The unhappiness of some makes the happiness of others. A few days ago, Facebook announced that the terms of WhatsApp (which it bought in 2014) would change. As of February 8, 2021, users must agree to share more personal data or… delete the messaging service.
Facebook explains that WhatsApp should be made profitable and included in a full customer journey. Example: You see an ad on Facebook or Instagram (also owned by the American), buy online and then chat with customer service on WhatsApp.
These new conditions – which would therefore be Facebook’s fat – were created an outcry among users And this despite the restrictions of the GDPR, which significantly limit the American giant’s room for maneuver in Europe.
WhatsApp’s misadventures delight developers of alternative messaging applications that are more secure and more respectful of private data. The big winner is undoubtedly Signal, the number 1 download in Apple and Google stores. We tested it for a few days.
What is a signal?
Like WhatsApp, Telegram, Wire or Threema, Signal is a messaging app. It was founded in July 2014 by the Signal Fundation (a nonprofit funded by donations) and focuses on the security of user data.
Signal is an application Open source free. So everyone can access their code and analyze it. So understand that security professionals can study it.
Signal is also an application where All data is encrypted by default. Roughly saidthe information in the messages is “encrypted” so that no one but the recipient can access it. This emphasis on security is the main lever for Signal’s success. “Other applications do the same” you will say You’re right.
If Signal is at the top of downloads, it’s thanks its popularity with famous people. Edward Snowden (whistleblower who exposed the wiretapping of the NSA), Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter) or Elon Musk (head of Tesla) are among the supporters of the messaging application. Obviously we wanted to try.
So for the purposes of our test, we (re) downloaded Signal on iOS and Android (it’s also available on Mac, PC, and Linux). Starting the application is extremely easy. Like WhatsApp, Signal uses your phone number with a 6-digit code verification as confirmation.
You will then be asked to create your PIN, a personal 4-digit code that ensures this “This information is stored and encrypted in Signal so that only you can access it.”. This code can also be used to reinstall Signal from time to time or to verify your identity if you are not using the application on a daily basis.
After this step, Signal will ask you to access your contacts and see a list of those who are already using the service. Android smartphone users can also use Signal as an SMS app. A small padlock symbol indicates encrypted conversations (closed padlock) and unencrypted conversations (SMS, open padlock). Then? Otherwise you can use Signal.
How it works ?
If you are used to using WhatsApp, Signal will not disappoint you. All instant messaging codes are respected. You can therefore send text, audio, or video messages to all of your contacts. Audio, video and group calls are also available.
Sending GIFs (then encrypted by Giphy), stickers (four packs available), photos, videos or other files are also part of Signal’s functions. The application also allows you to send a contact card as well as your geographic location.
The user interface couldn’t be more minimalistic and the parameters accessible to beginners. You can change your name and photo, invite your friends to join the service, change the appearance (light, dark or identical to that of the smartphone), manage notifications, change or deactivate the PIN or even optimize the privacy settings (Read receipts, block contacts, lock screen, delete conversation history, etc.).
As our reader Giovanni B. put it so well: “Signal works just like any other messaging service. If you have friends, we’ll get in touch with you. Otherwise you are without friends, end of story ».
Jokes aside, Signal’s success is largely down to the announcement effect. Without scientific data and only based on our experience of a few days, the alternatives to WhatsApp only seem to reach a public that is familiar with new technologies and / or is interested in digital technologies.
Yes, said the media mainstream have dealt with the topic. Yes, this “WhatsApp affair” has sparked controversy. Yes, it did raise awareness. But habits are tough. And unless it has taken us long to convince a tight entourage familiar with new technologies to start using Signal, it will undoubtedly take more time to repatriate all of our contacts (especially family) to someone else Service as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, both well established in the collective unconscious.
What makes a good courier company? His interface? Signal has nothing to envy WhatsApp on this site. Its properties? The signal is just as comprehensive. His respect for privacy and security? Signal has established itself as the benchmark in this field to date (which explains its phenomenal success).
However, the essence of a messaging service remains communication with its entourage (thank you, Captain Obvious). And in this little game, Facebook stays way ahead of its competitors. The popularity of WhatsApp and Messenger means disrupting the habits of billions of users and bringing them back to common service.
A mission that is not impossible, but very difficult to carry out. Especially since Signal isn’t the only alternative to Facebook services, which makes the task even more difficult. Proof, After a week of testing, barely 10% of our contacts had dared to take the plunge.