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What is the difference between Whatsapp and Signal? Here’s what you need to know

  • Signal reported a 4200% increase in user downloads this week as WhatsApp users considered leaving the platform.
  • Both Signal and WhatsApp are encrypted end-to-end messaging platforms that allow users to communicate over Wi-Fi or cellular data.
  • But the two applications differ in the amount of data that users collect, ownership and ease of use.
  • While Signal offers users more privacy, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has customizable features that make it easier to use. Signal is testing a beta version with a few more features.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Signal, the first privacy messaging app, is gaining a reputation as a major competitor to WhatsApp.

The app reported a 4200% increase in user downloads this week after WhatsApp announced that users would have to start providing some data to the parent company, Facebook.

The two messaging apps have some things in common. Unlike normal SMS messages and others sent over a cellular network, Signal and WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption, which hides messages in case someone intercepts the chat or finds them on a server. Both competing applications allow users to chat for free via Wi-Fi networks or cellular data, making them popular for international communication.

But the two applications differ significantly in ownership, security views and ease of use. Signal is owned by a relatively new non-profit organization and places a strong emphasis on security, while WhatsApp, managed by Facebook, is easier to use.

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Here’s a breakdown of the main differences between the two encrypted messaging platforms to help you decide which one to use. Facebook and Signal were not immediately available for comment.


Who owns WhatsApp?

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Kim Kulish / Corbis through Getty images

The root of the frustration of some WhatsApp users comes from the owner of the company.

In 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp, co-founder of Brian Acton and Ian Kum, for $ 22 billion.

Data breaches have haunted Facebook users for years. Facebook announced a big hack in 2018, which affected 50 million accounts. Facebook employees were aware of deficiencies in the security of the platform’s user accounts as early as December 2017, according to a Telegraph report.

During the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, Facebook said up to 87 million people may have had access to their data.

Koum left Facebook in 2018, and Acton continued to inject $ 50 million of its own money into a competitively encrypted Signal chat app.

Who owns Signal?

Signal, on the other hand, is managed by the Signal Foundation for non-profit purposes. Acton and Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike co-founded the Signal Foundation in February 2018.

According to the Signal Foundation’s website, Acton left after the acquisition of Facebook “due to differences in the use of customer data and targeted advertising.” The CEO donated $ 50 million to launch the Signal Foundation and is now on the organization’s board.

According to Marlinspike Signal, he never funded VC and did not seek investment.

“Signal’s project is mainly to make the technology normal, to make it what it looks like on the surface, where data is not shared with other subjects,” Marlinspike told Business Insider in 2020.

Meredith Whitaker is the third board member of the Signal Foundation. She is a former Google engineer who leads the company’s efforts to organize the work and now advocates on behalf of technical workers.


How secure is WhatsApp?

Facebook does not have access to chats due to end-to-end encryption, but the company can take user data.

Facebook has access to WhatsApp users’ phone numbers, IP addresses, mobile network, message usage duration, payment details, cookies and location data, according to WIRED.

Some users had chosen to opt out of allowing access to Facebook’s personal data back in 2016. But WhatsApp said that if all users did not agree to share information by February 8, they would lose access to the app.

Insider’s Rob Price said external apps can track WhatsApp users’ online activity, including who they talk to when they use the app and even when they sleep.

How secure is Signal?

Signal says it does not receive user messages, groups, contacts or account information. The only two data that Signal collects are how long users have installed Signal and the last date it was installed.

The company also opens up sources for all of its software, which means the public can see how the technology is designed to inspect the code itself.

Signal has received a vow of trust from many security experts, including Edward Snowden. Journalists at Vice and The Intercept recommend using Signal over WhatsApp to ensure that your messages remain private.

The messenger is not perfect. Security experts have warned that a new feature that allows users to recover data using a PIN may include confidentiality. “The problem with this is that most people choose weak PINs. To solidify that and make the system more secure, Signal has a system that uses Intel SGX enclaves on its server,” John Hopkins cryptographer Matthew Green told Vice. .

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User interface

How easy is WhatsApp to use?

WhatsApp attracts its more than two billion users with its ease and flexibility of use.

The app is available on both iOS and Android devices and automatically syncs your phone’s contact list as users identify themselves by their cell numbers.

Users can form group chats, make voice and video calls, and make free international calls over Wi-Fi. Users can share their location, documents and files with others. WhatsApp also allows you to add a PIN to set up a two-step check before accessing the app.

WhatsApp 3 call screen

Make free video and audio calls on WhatsApp.


Insider also reports tricks that WhatsApp users can add to make their experience more seamless. Users can mark messages as unread and fix important messages in the chat, functions that are not available in Signal.

How easy is Signal to use?

Signal has fewer adaptive features than WhatsApp.

The application is available for iOS, Android and desktop computer. Users can send photos, videos, links and other files. Like WhatsApp, users can set messages and photos to disappear over time.

Users can set up audio and video calls, as well as form groups of up to 150 people.

However, the beta version of Signal offers more to users than the standard application. The beta allows chat rooms that can assign administrators and send invitations to your group.

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