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To secure or not too secure? The 2019 Messenger Service Providers Review Results

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The results of the decentralize.today 2019 review of messaging apps are in... 

During the course of last year, we undertook to review a number of the most popularly available messaging apps.

This is the fourth year we have undertaken the review and we do get asked why we devote so much time and energy to this exercise. Well, the simple answer is because we all devote so much time to communicating by text that we need, we deserve to have the best, most private, most secure, most usable service possible....that simple, it matters!

A secondary, but none the less important, factor is that nothing in this sector stands still for very long, if at all. So we, in turn, need to stay ahead of the curve so that you understand what has changed, improved, deteriorated, gone up, gone down or simply arrived!

One of the more interesting developments in recent times has been the rise of offline messengers which operate across WiFi or Bluetooth so watch out for additional reviews during 2020 on new entrants such as Bridgefly, Fire Chat and Near Peer gain admirers!


​ And we even snuck out a little taster for you with our most recent review of the new kid on the block, Briar, you can find that at: https://decentralize.today/privacy/briar-new-kid-on-the-messaging-app-block-review

​In total, we reviewed 8 different services, well, if truth be told, although we included WhatsApp and FB Messenger in the list, we didn't really look at them because...well...Facebook!

Our findings, in the order in which they appeared in decentralize.today during 2019, are as follows with an 'At a glance' chart at the end for the DR;TL crowd!:

1. Threema 11 June - https://decentralize.today/privacy/threema-secure-messengers-or-not-so-secure

Much loved & admired, one of the first and still one of the best overall privacy respecting apps, one significant downside is that it is not entirely open source but can provide the independant audits to ease any concerns. Based in Switzerland and connects with no outside contacts, offering voice for the first year, still a fave.

2. Signal 13 June - https://decentralize.today/privacy/signal

Edward Snowden is a fan so take from that what you choose. Much liked, good graphics and operability, good heritage, been around nearly 5 years now, has some good features, timed auto delete and contact blocking, video calls, to name a few, as well as solid data security management. But there some significant downsides, one of which, it's funding, we flagged in our review. Also requires your cell number for registration purposes...

3. Riot 16 June - https://decentralize.today/decentralization/riot-im

Riot.im in conjunction with Matrix is a more team oriented app, although it does allow for 1-2-1. Registration doesn't require an email address or a cell no and it offers good voice & video. It also allows you delete for all, which is ok but can be misused! We will be honest here....at DT we like Riot...it is decentralized, open-source, encrypted (if you want), notifications, groups and no trackers or permissions. The one huge downside for us is that it's as ugly as.....the graphics suck!

4. Telegram 26 June - https://decentralize.today/privacy/telegram-secure-or-not

Oh Telegram.....you promised so much in 2019 and yet...Hong Kong happened! It's all very well having stickers and cloud stored messages that can be accessed by any of your devices and groups of up to 200,000 members but when you allow messages to be accessed by the authorities and put peoples' freedom and safety at risk, well, it doesn't sit well and does you no favors!

5. Discord 29 June - https://decentralize.today/privacy/discord

Designed more for gamers, has video and chat features but, as explained at length in the review, openly collects factual and behavioral data from users..this is explained in the 'privacy policy' but not in full detail, also closed code....enough said, we're not fans but each to their own.

6. Status 12 December - https://decentralize.today/privacy/status

A newer entrant, in beta at present (desktop only in alpha) so problematic from the get-go as you need to load via their Test Flight app. Multi-faceted with messaging, browser and crypto-wallet (ETH favoring!), so lots of promise. Issue over funding as Signal put cash into Riot...wait! what? Exactly!

​Condensing all of the information gathered into one easy to view chart looks something like this:

Key

V – Voice calls

Z – Video calls

D – Desktop

P – Polls

B – Broadcasting

W – Wallet

X – Browser

GPS – Google PlayStore

NGPS – Needs Google Play Service and Framework

 And we're not finished yet...this journey has no end. Commencing on Thursday 19th March, we will commence our 2020 review process with 9 services up for review and a roundup this time next year.

The final verdict: we like encryption, open-source, no trackers or permission requests, groups, voice, video, desktop and notifications so there really is only one service that ticks all the boxes even if the layout leaves a bit to be desired...sure you can figure it out...clue? We hope you are having one (but not in a Hong Kong sense of the word!).

Stay safe, people!!

 

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