Signal is getting more downloads because it is more secure and private than WhatsApp. This is because of the problems with WhatsApp. We tell you what happened and why this app is likely to become popular.
Signal is one of the coolest apps right now. The number of people using this chat has grown along with the number of people using Telegram. People are taking advantage of the uproar surrounding WhatsApp’s terms of service revisions, which would have shared more user data with Facebook. Even if the Mark Zuckerberg matrix clarified some points and the new conditions didn’t apply in Europe due to the RGPD, many users of alternative chat systems switched to Facebook or gave it a try.
Telegram and Signal were the primary winners of that migration, which will be examined in a while. Signal, supported by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, is also popular. Signal has been used by privacy-conscious people for years because it’s open source and secure. Already in 2015, Edward Snowden said that it was his most secure way to talk. And in Spain, Catalan independence politicians were known to use it.
Now that Signal has at least 50 million users, up from just 10 a half month ago, it’s time to find out who runs it, what makes it so different, and if it’s really that different from other chat apps.
Elon Musk, everything started with you (not)
As we’ve already said, Snowden has been one of the most important people in the spread of Signal in its short history. But recently, Elon Musk helped her even more by saying “use Signal” in one of her short tweets, which is something she does often.
Signal has been getting more and more popular since the summer of 2020, when Black Lives Matter protesters used it to keep their messages from being read by the government.
After Musk’s tweet, the company used Twitter to explain how they had changed to accommodate the large number of new users: “Every day this week, we’ve been adding new servers and more space at a record rate, but today, we’ve surpassed even our most optimistic predictions. Millions and millions of new users show that privacy is important. We appreciate your patience, “he wrote on a social networking site.
What is Signal, and what sets it apart?
Let’s start at the start. Signal is a messaging app like WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram, or Facebook Messenger, but it focuses on privacy and security instead of cute emojis. Or, at the very least, that could be a good slogan for them.
Signal is free and works on both Android and iOS, as well as on mobile devices and computers. It comes with all the basic messaging tools, like group chats, voice and video calls, and emojis, just in case. It also has extra security measures.
Like WhatsApp, Signal uses your phone number to let your contacts know who you are. This means you don’t have to remember any new usernames or passwords, and you can just log in directly. On Android, you can also use Signal to send SMS and MMS messages to people who don’t have the app, but those messages won’t be as secure.
Its “secret,” so to speak, is the protocol it uses to encrypt messages from end to end. This protocol is called Open Whispers Systems, and it was made by the company that owns it. Because this encryption works so well, WhatsApp decided to make it a standard as well. It has also added extra security measures, like the use of a PIN or the ability to change the way people’s faces look in the photos they send. So, privacy should be a goal.
With Signal’s end-to-end encryption, neither the company nor anyone else can read your messages or listen to your calls. Signal doesn’t store any user data on its servers—it stays on your device. This means that governments and other organizations can’t ask for it or leak it.
Signal is an open-source foundation
Also, all of the app’s code is open source, so anyone can look at it and see how it works. This doesn’t mean that hackers can break Signal’s encryption, but it does make sure that security experts and users can check that Signal keeps the high privacy standards it says it has, which isn’t the case with other Signal apps.
Let’s talk about where it came from. Signal is made up of two programs from Whisper Systems, a company started by hacktivist Moxie Marlinspike in 2010: RedPhone, a voice calling app with encrypted calls, and TextSecure, a messaging platform with encrypted messages. Twitter bought Whisper Systems in 2011 and then shut down RedPhone. In the same year, the social network re-launched TextSecure as a free and open source messaging platform.
Signal Foundation to Twitter’s purchase
Marlinspike left Twitter in February 2014 to start Open Whisper Systems. TextSecure started to look more like the current version of Signal at this time, with end-to-end encryption and the ability to send instant messages. In July 2014, the software got its current name, Signal.
Years later, the co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton, comes into the picture. Acton left Facebook after the company bought his app because they had different ideas about how to handle data.
Acton and Marlinspike got together in February 2018 to start the Signal Foundation, a non-profit group whose goal is to make private communication “easy to use and available everywhere.” After leaving WhatsApp about six months earlier, Acton gave $50 million to a new company. Signal continues to get all of its money from donations to this day.
Signal and WhatsApp (and other messaging apps)
Both Signal and WhatsApp use the same technology to encrypt messages from one end to the other. That means that both the text messages and phone calls you send and receive are private. Facebook does collect a lot of other information, though, like statistics about how people use the site, metadata, etc. Here is a comparison that goes into more than just the nitty-gritty of what other apps collect and what Signal needs to work:
The differences are also clear when compared to Telegram, another great app on the rise. Telegram says it cares a lot about privacy, but there are several ways to get around that. By default, Telegram messages are not really encrypted from end to end. Also, the fact that private groups can have as many members as they want, that users can join them by clicking a link, and that they are not explicitly moderated has made it a hotspot for harmful and illegal content.
If there is a downside to Signal, it is that it does not moderate the content, but it does limit groups to 1,000 people, and it is more about communicating with real contacts than joining groups of strangers like WhatsApp and Telegram.