Best privacy messenger app?

I’m wondering what you are all using? Signal?

I’ve been trying apps like Sessions and SimpleX that don’t require a phone number to use them and i think it is possible to run your own messenger server if you want to. I’m really liking Simplex at the moment. It seems to work better than sessions with less bugs and more features.

Are any of you using these or something similar? Any opinions on these?

This kind of app is obviously one we’d all love to see on Autonomi. Hopefully it comes soon after beta launch.

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Regarding the “Signal” app: I learned the hard way that on the iPhone it’s impossible to backup your chat history (it works on Android). There is a “transfer” function to a new phone but that only works if you still have the old phone. If you lost your phone and try to restore everything from iCloud, your messages will be gone. That unfortunately makes it unusable for me.

And yes I agree a messaging app would be really nice on the network!

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I like Q-Tox (for desktop/laptop). It’s decentralized and FOSS. There are two or three Tox apps for android that use the Tox network. Not sure about iPhone.

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Wickr used to be really good till they shut down the free version. I suppose with US military using it they felt free version was no longer desired to have. It was true E2E with message burn time.

What do people think of Wire?

I have been using Wire only for my real life friends and family for the past 2 years or so now.
It is open source, but their server isn’t clear, they said they would make it fully open but I’m not sure where it’s at currently.
It may be fully open, but if you run your own server it doesn’t federate with the primary public Wire server.

It does pretty much everything, except mass group chats (there are no public groups, you have to be invited by someone)

Group voice, video, screensharing is limited to 5 people at a time in the free version.
They seem to have really been pushing their enterprise version, which is slightly worrying as people assume someday they will just kill the free version.

Bringing me to the Matrix network (the most popular client being “Element messenger” and what most people probably mistake as the entire network)

Matrix is the answer to OP’s question.
The server and clients are fully FOSS, anyone’s server federates with all others (though most people end up creating an account on matrix.org)
1-to-1 conversations, voice/video calls and all media sent are default end to end encrypted.
new rooms created still let you decide weather they are end to end encrypted from the start or not.
But you can make a new room public so anyone can find through the search, and you can have it all end to end encrypted by default if you choose.
Group voice/video is currently done through integrated ‘Jitsi’ systems. (Jitsi being a very good near equivalent to Zoom)
You can turn on encryption for group voice/video calls, but they are working hard to make everything fully end to end encrypted by default as soon as they can.

To cut it short, Element messenger is trying to do almost everything the mainstream big names are doing (Discord, Zoom, Slack) except fully FOSS and fully end to end encrypted (soon enough)
No need for phone numbers, and you can use it from a browser without installing anything if you want.

Edit: I forgot to include that either the Matrix team or the Element team, are working on a way to run the clients fully P2P, that’s all I’ll note because I haven’t looked into the specifics of it. But this would bring Element messenger in league with the fully P2P messengers like Tox, Briar, Jami.

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A small data-point but during webcam classes recently we were having trouble with Jitsi video-call quality and tried Signal, me on desktop and student on phone or desktop, and in two seperate cases the quality on Signal was much better. I was surprised by the difference.

I believe Signal recently made some improvements to the privacy situation regarding phone numbers, but I haven’t tried it. It isn’t federated or distributed in any way as I understand it so not ideal, but is quite good for friends and family who may be less technical. I’m hoping Matrix gets more “usable” (fool-proof) though going forward, they have a lot of the right ideas.

Would be curious to hear more about Session or Simplex though?

Also, would like to try Briar too, or play a bit more with Jami some day, if anyone has experience do share.

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There’s a new interesting p2p app - https://keet.io/ where you can also share unlimited file sizes.

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I should’ve noted I haven’t yet gotten any real life contacts using Element yet, so I havent tried out the voice/video calling either 1-to-1 or in groups. I’m sure it’s not perfect.

As to the fully P2P messengers (Tox, Briar, Jami) that is goal after all ‘fully p2p, no servers’
I loved my time with Tox, but ultimately if you have any contacts that are less than high-tech level… it just doesn’t work out over time. My friends had to make no mistakes everyday, and had to care about a digital file like they would their house keys or else… boom contact list gone, identity gone. Not to mention if you care about your chat history you have to maintain that by yourself and usually that will be gone probably before they make a mistake that loses their identity file.

Those negatives go the same for all those messengers, I haven’t used Briar or Jami but as far as I can tell Briar is just Tox but with Tor built in and forced to use Tor for connections. And Jami was a fork of Tox code (maybe?) or else just very identical to how Tox worked anyway, with no real outstanding or notable features different.

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Here’s where i first heard about Session:

Fully open source, onion routing, no telephone number needed. But i find it a little buggy, voice messages are limited to 1 minute and no video calls.

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Here’s a run through SimpleX chat. Apparently all open source, you can run your own server but I haven’t digged into the detail yet to see if any red flags.

Seems like SimpleX is aiming to be a telegram replacement with the ability to have big groups.

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I have the SimpleX app and like the features and user experience , it’s pretty cool.

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Signal seems to work really well for me too with video calls.

Thanks i’ll look into them. Does Matrix require a username?

It would be nice to see a table that compares all of these apps

your matrix username would look like this:

user:matrix-homeserver.tld

if you were Bob
and you chose to make an account on ‘pizza.com

you would tell people to add you with the username: “bob:pizza.com”

Each homeserver chooses to require or not require an email address to sign up.
Most require that to cut down on spam.

Obviously you can make a new email address whenever you want to make a new matrix account, all over Tor / VPN.
And have your communications essentially not be able to be traced back to your real life.

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Sounds good. Does the user interface make it easy to use more than one user/profile?

One thing i like about SimpleX is the ability to have multiple profiles / addresses

For me it’s important that I can switch between desktop and mobile seamlessly.
This is why I moved to telegram around 2015. it’s still the only 3rd party message app on my iPhone.

Telegram has the best user interface but it isn’t encrypted by default. For me it’s becoming a social media platform for big groups but i’m trying to get away from using it for personal chats.

Signal recently introduced usernames, so you don’t need people’s phone numbers to add them as contacts. You can change your username whenever you want, too. However, you do still need to use a phone number when installing…

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Yeah i’ve heard that but haven’t tried it yet, but the phone number aspect still links your real identity to it. They should remove the need for a phone number, they are terrible for privacy.