Remember the days when we were restricted to 160 characters on an SMS? Okay, so we technically still are, but these days with Whatsapp, why limit yourself to text when a GIF conveys your reactions a lot better than “LOL”?
But ever since Facebook bought over Whatsapp, there have been concerns over the privacy of its estimated 1.5 billion users across the globe. And they’re not entirely unfounded. Facebook has come under public scrutiny for the worst reasons these few years: the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw over 87 million profiles harvested for data and the numerous security breaches involving millions of users are just some of what we know.
Whatsapp’s co-founder also left the company in April last year over disagreements on privacy and encryption, two principles that were at the core of the app during its development. If that doesn’t sit right with you, you’re not alone.
Perhaps it’s time to start relying less on Facebook’s ever-growing ecosystem. Sure, they control some of the world’s most popular social applications now, but the power is in us to make a change for a better digital space. Here are some alternatives to Whatsapp that have placed your privacy and data at the forefront of their ethics.
Besides, we’re positive you won’t miss that annoying aunty spamming your family group chat with incessant “good morning” messages. Thank you, next.
For a couple of years now, pundits have touted Telegram as “the next Whatsapp”, and they aren’t wrong. The cloud-based messaging app boasts more than 200 million users globally and has a plethora of features not available to Whatsapp. On Telegram, you can have groups of up to 200,000 users and send self-destructing messages, giving you both ends of the privacy spectrum.
Undoubtedly the best feature of the app is the access. You can log in to your same account across multiple devices and still have the same messages and chat groups. You can even start composing a message on your PC, and the draft will sync across to your phone, too.
Telegram is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, macOS, PC, Linux, and as a Web client.
If you’re missing the older, more fuss-free days of text messaging, then Signal would be perfect for you. It’s a no-frills app that does the basics extremely well, and the few embellishments like GIF-sending and disappearing messages feature are not gimmicky at all.
But what makes Signal stand out from the crowd is its encryption. It’s developed under an open-source license, so experts can audit the code and verify its security protocols. Researchers from three big institutions (including the University of Oxford) have given the green light to use it. If that doesn’t convince you, we wouldn’t know what does.
Signal is available on Android, iOS, and PC.
Apple’s stance on privacy is crystal clear: It is a fundamental human right. So naturally, you can expect the same standard of privacy when you use iMessage, the default messaging app on iOS. It uses end-to-end encryption whenever you’re sending a message over the cloud, and there’s no way for anyone to decrypt your texts in transit. You can also set your messages to be deleted after 30 days or a year, or for them to be kept forever.
The biggest downside to iMessage is that both you and your recipient need to be Apple users. But therein also lies the beauty of the integration. You can send Animojis and Memojis, hand-draw a heart to your loved ones or share your latest Apple Music tunes. Your messages can also be sent with effects like “Invisible Ink” or a full-screen echo by pressing down on the send arrow instead of tapping it.
iMessage is only available on iOS and macOS devices.