Science and technology

Choosing an open messenger consumer: Alternatives to WhatsApp

Like many households, mine is inconveniently unfold round, and I’ve many colleagues in North and South America. So, over time, I’ve relied increasingly more on WhatsApp to remain in contact with individuals. The claimed end-to-end encryption appeals to me, as I desire to take care of some shreds of privateness, and furthermore to keep away from forcing these with whom I talk to make use of an insecure mechanism. But all this WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram “convergence” has led our household to resolve to vote with our toes. We not use WhatsApp for something besides speaking with others who refuse to make use of the rest, and we’re engaged on them.

So what can we use as an alternative? Before I spill the beans, I would like to clarify what different choices we checked out and the way we selected.

Options we thought-about and the way we evaluated them

There is a completely crazy number of messaging apps out there, and we spent a great deal of time enthusiastic about what we would have liked for a alternative. We began by studying Dan Arel’s article on five social media alternatives to protect privacy.

Then we got here up with our listing of core wants:

  • Our total household makes use of Android telephones.
  • One of us has a Windows desktop; the remainder use Linux.
  • Our primary curiosity is one thing we are able to use to speak, each individually and as a bunch, on our telephones, however it could be good to have a desktop consumer obtainable.
  • It would even be good to have voice and video calling as effectively.
  • Our privateness is necessary. Ideally, the code ought to be open supply to facilitate safety critiques. If the operation is just not pure peer-to-peer, then the group working the server elements mustn’t function a enterprise primarily based on the commercialization of our private info.

At that time, we narrowed the lengthy listing right down to Viber, Line, Signal, Threema, Wire, and While I lean strongly to open supply, we needed to incorporate some closed supply and paid options to verify we weren’t lacking one thing necessary. Here’s how these six alternate options measured up.


Line is a well-liked messaging utility, and it is half of a bigger Line “ecosystem”—on-line gaming, Taxi (an Uber-like service in Japan), Wow (a meals supply service), Today (a information hub), procuring, and others. For us, Line checks a number of too many packing containers with all these add-on options. Also, I couldn’t decide its present safety high quality, and it is not open supply. The enterprise mannequin appears to be to construct a group and determine the way to generate income by that group. operates on high of the Matrix protocol and subsequently lets the consumer select a Matrix supplier. It additionally seems to test all of our “needs” packing containers, though in operation it seems extra like Slack, with a room-oriented and interoperable/federated design. It presents desktop purchasers, and it is open supply. Since the Matrix protocol may be hosted wherever, any enterprise mannequin can be explicit to the Matrix supplier.


Signal presents an identical consumer expertise to WhatsApp. It checks all of our “needs” packing containers, with stable safety validated by exterior audit. It is open supply, and it’s developed and operated by a not-for-profit basis, in precept just like the Mozilla Foundation. Interestingly, Signal’s communications protocol seems for use by different messaging apps, including WhatsApp.


Threema is extraordinarily privacy-focused. It checks a few of our “needs” packing containers, with respectable exterior audit outcomes of its safety. It does not provide a desktop consumer, and it isn’t fully open source although a few of its core elements are. Threema’s enterprise mannequin seems to be to supply paid safe communications.


Viber is a very fashionable messaging utility. It checks most of our “needs” packing containers; nevertheless, it does not appear to have stable proof of its safety—it appears to make use of a proprietary encryption mechanism, and so far as I might decide, its present safety mechanisms should not externally audited. It’s not open supply. The proprietor, Rakuten, appears to be planning for a paid subscription as a enterprise mannequin.


Wire was began and is constructed by some ex-Skype individuals. It seems to test all of our “needs” packing containers, though I’m not fully snug with its safety profile because it shops consumer information that apparently is just not encrypted on its servers. It presents desktop purchasers and is open supply. The developer and operator, Wire Swiss, seems to have a pay-for-service track as its future enterprise mannequin.

The closing verdict

In the tip, we picked Signal. We favored its open-by-design method, its critical and ongoing privacy and security stance and having a Signal app on our GNOME (and Windows) desktops. It performs very effectively on our Android handsets and our desktops. Moreover, it wasn’t a giant shock to our small consumer group; it feels far more like WhatsApp than, for instance,, which we additionally tried extensively. Having stated that, if we had been making an attempt to exchange Slack, we would in all probability transfer to

Have a favourite messenger? Tell us about it within the feedback under.

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