far.
The MeitY has cited these 59 apps were "engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of state and public order." This would mean that access to all the apps needs to curbed from the server-side, in addition to their removal from app marketplaces.
To ensure an effective ban on these apps, the government will have to ask the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block the app servers on both cellular and broadband networks. Only after the access of these apps to the internet servers of the ISPs is blocked, these apps will not effectively work. However, it will be interesting to see how the government enforces the ban on the VPN service providers, whose tools can be used to access the apps after they have been banned.
Queries sent to Airtel, Reliance Jio, and COAI remained unanswered at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, India-based companies have lauded the government's decision to uproot Chinese apps from India's internet ecosystem -- a move that will be formative in the emergence of homegrown apps to the mainstream. Apps such as Chingari and Mitron have already made headlines when they posed as better and more secure alternatives to TikTok. The apps were removed from Google Play store over some copyright issues but the apps have been reinstated now.
So, if TikTok has Chingari and Mitron as its substitute, what alternatives do other popular apps have? Shareit, the tool that is widely used for file transfers between different platforms, can be replaced by the likes of SendGB and JioSwitch. The Mi Community app may not have an alike stablemate but its counterpart would be WhatsApp, ShareChat, and Telegram. UC Browser is a browser to access the internet, which means you can easily replace it with Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera Mini on your Android and iOS devices.
WeChat, particularly, is an app that works both in India and China but it is the only medium to communicate with someone in mainland China from outside of it since apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Messenger do not work there. It remains to be seen what alternative India's developer community comes with for such a purpose.
Here are the 59 Chinese apps that have been blocked by the Indian government:
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