Bought by Facebook in 2014, WhatsApp is currently the most popular messaging app with over two billion active monthly users globally. WhatsApp popularised the use of end-to-end encryption in day-to-day communications, introducing it as its default for messaging in 2016.
To achieve this, WhatsApp cooperated with Moxy Marlinspike’s Open Whisper Systems to integrate the Signal encrypted messaging protocol. Microsoft and Google have also used the protocol, widely regarded as the gold standard in encrypted communications.
Now Open Whisper Systems exists as Signal Messenger, LLC, and is part of the Signal Foundation. This rebranding has seen the foundation put more effort into its own app. The Signal Foundation’s flagship Signal app provides fully-fledged and easy to use secure communications in its own right.
Signal says it’s seeing a swell of new users signing up for the platform, so much so that the company is seeing delays in phone number verifications of new accounts across multiple cell providers. As for what or who is responsible for so many new users interested in trying the platform operated by the nonprofit Signal Foundation, there are two likely culprits: Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Signal competitor WhatsApp.
Musk, who is now the world’s richest person after surpassing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in net worth, tweeted a meme last night criticising Facebook for its role in helping members of the mob that stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday organise online. The tweet, an image of a series of ever-larger dominos, juxtaposed the start of Facebook as a hot-or-not women-rating website on the campus of Harvard University all the way into a platform that in one way or another helped facilitate the attack on Congress on Wednesday. At the same time, it attempted to certify Joe Biden as the president-elect.
The Tesla and Space X founder, who has been more vocal in his criticism of Facebook in recent years, followed up the meme with a suggestion to his 41.5 million followers: download Signal.
The app is available on Android and iOS. Unlike WhatsApp, the Signal Private Messenger app is also available on the iPad, and users can also download and install the Signal app on Windows, Linux and Mac, like WhatsApp.
Signal’s silver lining is that it is generating a lot of interest for its platform as both a viable mobile messaging app and alternative to the Facebook ecosystem, which includes WhatsApp and Instagram. It has already climbed to the number one spot.