Why do you need WhatsApp alternatives? For several reasons.
It’s often touted as a secure and private messaging service, but WhatsApp isn’t quite what we think it is. For one, its links to Facebook immediately cast a shadow on its privacy credentials. Then there are the numerous incidents, such as when WhatsApp group chats were discoverable on Google because the search giant was indexing links to “private” conversations.
If you’re serious about your privacy, not to mention your cybersecurity, it’s wise to seek an alternative to WhatsApp. With that in mind, here are some better options in 2021.
Top Messaging Apps
A firm favorite among the digital security community, Signal offers an easy way to chat with your friends and acquaintances securely. End-to-end encryption comes in the form of Signal’s own unique protocol.
The service’s code is also open-source, a handy facet that makes the messenger more secure as people with the appropriate skills can constantly test the code and fix any errors found. Signal also offers a few extra features privacy savvy users will appreciate including self-destructing messages and the ability to stop messages from showing on the lock screen.
- Open-source code
- Signal limits the amount of information that can be passed to the authorities
- Native apps for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux
- In-built blur tool to hide faces in photos or sensitive information in documents
- Signal logs as little metadata as possible
- Not as many features as some messenger apps, but recently the app has added a few stickers and other fun UX elements
- User base is small compared to WhatsApp. Although there are around 32 million users worldwide, you might have to convince your friends to join you on Signal
Another fan favorite among security-conscious users, Wickr is credited with being one of the first messengers to feature full end-to-end encryption. The service boasts a few nifty features we appreciate, including the ability to ensure any deleted files are 100 percent unrecoverable — once they’re gone, they are well and truly gone.
Businesses are also catered to on Wickr, the pro version, Wickr Pro, allows conference and group calls. But for individual users, you will need to upgrade to unlock these features. Like Signal, Wickr is open source, allowing the community to help fix any problematic security issues and bugs.
- Content shredder fully destroys past conversations and shared content
- You don’t need a phone number to sign up
- Messages have a user-designated lifespan, from 3 seconds to 6 days after being opened
- The screenshot function is disabled, users cannot take screenshots of conversations
- Basic photo editor in-app
- There are ways to circumvent the screenshot block, and digitally astute users will not struggle to do so
- Only partially open-source
- You’ll need a premium subscription to access all features
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Viber is more popular than both Signal and Wickr and boasts around 260 million active users each month. So there’s a higher chance your friends are already using this app.
Features are somewhat limited, but there’s full end-to-end encryption, and the app color codes your chats so you can easily see how secure they are. Additionally, users report that the call and video call quality is excellent, above what you would expect from a free app. Viber is also well integrated into a user’s phone, you can see your full call log within the app.
- Larger user base than many WhatsApp alternatives, but reports suggest its popularity is beginning to dwindle
- No need to upgrade to a premium service
- Version for desktop and laptop computers
- Notifications if someone tries to screenshot a message on iPhones while Android users can’t take screenshots
- Doesn’t use your GSM architecture for channels and calls, so wifi chats work well but 3G and 4G calls can be slightly dodgy
- You need a phone number to register
- You can’t hide your phone number from contacts
While Viber may be losing some of its once-mighty user base, Telegram is on the make. In terms of privacy, the service offers all three of our most desirable features: open-source code, end-to-end encryption (in secret chat mode), and destructible messages.
But, and it’s a big but, if you’re leaving WhatsApp for privacy reasons, Telegram might not be your best bet. The fact that encryption is only in secret mode is troublesome, and we see no reason why it shouldn’t be the default rather than an option. Additionally, there is no way to encrypt group chats, a no-go in our opinion.
- Growing user base
- Open-source code for bug hunters and security pros to poke and prod
- Plenty of engaging UX elements
- Not a lot of transparency regarding what Telegram shares with the company’s host country, the UAE, a nation known for surveilling its citizens
- Telegrams claims of “heavily encrypted” messages are somewhat misleading
- The service stores default chat histories on its servers
- No end-to-end encryption by default
So which WhatsApp alternative should you choose from these four options? According to numerous security experts, Signal is the best choice when it comes to both privacy and security. Plus, if it’s good enough for Elon Musk, it’s good enough for us!
Other ways to protect your privacy online
Once you’ve sorted your messenger service and secured your private communications, it’s time to ensure the rest of your internet activity is just as private. Here’s how:
- Use a VPN – How a VPN works is by creating a private browsing network and encrypting your traffic in the process. This keeps your activity safe from prying eyes.
- Ditch Chrome – It might be fast and intuitive, but you pay for this convenience with your privacy. Consider switching to a more secure browser, such as Tor or even Firefox.
- Get your ducks in line – Search engines such as DuckDuckGo value privacy, consider making the switch from Google.
As we head into 2021, it’s becoming increasingly clear that users are getting tired of exchanging their data for services. We’re now valuing digital privacy more than ever before. Join the privacy and security revolution by ditching WhatsApp and changing how you browse.