It seems like Facebook is hell-bent on giving you reasons to stop using its services.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal was just the start. As reported by Recode, we know now how easy it is for third parties to get access to your personal data—and Facebook Messenger is a huge privacy risk because your chats are supposed to be private.
But Facebook Messenger is anything but. As reported by TechCrunch, Facebook has been caught slyly uploading users’ contact books in the background. The Messenger app is now plagued with ads and Facebook just can’t seem to stop pushing its Messenger Day feature down the throats of users. The real kicker? Messenger chats are not end-to-end encrypted and Facebook is monitoring your conversations.
If you’re frustrated by all the recent changes to Facebook Messenger, you should switch to another platform that’s more secure and convince your friends and family to follow suit. In this article, we discuss the best alternatives to Facebook Messenger for making that switch.
If you’re looking for a super secure messaging client that’s also easy to use, Signal is for you. Signal is an open-source messaging service available on Android, iPhone, Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Signal is developed by Open Whisper Systems. The best thing about Signal, privacy-wise, is that Signal’s backend code is also open source and verifiable. A lot of secure messaging services these days only open source the frontend application code (“client-side”) while keeping the backend platform itself proprietary (“server-side”).
That’s not the case with Signal. This might seem like a small thing but this layer of transparency adds more confidence and trust to the system. It’s one of the reasons why Edward Snowden has endorsed Signal. And, like him or loathe him, there’s a guy who knows a thing or two about privacy.
Talking about the application itself, you’ll find all the features you look for in a simple messaging service. You can text, make voice calls, send pictures and videos, share documents, create group chat, and so on.
Signal is extremely simple to use. You sign up using your phone number and a one time password that’s sent to you via SMS. You give your name and that’s it. There’s no email address and no password to worry about. Signal will ask your permission to look up your contacts. But don’t worry, the details aren’t sent to Signal’s servers.
The chances are you’ve heard of Telegram, and the multitude of reasons to use Telegram. With over 200 million monthly active users, it’s one of the more popular messaging services out there.
Telegram is one of the best alternatives to Facebook Messenger because it has all the features and characteristics of Facebook Messenger, minus the bad stuff. Telegram is available on every major platform including iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux Web and even Windows Phone. The app’s UI is barebones and simple to use.
When you’re looking for secure and private alternatives to popular messaging clients, Telegram is usually one of the first options to pop up. While Telegram is open source, it’s only the client side code that’s available to the public. Server side code is all proprietary. If Telegram says that it has strong encryption and it won’t save your messages on its servers, you’ll just have to take the company’s word for it.
Telegram is criticized by security experts because it doesn’t enable end-to-end encryption by default. For this, you need to enable Secret Chat with every person you’re talking to. By default, Telegram works just like every other messaging service: keeping your messages on its servers where it has access to all your data.
So why is Telegram on this list? Because it’s way better than Facebook Messenger. There are no annoying ads, no annoying stories feature. Another refreshing thing about Telegram is that, unlike Facebook, Telegram’s bots are actually useful. And because Telegram is so popular, you’ll probably find that your friends are already using Telegram. If not, it will be relatively easy to convince them to jump ship.
With more than 1.5 billion monthly users, WhatsApp is, without a doubt, the biggest messaging platform in the word. Yes, it’s owned by Facebook, but so far, it has managed to stay independent. WhatsApp’s Status feature isn’t in your face all the time. There are no ads in the app (yet). And even its business features are tastefully implemented.
And there are two big reasons WhatsApp makes for a solid alternative to Facebook. Firstly, WhatsApp supports end-to-end AES 256-bit encryption by default. As long as you (and the person you’re talking to) are running the latest version of WhatsApp, your chats are encrypted.
WhatsApp states its position on encryption clearly in the WhatsApp FAQs:
“WhatsApp has no ability to see the content of messages or listen to calls on WhatsApp. That’s because the encryption and decryption of messages sent on WhatsApp occurs entirely on your device. Before a message ever leaves your phone, it is secured with a cryptographic lock, and only the recipient has the keys. In addition, the keys change with every single message that is sent. While all of this happens behind the scenes, you can confirm your conversations are protected by checking the security verification code on your device.”
Secondly, WhatsApp uses Open Whisper’s end-to-end encryption system. The same system which is used by Signal and is open source. Furthermore, you should use 2 Factor Authentication to secure the WhatsApp data that’s on your phone.
So yes, the world’s most popular messaging app, which is owned by Facebook, is also one of the most secure and privacy-focused messaging apps in the world. Ironic, isn’t it?
4. Silence for Android
Silence puts an old-school twist on the encrypted messaging app. It lets you send encrypted SMS and MMS. Because of its core feature, the app is only available on Android (iOS doesn’t let third-party apps send SMS or MMS). The app is available on both Google Play Store and the open-source appstore F-Droid.
Silence encrypts SMS on your device so there are no third party servers involved. Silence is open source and, just like WhatsApp, uses Open Whisper’s encryption protocol.
If you’re looking for a simple, no-frills solution for secure one-on-one chats, it doesn’t get much better than Silence.
5. Messenger Lite for Android
If you can’t pull yourself away from Facebook Messenger because of the presence of your friends or family members, you could use Messenger Lite on Android.
The lightweight version of Messenger gives you all the essential messaging features (including media sharing) but does away with everything unnecessary. There are no ads, no Messenger Day stories section, no third party apps, no sticker store, no nothing.
After switching to Messenger Lite, make sure you’re not continuously uploading your contact book to Facebook by going to Profile > People > Sync Phone Contacts.
Messenger Lite is currently only available on Android. Try the Friendly for Facebook app on iPhone for a similar experience. Friendly is glorified web wrapper for Facebook (but in a nice way). It will bring back the simple web-based Facebook Messenger experience to your iPhone.
Keeping Your Personal Privacy in Check
So, there we have it—viable alternatives to Facebook Messenger for those of you who value your privacy. Having looked at the alternatives you may decide to stick with Messenger. Which is your call. And remember that you can use Messenger without Facebook. But there are some solid alternatives out there for those who want to switch. If you do, you might want to deactivate Facebook Messenger.
Now that you’re starting to be mindful of your privacy, why not take things a step further and conduct your own personal privacy audit. After all, you can never be too careful these days.