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Sunday - 20 June 2021

Buh-bye WhatsApp. Kia ora Signal!

Remember way back when WhatsApp was the coolest messaging app and you had to pay for it? Yeah, that’s how long I’ve been using it, but thanks to Facebook doing that Facebook thing the interwebs decided everyone’s finally had enough and we’re all moving to Signal Messenger.

What is Signal?

Signal is a secure messenger app and you’ve probably seen it as the most downloaded app in your favourite app store of late. I’ve been a Signal user for a while now, but it’s always been the app that us nerds and political dissidents use. Remember Edward Snowden the American whistleblower (or traitor, depending on who you ask) who’s now in hiding somewhere in Russia? Yeah, so he’s the kind of person who uses Signal.

So… how secure we talking?

Very. The Signal Protocol has not been successfully hacked and many excellent hackers, including state operators, try every day.

Signal Private Messenger
Signal Private Messenger is the go-to WhatsApp replacement in 2021. Image edited from Fossbytes with thanks.

How can it be free?

Okay, so the chap who invented WhatsApp and sold it to Facebook for all the money in the world felt really, really bad about selling out his users’ privacy and he went on to give a gazillion dollars to the Signal Foundation so Signal can be free and free forever. I think I read somewhere that they have enough coin in the bank to run to 2078. Might be true, probably not. That said, the way Signal is designed from the ground up, we do know that nobody can ever monetise it based on your private conversations.

Signal in Aotearoa New Zealand

My own Signal address book has exploded over the past week. It used to be an absolutely fringe messenger and if I spotted someone as a Signal user, I knew they were either nerds or probably using it to communicate with their friendly neighbourhood drug dealer. To my knowledge, I don’t know anyone hiding from the CIA.

Not so much today. More and more of my friends and colleagues are popping up on Signal every day. Two days ago my father-in-law who can barely turn on the TV popped up on my contact list! If that’s not a sign of Signal going mainstream, I don’t know what is.

Elon Musk tweets “Use Signal”

If you owned stock in an obscure American company called Signal Advance, you need to send Elon a Christmas card because a lot of stupid Americans went off to buy that stock after Elon tweeted “Use Signal” to his 42 million followers. Of course he meant that everyone needs to drop WhatsApp and use Signal Messenger instead, but one can never under-estimate the stupidity of the masses and Signal Advance’s stock is now up 11,708%. #lolz

Is Signal better than WhatsApp?

Yes. See here’s the thing. Signal has advanced phenomenally well over the past year. As a messenger app it is now absolutely as good, I would argue better, than WhatsApp. It does everything you use WhatsApp for… group chats, group calls, voice calls, video calls, epic gifs, emojis, dickpics, stickers… you name it, Signal does it.

Up until Elon Musk’s tweet, the only trade-off was that nobody else was using Signal. Signal was and is the best messenger app in the world, but if I’m the only person you know who has it, it’s not worth installing. That is no longer the case. Your mum is on Signal now (if she isn’t, be a good kid and help her out) and it’s only a matter of time before businesses ban WhatsApp from their devices and move across to Signal like the European Union and other government departments have already begun doing years ago.

What about Telegram?

Yes – I have Telegram as well and it certainly beats WhatsApp by a country mile on privacy front, but it’s not quite as good to use as Signal. It’s very popular in Eastern Europe and Russia, where it originates from, so if you communicate a lot with folks in that part of the world, you probably already have it but otherwise it’s not really the go-to secure messaging app for 2021.

How to get Signal Messenger?

Go to your favourite App Store and look for it as the #1 app in the most downloaded apps list or just search for Signal Private Messenger. You can also download desktop apps from their website at www.signal.org.

Setti Mulari
Nerd. Dad. Probably lived in more countries than you. Will stop to stare at nice cars.

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