Which one is better than Telegram and WhatsApp

Alternatives to Whatsapp : What do Signal or Telegram do better?

There was great concern. Millions of people were asked by Whatsapp, the world's most widely used messenger application, to accept new terms of use from January 7th. And with the threat that without consent one could no longer use the service from February 8, as it was said. Many users did not like that they should agree that Whatsapp may share certain data with the parent company Facebook.

What exactly should change, however, was unclear. Facebook will still not have access to news content because it is encrypted. Telephone numbers, information about the smartphone's operating system and times of use can be viewed by Facebook. At the same time, Whatsapp announced that there were "no changes to the data sharing practices of Whatsapp in the European region".

In fact, Facebook has had access to the cell phone numbers of the Whatsapp accounts for four years. The main concern now is that companies can use the opportunity in the future to offer a link to WhatsApp on their Facebook presence, the company said and complained that its announcement had been misinterpreted.

There was also great outrage over the compulsion to accept the new conditions. Facebook also has extraordinary market power because of the acquired subsidiaries such as Whatsapp and Instagram. "This is a huge fuck you" to the antitrust authorities, "complained former Facebook investor Roger McNamee on Twitter. Whatsapp finally buckled: The new rules should no longer come into force at the beginning of February, but only from May 15th. But nothing should change in their content.

Germans are particularly cautious about data protection issues with regard to the large digital corporations. However, the EU is also planning to restrict secret communication via messenger apps. Security authorities would like a so-called back door to be able to read the chat histories of terror suspects, for example. The move by the European Council could soon lead to a binding legal regulation.

[Keep track of things: every morning from 6 a.m., editor-in-chief Lorenz Maroldt and his team report in the Tagesspiegel newsletter Checkpoint on the latest developments relating to the coronavirus. Register now for free: checkpoint.tagesspiegel.de.]

Most recently, many of the approximately two billion users worldwide looked around for Whatsapp alternatives. “Don't let yourself be blackmailed, use other messengers,” demanded, for example, the digital activist Henning Tillmann. There is no shortage of competitors. However, the best argument for WhatsApp is still that most of the contacts can be found here. But that is slowly changing: after the new terms of use were announced, other messenger apps slipped to the top of the download charts.

Threema: For anonymous

A Swiss quality product that has its price: unlike Signal or Telegram, the Threema messenger is only available in a paid version. A license with no time limit costs EUR 3.71 when downloaded directly from the website; it is faster in the app stores, but costs EUR 3.99.

When it comes to anonymity, Threema is also somewhat ahead of the more internationally known alternatives Telegram or Signal. No telephone number is required to register. Access is linked to a randomly generated identification code. In contrast to the mobile phone number, it is not possible to draw any conclusions about the person.

However, this also means that the messages cannot be transferred to a new cell phone as easily as with Whatsapp, for example. There you just log in with the same mobile number and all chats are back. With Threema, they have to be transferred manually. So it's a question of priorities: would you prefer to be uncomplicated or anonymous? Threema also does not collect any user data and end-to-end encryption is of course part of the range of functions. Behind it is a comparatively small company based in the tranquil Pfäffikon in the canton of Schwyz. Threema handles all communication via servers located in Switzerland.

Nevertheless: So far, the app has been widespread among people who are particularly data protection conscious, and around eight million people use it. Since Whatsapp came under criticism, the application has moved to the first place of the most popular paid Android apps in this country.

Signal: For exile

Not only the US military trusts this app, the exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden also uses it to communicate: Signal has a particularly good reputation among data protection activists. At the same time, they hardly have to forego any of the functions known from the larger competitors. There are voice calls over the Internet, with or without video, and an application for the desktop.

Signal is particularly admired for its strong encryption. Experts trust her a lot more than Telegram's, for example. Whatsapp based its own development on the incomparably smaller competitor. The app is also free. It is often said that you have to pay with your own data for free services. Signal does not evaluate them like Whatsapp or Telegram do.

A drawback for those who want to remain completely anonymous: A telephone number is required to register. The source code of the app is freely available on the Internet as so-called open source, so that experienced people can develop it further and adapt it to their own needs. Signal is developed by a US foundation that does not want to make a profit. She doesn't need that either. Foundation boss Brian Acton contributed 50 million US dollars to the establishment - he once co-founded Whatsapp and is now a billionaire.

Signal's predecessor Whisper was already popular in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Signal also saw a lot of downloads last summer in the US when there were protests against racism and police violence.

Telegram: For those willing to compromise

The Telegram app from Russia is something like the eternal second among messengers after WhatsApp. So the chance of making friends there is much better than on even smaller services. The app is also very similar in design to the number one, and those who switch will find their way around easily. As with Whatsapp, there is a web version with which you can read and write messages in the browser on the computer. Telegram is also free.

However, chats are not encrypted by default. In this regard, Whatsapp is even better, here the encryption is valid for all chats. With Telegram this only applies to calls and "secret chats", which have to be activated separately.

Very large groups can also be created in the app, in which, however, only the founders can post. So a kind of digital radio channel. Because such channels are also used to spread hate speech and evil conspiracy ideologies, there is criticism of them.

SMS: For the nostalgic

SMS is older than all digital services. The first short message was sent more than 25 years ago. But if you want to go back to the good old days before digitization and only suspect data protection problems with Facebook and Google, you are wrong. The SMS is less secure than Whatsapp.

Although the messages are initially encrypted, some of them are temporarily stored by the network operators if, for example, they are sent to a switched off phone - without encryption.

SMS can also be decrypted and spied on with special devices. Or even manipulated without the sender noticing.

The number of SMS sent has decreased sharply since the advent of messenger services. In 2012 there were almost 60 billion in Germany, in 2019 fewer than eight. And today, for many, the short message is included in the price of a flat rate for an unlimited amount of time. Who would pay nine cents or more for just 160 characters today?

WeChat: For transparent citizens

Well over a billion people use China's “app for everything”. Because WeChat is not just a messenger application. It also serves as a digital wallet, offers small games and, with a search function, competes with Google and the Chinese provider Baidu. Citizens of the People's Republic can even store their ID card in the app; it is recognized by the Chinese authorities.

All of this is free, offered by Internet giant Tencent. When it comes to data protection, WeChat is anything but a sensible WhatsApp alternative. The Chinese state is reading along. Messages are not encrypted end-to-end. There is also a chat

Censorship in WeChat. Unpleasant content, such as the Hong Kong elections, is filtered out. This also affected users of the app who do not live in China. And when news of a puzzling lung disease from Wuhan increased in 2020, WeChat initially blocked it, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

Ex-US President Trump planned to ban WeChat as well as Tiktok. A court stopped its plans.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page