At the start of 2021, the messaging app, WhatsApp, updated their terms of service, leaving users around the world confused and concerned. The app is incredibly popular worldwide because it allows users to send messages and make calls over the internet, making keeping in contact with friends and family who live internationally efficient and straightforward. Another significant benefit of WhatsApp is that messages are encrypted, providing an added sense of security and privacy for users. But the recent updates to the terms of service have put the app’s future in jeopardy as users abandon WhatsApp for Signal.
WhatsApp and Facebook History
WhatsApp was first released in 2009 and gained popularity quickly. Since 2011, it has consistently been one of the top apps on the app store. Today, more than two billion people use it, with a quarter of those users using the app each day and about 80% of users accessing the app at least once a month.
WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook in 2014, and at the time, Facebook ensured users that their data and messages would remain private. In the recent update to terms of service, it was announced that WhatsApp would increase the amount of user data that it shares with Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Initially, users only had until 8 February to agree to the new terms of service, but after backlash from users and confusion surrounding the changes, the deadline has been extended until 15 May.
Users Abandon WhatsApp for Signal
Many users have decided to look for an alternative messaging app where they feel their messages and data will be completely safe. As a result, Signal, a more secure messaging app, has seen a sharp increase in download numbers, topping the app, and Google Play stores in countries around the world.
Signal Messenger is overseen by the Signal Foundation, which was formed in 2018. One of the co-founders and current board members, Brian Acton, was also a co-founder of WhatsApp. Acton left WhatsApp in 2017 to start the foundation, which is committed to giving everyone access to truly private communication using an encrypted messaging app.
For the most part, Signal offers very similar features to those of WhatsApp, making for an easy transition. The app also provides increased privacy by not showing when a user is online or allowing real-time location sharing.
The big questions most potential users are asking are, is Signal safe, and is it safer than WhatsApp? Similar to WhatsApp, messages sent on Signal are end-to-end encrypted. Signal’s encryption software, Signal Protocol, is open source meaning that anyone can view the code on GitHub. For many, this is positive because the more people who see the code and review it, the less likely there is to be a major bug or vulnerability that could result in user privacy or data being compromised. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal also doesn’t collect any metadata which can be linked to users and provide insights into their behaviour.
Overall, the confusion and concern caused by WhatsApp’s recent updates to their terms of service have allowed Signal to make a name for themselves, as users abandon WhatsApp for Signal, and provided the app with the opportunity to prove itself as a major competitor for WhatsApp.