Gone is the era when WhatsApp and Facebook were seen as the only two messaging applications. Despite its popularity, it is now facing stiff competition with new and more advanced applications that are able to overcome the weaknesses of these two apps.
One of the newest replacement to WhatsApp and Facebook that is now gaining popularity is the super-secure Signal. While WhatsApp has failed to provide multi-device access in any meaningful way and doesn’t have a call option except on the mobile device, Signal has started beta-testing of its new one-to-one video and voice calls from its brilliant desktop app.
Signal saw a significant rise in user download with a new and heightened need for data privacy especially during the recent protests in the U.S. and Hong Kong. It was seen as the best, secure messenger for anyone concerned about interception, metadata, or tracking.
However, Signal doesn’t yet has this option for group calls but in an announcement made through a blog, it has called upon all Beta testers to meet their “goal of enabling secure voice and video calls that are available on all of your devices – in addition to being end-to-end encrypted and free for everyone to use.”
This is seen as a dig at Zoom that saw its rise in the times of the pandemic when its sales jumped 169% year-on-year in the three months to 30 April to $328.2 million, as it added more than 180,000 customers. Although, Zoom has faced issues on encryption and restricting some functionality to paying users only.
According to Zak Doffman of Forbes, despite the digs at Zoom, it isn’t really the competition—this is all about WhatsApp. “Signal is far and away from the best secure messenger available today, and for anyone who dislikes trusting Facebook with their messaging, this is the option for you,” he wrote.
He further added the two drawbacks of Signal in comparison to WhatsApp. “The first is that there are still not enough users—tens of millions versus a couple of billion. The second is that there are no backups, as such. If you lose your device, you lose your messages.”
WhatsApp has its pros. It has done a splendid job with the end to end encryption feature. It has also introduced eight party calls. “The great news is that WhatsApp now has a full desktop app in the works—part of linked devices feature now in the test, and it’s reported that desktop-based calls will be enabled,” wrote Doffman.
While Signal is now gaining popularity, the second drawback that remains is the ‘backup’. It allows the users to transfer the message history into new devices and it stores an independent message history on every linked device only from when the device was linked, nothing is transferred from before then. Hence, if you lose your primary device, you have to start afresh.
“While WhatsApp does enable chat and media backups, these are currently stored in Apple or Google’s cloud with no end-to-end encryption. That means users lose the protection that has become WhatsApp’s primary calling card when they back up,” explained Dofferman adding that WhatsApp is reportedly fixing this issue for a future release.
Signal is also updating its other feature – Message requests. It will allow users to have control of who can message them on the platform from outside their device’s contacts. “When someone who isn’t in your contacts starts a new chat with you or adds you to a group, you can quickly see more info before accepting the request, deleting it, or blocking the conversation,” as per the blog.
With WhatsApp and Signal trying to woo its users by introducing new features, it is yet to see which of them will get ahead in the race.