With one tweet, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sent millions of users from the messaging platform WhatsApp to competitors like Signal and Telegram on Jan. 7 2021. While all three platforms use end-to-end encryption, concerns have been growing around WhatsApp, which recently updated its terms of service and left users concerned that their private data was at risk. But is WhatsApp really less secure? Dave Antrobus, technology director and cofounder of Fresh Thinking Group, says all three of the top messaging apps — WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal — offer messaging capabilities and security features that can meet users’ needs. The key, says Antrobus, is to understand the various features before deciding which platform best meets your needs.
Of the three, WhatsApp remains the largest, with over 2 billion monthly active users. Telegram is the next closest competitor, with over 400 million monthly active users, and Signal comes in third, with up to 20 million active monthly users.
Below, a comparison of the three messaging apps and how they stack up in terms of features and security.
Dave Antrobus, Technology Director and cofounder of Fresh Thinking Group, notes that what made WhatsApp so popular across the globe was its built-in features, including group chat support for up to 256 members. WhatsApp allows users to send messages to multiple contacts simultaneously and users love its functionality for both voice and video calls. WhatsApp even allows for group video calls for up to 8 users. Through the WhatsApp Status feature, users can provide a status update that plays automatically and disappears after 24 hours, similar to Instagram Stories.
File and document sharing is well supported on WhatsApp as well. Using the app’s features, WhatsApp users can send photos, videos, and audio files up to 16 MB and documents up to 100 MB. If users store files on Google Drive, they can share much larger files through WhatsApp via a link. And users who are traveling can turn on WhatsApp’s location sharing feature. The feature can be turned on or off at will, and lets others know where a user is in real time.
And WhatsApp users don’t need to worry about messages taking up valuable storage space on their devices. The messaging app offers free and automatic backup and restores functionality through Google Drive and iCloud.
The recent controversy over WhatsApp called special attention to the app’s security features, but Dave Antrobus notes that the messaging app does offer end-to-end encryption for all messages, voice and video calls, and photos using the same system that Signal uses — Open Whisper Systems. But, he adds, WhatsApp does not offer encryption for backups, nor does it encrypt the metadata on the app, which provides crucial info about the timing and length of messages.
WhatsApp has been criticised not only for its updated terms of service, which would allow other Facebook-owned companies to access its data but had a security breach when its group chats were indexed on Google (an issue that has since been resolved).
Two things that make Telegram stand out, says Dave Antrobus: speed and size. Telegram prides itself on fast delivery of messages and, unlike WhatsApp, has no restrictions on the size of media and chats. In addition, on Telegram’s messaging platform users can go way, way over the 256-member limit of WhatsApp. The app allows for groups of up 200,000. And Telegram has added a number of features meant to increase up the entertainment value of the app, such as polls, quizzes, bots, and sticker sets which all serve to make chats more game-like and fun.
Users can enjoy both voice and video calls on Telegram and there is a self-destructing message feature that ensures sensitive content disappears for both the sender and the receiver.
Telegram only offers end-to-end encryption through its secret chats feature, Antrobus notes, but adds that the app has to date shared no data with third parties or government entities.
Elon Musk made no secret that his preferred messaging app is Signal. His simple tweet “Use Signal” caused millions of users to flood to the app. Signal provides many of the messaging features of the other apps — including voice and video calls, the ability to create groups, and self-destructing messages — but, notes Dave Antrobus, users really love it because it ensures privacy in a range of different ways. Text, video, audio and photo messages are all protected by end-to-end encryption on the app. What’s more, Signal does not store users’ data, and its on-screen privacy features include blank pop-ups, locks, and face-blurring tools.
In addition, users can relay voice calls to Signal’s servers to keep their identities concealed, similar to a VPN. Though it does boast numerous security features, Signal’s fun features are more limited. But don’t fear, says Antrobus. There are still stickers and emojis.
About Dave Antrobus
Dave Antrobus is a technology specialist who develops software and web platforms across numerous markets for growing companies. Dave has directed and mentored teams on a vast selection of technological solutions spanning from software development and digital marketing projects to graphic design.
Dave is a co-founder and Technology Director of Fresh Thinking Group, an independent capital investment organisation that adopts developmental strategies to supercharge operations for struggling businesses, start-ups, and companies looking to grow. The global investment group encourages effective collaboration within sector-specific companies to drive optimal business outcomes. With a host of technological platforms at the heart of this collaboration, Dave’s bespoke systems and unrivaled technological knowledge are invaluable to Fresh Thinking Group’s services.
Dave leads Fresh Thinking Group in its mission to support businesses through the acquisition and growth journey. As co-founder, he is core to the group’s facilitation of progressive growth, liaising with stakeholders, providing capital injections, and leading research and development to nurture businesses into flourishing firms. Dave also uses his technological insights to futureproof business platforms and help each Fresh Thinking firm to maximise visibility and growth.
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