Instant messaging applications have become an important part of the essential for a good part of Internet users. Together with web browsers, they are the most used software and if we talk about mobile devices, they are omnipresent for all communication tasks, text, voice and video chat, as well as sending multimedia content.
WhatsApp is the best known and most used application of all the large group of messaging applications, reaching 2,000 million users. It is probably the most transversal service in terms of age groups and is usually the gateway to less digitized population groups.
The usage data it offers are staggering and the latest statistics speak of 100,000 million messages sent daily; the daily consultation by 70% of users and the almost 40 minutes of use that on average each one of them dedicates to it every day. Like “danones” when we talk about yogurts, WhatsApp has become its own brand and its name is often used -incorrectly- to define the type of service.
Facebook is a ‘monster’ without a solution
The purchase of WhatsApp by Facebook meant a concentration that in our view harmed the industry and the users of the application themselves. Of course, Zuckerberg’s firm wants to monetize the investment and is not to be trusted. It is not the only one, but Facebook is the world’s largest “data trafficker” and has breached all legal and moral standards by violating by act or omission the right to privacy of its users, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal as the culmination of undesirable practices.
The social network has collected, used and sold data about its users to third parties without their knowledge or consent. From the sector we are talking about and even if you only use WhatsApp, you should know that your data are transferred to Facebook obligatorily. And all the promises of ‘change’ have remained in very little. This week the company has had to start dealing with a serious complaint where he is accused of prioritizing profits over the fight against hate speech, misinformation and others, aware of its harmful effects on its users. It is going to bring tail.
And another problem The concentration of massive services that are at the hands of Facebook is alarming and no one in their right mind (regulators who claim to defend competition and users) should have approved the acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram.
The global crash of Facebook services this week has shown the dangerous repercussions of relying on such a behemoth. In instant messaging, in addition to WhatsApp, it must be said that Facebook accumulates another 1.3 billion Messenger users who were also left without service for a few hours.
Alternative messaging applications
Beyond WhatsApp and Telegram, thereâ€™s another group of extremely interesting apps so you don’t have to depend on FacebookAs you can imagine and as you have surely seen, it is very difficult to switch users from one platform to another. Even if they are better technically, have more features, are more secure or more careful with personal data, those are the alternatives that we are going to remind you in this article.
Signal, the fastest growing
Signal is a free messaging service that offers video, voice and text chat, voice and video calls with end-to-end encryption, as well as secure file and photo transfers. With features similar to WhatsApp and a very simple to use interface typical of such applications, it works under the protocol Signal Messaging Protocolis widely recognized as the most secure messaging protocol available.
Even more important is the minimal information that the service collectsAny other data, such as your contact list, the groups you belong to, or any other content is encrypted and stored on your device. As a result, no one, including Signal staff, can see any of this data without physical access to your device.
As if those advantages were not enough, Signal is a open Source developmentwhich means that its code is available online for public scrutiny and any privacy issues or security flaws can be verified by experts.Â In fact, WhatsApp’s internal encryption system is built with Signal’s code.
Promoted byÂ Edward Snowden,Â Jack Dorsey or technologist Bruce Schneier, Signal is a project that relies on an independent non-profit organization, is not dependent on any big tech and is supported by voluntary donations.Â It is available for free for Android and Apple mobile devices, as well as Windows, Mac and Linux PCs. Since the announcement of Whatsapp’s policy change on the transfer of data to Facebook, Signal downloads have skyrocketed by 4,200%. It is currently the big name in instant messaging although it is far from the number of users of WhatsApp or Telegram.
Telegram, the biggest alternative
The biggest alternative toÂ WhatsApp comes from an application that has just surpassed the 500 million users thanks to the exodus of the Facebook app (25 million new users in 72 hours).Â What at first was little more than a more secure WhatsApp clone, has ended up becoming a very complete software. In fact, it has always been ahead of WhatsApp in features, technology and of course in security and privacy.
We have been recommending it for years and in fact we use it for its advanced features as a communication platform to offer you channels of six of our portals, from MC to MCPRO passing of course through muylinux where we started it. In short: the best of our house you also have it in Telegram.
Telegram collects less data than WhatsApp (though not as little as Signal) and gives nothing to Facebook. The app has end-to-end encrypted chats, but the default chats are also stored on Telegram’s servers. If you want a real chat with device-to-device encryption, Secret Mode can be used. Once enabled, messages are only stored on your device, increasing privacy. In that mode, if one person deletes a message, it is deleted from both devices.
