In a tweet heard 'round the world last January, tech mogul Elon Musk continued his feud with Facebook by advocating people drop its WhatsApp messenger and use Signal instead. Around the same time, right-wing social network Parler went dark following the Capitol attacks, while political boycotters fled Facebook and Twitter. Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption in some portion of their app, meaning that if an outside party intercepts your texts, they should be scrambled and unreadable.
It also means that the exact content of your messages supposedly can't be viewed by employees of those companies when you are communicating with another private user. It's an open-source development provided free of charge by the nonprofit Signal Foundation and has been famously used for years by high-profile privacy icons like Edward Snowden.
For a deeper dive into the potential pitfalls and limitations of encrypted messaging apps, CNET's Laura Hautala's explainer is a life-saver. And beyond its encryption prowess, it gives you extended, onscreen privacy options, including app-specific locks, blank notification pop-ups, face-blurring antisurveillance tools and disappearing messages. Occasional bugs have proven that the tech is far from bulletproof, of course, but the overall arc of Signal's reputation and results have kept it at the top of every privacy-savvy person's list of identity protection tools. Encryption: MTProto Telegram falls somewhere in the middle of the privacy scale, and it stands apart from other messenger apps because of its efforts to create a social network-style environment. Some 42 million Telegram user IDs and phone numbers were exposed in March of 2020, thought to be the work of Iranian government officials.
Truth be told, WhatsApp has been around for a while and it has some great features people have relied upon on a daily basis. We compared Signal vs Telegram security perks and other features to help you make the right choice.
So if you put security first, Signal is a great choice (Elon Musk recommends it). Telegram is WhatsApp’s longtime competitor created by Pavel Durov, a Russian entrepreneur who’s behind Russia’s most popular social media platform. People love Telegram because it’s fast, easy-to-use, and has cloud-based storage that allows you to share files of any size, limitlessly. Also, Telegram offers secret chats where users can privately exchange self-destructing messages.
It doesn’t collect any data that can be linked to you and securely encrypts all your messages by default. Since both products see a huge surge in new users, we can expect they will keep improving and adding new stuff. Users get unlimited multimedia sharing, group chats with up to 200,000 people, and other things like sticker packs, GIFs, and in-chat bots.
While Signal and Telegram are the top choices, there are some lesser-known privacy messengers that are growing in popularity. Some people move to a subscription-based social media & messenger called MeWe, which is an alternative to both Facebook and WhatsApp.
This utility will simplify your workflow and help save lots of time on a daily basis. What it does is bringing all the messengers, video conferencing tools, and email clients into one app.
The choice is yours — you can either go with a better encryption (Signal) or niceties like unlimited file sharing, sticker packs, etc. Also, remember that WhatsApp won’t read your chats and any of your private communications even if you consent to the new policy.
IM+ and ChatMate for WhatsApp are free to try for 7 days as part of Setapp, a productivity suite of Mac and iOS apps.
Last weekend, Raphael Mimoun hosted a digital security training workshop via videoconference with a dozen activists. They belonged to one Southeast Asian country's pro-democracy coalition, a group at direct risk of surveillance and repression by their government.
Tens of millions of WhatsApp's users responded to that restatement of its (years-old) info-sharing practices by fleeing the service, and many went to Telegram, no doubt attracted in part by its claims of "heavily encrypted" messaging. Telegram's privacy protections aren't necessarily faulty or broken on a fundamental level, says Nadim Kobeissi, a cryptographer and founder of the Paris-based cryptography consultancy Symbolic Software.
Another innovative new feature created by Telegram is its self-installed bots, which facilitate app attributes like sending relevant information about the weather or useful news articles to users.
Currently, WhatsApp is the largest messaging service in the world with over 2 billion monthly active users. Looking at the raw numbers, it’s clear that WhatsApp is wildly popular and almost ubiquitous while Telegram is catching up and Signal seems to have just joined the million downloads race.
Having said that, numbers don’t tell you everything and that’s why we bring you a detailed comparison between WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal. In this article, we rigorously analyze the security models of all three messaging services and also look at their distinct features.
