The New Signal Messenger App And Its Rising Popularity

Time
11-01-2021
Category :Mobile Application

The signal is all over. From Elon Musk of Tesla fame’s popular two-word tweet “Use Signal” to your local and international tech group chats, there is a buzz around the latest Signal messenger app. It has been endorsed by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Anand Mahindra, the chairman of Mahindra Group. It has toppled WhatsApp and is now at the top of the free messaging apps search results in the App Store. Since Elon Musk’s famous tweet, it has been the most downloaded messaging app in Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Finland, and many other countries. Such a surge made it difficult for the Signal app mobile number verification of new accounts. It has been resolved now.

 

What is the issue with WhatsApp?

WhatsApp has issued a new privacy policy update saying that it will share the data of the users with other Facebook companies. What it basically means is that the user data in WhatsApp would now be integrated across multiple platforms that the parent company Facebook owns. Its new privacy policy comes into force from 8th Feb 2021. Even though the data is encrypted end-to-end, the integration of user data with other apps has not gone down well with the users and many have threatened to move to other better messaging apps like Telegram and Signal. So is it curtains over for WhatsApp? 

 

What is Signal app and why is it gaining popularity?

Signal app is a free messaging and voice-talk platform similar to WhatsApp but with one most important difference “Privacy”.  In fact, the tagline of the Signal messaging app is “Say hello to privacy”, a line that will resonate well with the users and make them want to trust the brand.

The Signal Wikipedia page gives the information that even though the initial release of Signal app was on 29th July 2014, its stable release on Android was in December 2020 and on iOS was on 10th January 2021.

The Signal app runs on donations got from the non-profit Signal Foundation organization. The Signal Foundation was started by Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp and Moxie Marlinspike, the CEO of Signal messenger app.

 

Benefits of Signal app:

  1. The messages, audio and video calls, group calls and even the stickers sent are end-to-end encrypted. This encryption technology that Signal first created is now used by WhatsApp and Skype.
  2. The messages on your chats can be set to disappear after a certain time. This time gap can be customized based on user needs.
  3. The users cannot automatically add other people to the groups unless they get their permission.
  4. The messages on Signal are stored on the local end device, which is your mobile phone. The Signal app servers do not store the data nor does it allow the users to backup their Signal chats on the cloud servers (Google Drive or iCloud). This means that when you migrate to a new number or get a new mobile device, you cannot transfer your messages on the new device or number.   
  5. Signal app can also be accessed on the laptop or desktop just like WhatsApp. But the difference here is that all the chats that are on your mobile device do not get loaded on the laptop and vice versa.
  6. You can send a message to any user on your contact list. Users who do not have Signal app installed on the phone will be sent messages through regular SMS.
  7. The audio and video calls on the Signal app are end-to-end encrypted. This is shown through the small padlock icon next to the phone icon.   
  8. To migrate an existing WhatsApp group to the Signal app, you have to create a new group on Signal by adding just one member of the group. Now, share a generated group invite link on the WhatsApp group that you want to shift to the Signal app. The users can join the newly formed group on Signal by clicking on the link.  
  9. You can also send messages to yourself on the Signal app through the ‘Note to Self’ option. By this, you can keep a list or a note of important things.
  10. Signal app gives you an option to blur your profile photo.

 

Trivia About Signal App:

Brian Acton who co-founded WhatsApp resigned in September 2017 regarding a dispute over its monetization. Mark Zukerberg and other people leading Facebook and WhatsApp wanted to monetize it through ads and in-app subscriptions and Brian was against it.

After resigning from WhatsApp, Brian Acton founded the Signal Foundation with Moxie Marlinspike, a security researcher who was the brain behind Whisper Systems (now, Open Whisper Systems) that launched RedPhone app or the predecessor of the Signal app. This non-profit foundation focused on private communication through encryption of messages.

Brian Acton invested $50 million into the Signal app and since then it has been a favorite among the journalists and human rights activists. Julian Assange though had reservations about it saying that even though the encryption system was good for Signal app, the endpoint that is the mobile phone on which the messages are stored could be hacked.

Signal app was popularized during the George Floyd protests in the United States when it was recommended by Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey due to better encryption and privacy. It was later that a new feature was added to blur the faces in the profile photos in response to the heightened monitoring of the ‘Black Lives Matter ‘protestors by the federal agency.

Initially, the Android version of Signal supported encrypted messaging for SMS and MMS. It later started sending and receiving encrypted messages through the data channel.  

 

Conclusion

The signal is very clear. People need trust and Facebook/WhatsApp has failed in it miserably. It is time to switch over to Signal now!

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