Like Signal, the source code of Telegram is openÂ released under GPL v3 license and anyone can check it out on GitHub. It is available for free for mobile devices (Android, iPhone, iPad and even Windows Phone), as well as for personal computers with an application for Windows PCs, macOS and Linux that has been beating the equivalent version of WhatsApp for years. It also has a web version.
Threema, paid, but safe
If most apps are “free” and some like WhatsApp payment is camouflaged with your data,Â Threema is not cut and is paid, that is at a negligible price as a single rate of $ 2.99 that many users would gladly pay if it works as promised.
Threema offersÂ end-to-end encryption for all data moving through its service. ThisÂ includes messages, video calls, files, and even status updates.Â The app doesn’t skimp on features and has the usual text messages, voice calls, video calls, file sharing, groups, lists, and access to a desktop web client.Â Threema does not collect any user data and does not show any advertisements.Â
An application created in Switzerland and using dedicated servers hosted there, which allows you to chat completely anonymously as you don’t even need to link a phone number or email to your account (these are optional). The service generates a random ID when you start using the application that other users can use to communicate with you. It is available for Android (if you want with an APK without going through the Google Play Store), iOS and web browsers.
Threema recently completed a transition to open source software, and the code is audited regularly so the user can be sure there is nothing under the hood that could compromise anonymity.
You probably know Discord as a chat platform for games because thatâ¤?s where it started, but over time it has become something more and its managers promote it as an alternative to WhatsApp, Skype and even the more professional Slack, depending on the userâ¤?s needs. This combination of features under a simple interface is one of its advantages, but here we point out the instant messaging ones.
It’s server-based, but it also has a private messaging feature that’s very similar to WhatsApp. From its “Friends” tab, you can add components using their username or player tags for private messaging, group chats, group calls, media sharing and more. You can also create a group chat with up to 10 friends If you need more, you can create your own Discord server.
Unlike Signal and Telegram, you donâ€™t even need to share your phone number, nor any real name that identifies you. It’s free and available for Android, iOS, Mac, Windows and Linux and web version for any browser.
Keybase, the most private
It’s not for all users, but the most privacy-conscious may not find another one like it.Â Keybase started as a directory for public and private identification keys, but it also has an instant messaging component that can be used for private and group messaging.
Keybase is a open source application and uses public key cryptography to protect messages. Messages, media and file transfers are protected in such a way that even Keybase cannot read messages.Â Because it is based on public key identifiers, it can also be used anonymously. It is available for free for Android, iOS, Windows, Linux and Mac.
An enterprise collaboration suite with secure messaging, group chat capabilities, file sharing and other features, offering a free version called Wire Personal for free use.
To create an account, an email address or phone number must be provided. This development records some data, but not to the extent that WhatsApp does. It has end-to-end encryption and is developed under an open source model.
Wire Personal is available for the major platforms, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux, in addition to having a Web version.
Wickr Me, military grade
Like the previous one, it is not a well-known development (although it has been available for a few years now) nor is it intended for mass consumption because it puts privacy and security ahead of any other function just like Keybase does, but one step further, as it promises to Â “military-gradeÂ” security in communications and in fact has been recommended for use by military forces after being verified by prestigious security research teams.
Wickr Me uses anonymous accounts, swithout any personally identifiable information on record, with no metadata storage and without the developer having access to any information or contacts.Â All data that is sent, whether text or voice messages, videos or images, is protected by strong end-to-end encryption. One of the distinctive features of this development is that all messages and attachments are protected by strong end-to-end encryption self-destruct after a period of time which can be set by users.
The development is open source and this is available on GitHub for community auditing. It is available for free for Android, iOS, Windows, Linux and Mac, although it has some limitations in the number of participants in groups (up to 10) or audio or video calls (only 1). The Wickr Pro version is paid and allows you to deploy the full potential of this “ultra-private” application.
There is no lack of good instant messaging applications as you may have read. The big problem is switching hundreds of millions of users from one platform to another. The general public is comfortable by nature and it is difficult for them to try something else that they have been using for years, and that like WhatsApp works and in their groups are most of their family, friends or acquaintances.
But alternatives should be explored. Facebook is an insatiable and unsolvable ‘monster’. Any company can suffer infrastructure problems or cyber-attacks, but in the case of Facebook a fall of services means leaving half of the Internet out of play because of its huge concentration of applications. As far as privacy is concerned, everything has already been said.