We will be comparing these three instant messengers on a number of fronts: security, features, and ownership. We will discuss all the things you get and lose by choosing one of these messengers over the others, so you can make a well educated choice about which app you want to use.
So let’s start off with WhatsApp’s security model first in this battle against Telegram and Signal. WhatsApp can’t decrypt the contents of your messages, calls, photos, etc, thus ensuring your security and privacy.
That said, it’s noteworthy that WhatsApp uses the E2E protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems, which is the name behind Signal messenger. That said, WhatsApp has suffered a couple of major privacy nightmares, especially the recent issue with group chats getting indexed on Google search.
For what it’s worth, Telegram states that it manages its message storage and decryption keys in a way that one would require court orders from multiple legal systems around the world to be able to access any of your data. On the user-facing side of things, Telegram, like WhatsApp, also offers a built in app lock.
Clearly, Telegram’s security isn’t nearly as robust as WhatsApp’s or Signal Messenger’s. In addition, you have some incredible privacy features on Signal that is going to make your messaging experience even more private and secure.
And recently Signal added a new feature to blur faces automatically before sending images. You can also share live location with your contacts and I am sure many users find this feature helpful. And since WhatsApp is meant for general users, it offers seamless backup and restore functionality through cloud services like Google Drive and iCloud.
While Signal beats Telegram and WhatsApp handily when it comes to security, it falls short on the features it offers. Further, you can create groups, however, you don’t have the option to broadcast messages to multiple contacts at once. Plus, Signal has recently added support for group calling as well, something that was missing from the app for a long time. On Signal, the feature is available natively and you can jot down your thoughts and ideas while messaging with your friends and family.
Apart from that, Signal allows you to relay voice calls to its servers so your identity remains concealed from your contacts. Further, you can enable incognito keyboard while typing on Signal, apply dark mode, delete old messages in one stroke, and of course, blur faces and private information from images using its powerful photo editor. All in all, Signal has some of the best privacy features but might fall short for users who want endless customization options.
While that was all about security and features, now we need to discuss the ownership of all three platforms: WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. Ownership is important because it allows us to understand how companies are looking to monetize user data and lets you take an informed decision.
That’s not all, throughout WhatsApp’s lifetime under Facebook, there have been multiple allegations around the company breaking encryption and creating backdoors for government agencies. Plus, since WhatsApp doesn’t encrypt metadata, Facebook can readily use that to track your behavior. Pavel Durov was dismissed as CEO of a Russian social-media site after he refused to hand over data of Ukrainian protesters to Russia’s security agencies.
Apart from that, on many occasions, Pavel Durov has taken a principled position against censorship and government interference. Moxie Marlinspike used to run Open Whisper Systems — the brainchild behind the Signal protocol. Many high-flying people including Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower; Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, and others endorse Signal.
As a result, many users are quitting the messaging app for good and searching for greener pastures. You may also find that it’s helpful to ask your fellow WhatsApp users if they plan to make the switch.
Those cover the basics like texting and video chatting, but we’re not including security features in this section. You can easily send files, media, and your location to individuals or in larger groups of up to 256 users.
If you plan to video call with your friends, WhatsApp will let you bring as many as eight users into the fold. You can easily customize your own WhatsApp UI with dark mode, stickers, and more for a personal experience. Right now, you can set up a group voice call and talk to your friends, and there’s a new screen sharing feature that can make Telegram a more viable Zoom alternative for some users. Users can sign up for different channels, too, which means that an administrator can broadcast one-way messages for all to read. Signal supports groups of up to 1,000 users at a time, which tops WhatsApp but doesn’t come close to Telegram. As expected, Signal is rolling out new features to keep hold of the users leaving WhatsApp.
Each app developed encrypted calling and texting independently, and Signal is a perfect combination of the two. Best of all, the app comes from the nonprofit Signal Foundation, so you won’t have to worry about ads taking over your experience.
Telegram has a very special feature in which users can keep their files, photos, documents, and messages in cloud storage. Talking about sharing files, photos, videos, audios of up to 16MB size can be sent in WhatsApp at a time.
The most important thing about Telegram is that a group of two lakh people can be created simultaneously in it. All chats are end-to-end encrypted in WhatsApp which ensures that only the sender and recipient can read the message.