WhatsApp replacement help please

G’day Folks

Non-Apple-phone using friends and I have been using WhatsApp as our messaging platform. We were unhappy when Facebook bought it but continued to use it due to the end-to-end encryption. With the newly announced change in privacy policy we’re ditching it.:

Facebook’s WhatsApp has begun alerting its 2 billion users to an update of its privacy policy – and if they want to keep using the popular messaging app, they have to accept it.

The new terms, delivered in early 2021, have caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, billionaire entrepreneurs and government organisations, and triggered a wave of defections to rival services.

WhatsApp says the change is necessary to help it integrate better with other Facebook products.

What are your thoughts/recommendations for a replacement – eg; Signal, Telegram, …

Thanks and cheers, Gobit


Threema. No need to share any data.

Both Signal and Telegram are cross platform and I’ve been witnessing people who I wouldn’t expect using both. I’ve more experience with Telegram, which is excellent but more non-geeks are on Signal at least in my experience.

That said I think it’s going to be nigh on impossible to shift the masses off WhatsApp. The amount of traffic from non-geeks on it is phenomenal. Everything from school runs to neighbourhood updates to informal work groups… it’s everywhere.

We’ll be discussing this more soon, but the short version is: Signal. It’s free, normie-friendly, and a good stand-in for iMessage/Facetime. I’ve had great success getting my friends and family to use it.


Thanks Gents

Simon – I was unaware of Threema – on the face of it looks like it would be my preference, but suspect getting sufficient others over the payment hump …

Tommy – agree that inertia is a big hurdle. Am hopeful though as I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the last 12 months at the number of friends and colleagues (Covid lockdowns notwithstanding) who have ditched Facebook over growing privacy and other, concerns.

Josh – thanks for the short version, the long is going to make interesting reading.

If anyone knows of a good ‘Here’s why you should stop using WhatsApp’ quick read for non-geeks, I’d be grateful.

I can’t shift people off Facebook “I know, but I have to, my family/audience/fellow alumni/…” etc.

I’ve found that it’s pretty easy right now to get people on Signal because people are wanting more security. Send them a link and say “this is more secure,” and once you get them on there, only message them with Signal. If they message you through Messages, reply in Signal.

Threema looks cool, but I think it’s too much friction to get others into it.

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Josh and I are on slightly different approaches here. I see absolutely no reason to try to convert others from Messages to Signal. Apple’s security is plenty good for anyone who isn’t subject to government-level targeting, and Messages isn’t a privacy nightmare like anything related to Facebook.

So from my perspective, it’s “If they message you through WhatsApp or Messenger, reply in Signal.” Briefly, with a canned (use iOS’s text expansion capability in Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacements) message along the lines of: “I don’t use WhatsApp or Messenger because of Facebook’s privacy abuses. You can reach me on Signal.”

I’ve done this for quite some time with Messenger (I refused to even sign up with WhatsApp), though I tell the random people who message me there to send me email instead, since I never want to chat with them.


I put it to those folks this way. That ‘friction’ is what has enabled Facebook et al. to screw with your privacy for as long as they have. At some point you need to stop whining and assume some actual responsibility.

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The question is always who has enough social sway to get other people to change their habits. For instance, long ago, I set up mailing lists for Tonya’s and my families. They lasted for years, but when I shut down the server running Mailman (which was also managing the last incarnation of TidBITS Talk), those lists also went by the wayside.

After some thought, we decided to invite everyone to a family Slack group, which required quite a lot of encouragement and training and support, particularly for the older and less-technical members of the family. I also had to do a bit of modeling, where I’d get something in email or Messages and move the reply to Slack. Now most of them like it a lot, and it has become the de facto method of communication within the family rather than email or Facebook.

Getting others to move to a new messaging app would likely require a similar amount of effort.

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I think therein fundamentally lies my disagreement. That to me sounds far too passive. IMHO it’s not about people being “swayed over”. There is not some kind of magical external impetus that can be beamed onto others to get them to do the right thing. You cannot force people into doing something for their own good. They need to do it.

At some point people need to understand that there de facto is a tradeoff between being “able to reach everybody” (i.e. sticking to whatever service seems to have most subscribers) and keeping your privacy intact (i.e. dumping a service that seems to have the most subscribers but would sell you off to the devil in a heartbeat if it made them a buck). Nobody can lift the burden of having to decide that tradeoff off of you. You yourself need to come to the conclusion that your privacy is more important than getting $2-app functionality “for free” instead. I think people need to learn of those facts (and by now, seriously, who hasn’t?) and then come to the right conclusion if they really value their privacy. If they learn of these facts and then still decide to go sell their privacy to Facebook et al. then I claim they’re just whiners who don’t really care all that much about their privacy in the first place. And I think by now I’d almost go so far as to say, if folks want to be that shallow, I don’t think I shall need to jump through hoops to stay in touch with them.

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Bingo! I shut down my Facebook and Twitter accounts many years ago because they started doing things that really ticked me off. I took a lot of heat from relatives and friends who no longer contact me because they don’t want to use any other medium, but I don’t regret that decision for an instant.

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For my messaging, I don’t need that level of privacy. I know I don’t want to keep managing keys and have key sharing parties, etc., so Signal is good enough for what I need when iMessage won’t work.

Host an IRC server, obviously.

Right, but there’s a network in play. Every person who cares about privacy needs to figure out how they’re going to communicate with the outside world and what solutions meet their privacy requirements.

Then comes the task of informing and convincing the people with whom you want to communicate in that channel because most people really don’t care that much about their privacy (or Facebook would have crashed and burned like the garbage fire that it is). But they may care about communicating with you. And the hope is that with some persuasion and encouragement, you can move them to a better solution. Or perhaps they’re not worth it, which is also possible.


Precisely. Outside of tech geeks, most ‘norms’ are largely not interested in all the privacy concerns and having to manage settings and/or learn yet another comms app. Especially when they all, more-or-less, do the exact same things their current comms apps do (or certainly the things they use their current ones for: texting, or whatever).

It may not even be possible to persuade them to download one of these other services to try it, for a number of reasons. But most likely, it’s just because they cannot be bothered; they’re busy with other more important things to them in life.

It’s annoying, but that’s life. :neutral_face: