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Thoughts On “Alternatives To WhatsApp”


Again and again, well-known messenger systems such as Signal or Threema are recommended as alternatives to WhatsApp, because they are super “secure”!?

That may be so, but what is “security” anyway, is there something like “pseudo-security” and is security the same for everyone? Aren’t there other things besides security, such as freedom, privacy, data protection, or sustainability? Unfortunately, these terms are often used as buzzwords only, or even played off against each other without recognizing their real meaning and importance.

One of the most famous quotes (external) by Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) reads:

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Why not Alternative XY

Centralized and isolated services such as Signal & Co. do not help to solve the basic problem, but ultimately even strengthen the position and market power of WhatsApp as a result. Because what they all have in common is that, like WhatsApp, they are also insular solutions and you are therefore dependent on a central point:

There is a lack of interoperability. It is therefore not possible to exchange messages across providers, as is quite normal, for example, with e-mail, telephone or mobile communications.

More information on why such systems are actually not the saviours, can be found: >>here<<

So none of these providers will succeed in fighting the “quasi-monopoly” - so why worry? …

The solution

… Because the solution is already on the table, and the best thing about it is that it does not belong to any company: “Chat”.

A rhetorical question: Who uses telephone and e-mail? Everyone? Then surely everyone knows the advantages of these systems: full independence through free choice of providers, which is made possible by

  • cooperation of the providers (=federation) and
  • standardized, international protocols

Exactly the same (interoperability) applies to and exists for “chat”!

The more people can be reached via normal chat, the better. “Normal” in this case means messengers that adhere to international standards. For example, the open (but not standardized) protocol “Matrix” has a bridge to standardized chat (”XMPP”).

Such bridges/transports for normal messages may not be perfect, but they are still helpful and very exemplary. They stress the importance of internationally compliant rules (standards) as well, because these are -as in many other areas- the guarantor for innovation and future security. With vendor-independent chat, international standards are adhered to and the user has more possibilities and freedoms than one might initially assume …


Often there is only half-knowledge or partly outdated information - therefore users are requested to test chat independently once themselves and to make their own experiences, because for this one does not need expert knowledge!

Everyone who is already reachable independently from vendors can use this invitation link to inform their contacts about it:
(of course you have to enter your own chat address instead of the placeholder starting with ‘#’).

But is it possible at all to get the general public to chat safely?

Yes, but the question is what “secure” means and if “provider-independent and secure/safe communication” would not be a more appropriate formulation.

It also doesn’t help to point to a lack of data protection or the evaluation of metadata on WhatsApp & Co. because everyone is probably aware of the problems today and diligently ignores them because that is very convenient. Aptly, the Facebook group was renamed “Meta”, which is very close to “metadata” in terms of thought …


Often it is simply better to draw attention to the technical advantages and to point out that you yourself can be reached this way. Decisive are then mainly practical things like:

  • multiple chat accounts (professional, private, other)
  • synchronous use on multiple devices (smartphone, PC, tablet)
  • use with and without SIM card possible
  • no minimum age (because of children)
  • automatically included: privacy & data protection

But there are more reasons to use independent chat - you don’t have to delete WhatsApp right away, you can use it in parallel. Some advantages of free chat based on the (flexibly extendable) standard protocol are:

Basic advantages

  • public (international) standard instead of often secret company property
  • support of “public money -> public code
  • Independence from an external (central) provider with central system architecture: The danger and dependency that exists when using central services is shown by current examples of SWR (blocking WhatsApp chat account) and the temporary termination of the messenger service Ginlo in 2019 and 2020, respectively

A federated system (analogous to other forms of communication such as e-mail) makes people independent and, above all, is future-proof.

Technical advantages

  • Separate (and multiple) chat accounts are possible
  • Simultaneous use of mobile devices and PC/laptops with message synchronization across multiple devices
  • Chat with or without smartphone
  • chat clients for Windows/Linux/Mac/Android/iOS/…
  • no personal system identification number
  • not only closed chat groups, but also public chat rooms are possible
  • multiple end-to-end encryptions are possible (different types)
  • own chat servers can be operated (self-hosting)

Organizational advantages

  • With self-hosted chat servers, data can be included in a backup concept.
  • Connection to user management systems is possible
  • Simple adaptation to the organizational and operational structure
  • Internal and external communication possible

Financial advantages (costs)

  • no multiple investments in island systems
  • Money can be allocated individually for programming jobs to improve the code
  • IT companies can earn money with services and consulting
  • Program code of clients and server software is often open source and may therefore be easily used, individually adapted and further developed


Prejudice #1: “Nobody knows”.

Yes, they do - even the german consumer advice center (external), the ZDF (external; although with content errors) or the news service ‘heise’ (external) take them into account - and not to forget the german Federal Cartel Office (external) - as already mentioned above.

Prejudice #2: “Doesn’t use anyone”.


Potential communication partners

The main benefit in communication is the number of potentially available communication partners (network economics). However, the number of users and potential communication partners is unfortunately often underestimated in provider-independent chat. Since neither phone number nor smartphone is mandatory, all internet users are potential communication partners - because chatting is also possible purely in the browser.

An optimal network economy is therefore given.

Concrete user figures

Provider-independent chat based on the internationally standardized protocol “XMPP” is at least as widespread as Threema - all that is missing is central marketing.

The official user/download figures of various (interoperable!) messenger apps alone are impressive in total - here are various figures on installations from the Google Playstore:

  • between 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 for Xabber
  • between 100.000 and 500.000 for Conversations (German developer)
  • between 100.000 and 500.000 at Yaxim (German developer)
  • between 10.000 - 50.000 at (German developer)
  • more apps available

About 300,000 servers are found via the search page “Shodan” (without user numbers).

Unknown user numbers

In addition to the PlayStore figures, there are also the installations of the well-known app store “F-Droid” (external), in which only open-source apps are made available. However, the download numbers are not published here.

In addition, there are also various apps from the Apple world, such as … - Monal, - Siskin and - ChatSecure (formerly leading; but no longer actively developed further)

… as well as desktop clients for Windows and Linux like e.g. - Gajim, - Pidgin, - Dino, - Kaidan

For all these apps/programs, no download numbers are available.

Actually, no argumentation should be based on user numbers, because then everyone would have to stay with WhatsApp - but it is only prejudice.

Prejudice #3: “Complicated

Sorry? Anyone who can set up an e-mail account or an account with Facebook, Instagram, Apple, Microsoft & Co. is also able to set up a chat account!

Of course, you first have to get to know and appreciate the freedoms and possibilities offered - but we managed that with paper mail, telephone and e-mail.

Quick start

Everyone who has been using WhatsApp so far should have no problem with the phone number as part of the chat address. Thus, for 75%-80% of smartphone users (approx. share of Android phones), the free app Quicksy would be the easiest entry into independent chatting. This is a simple version of the chat app Conversations, where only one chat account is used. Both apps are from the same developer.

If you really want to do without the phone number as part of the chat address or use an iOS device, you can fall back on other apps for “chat” that are also very good - where even multiple chat accounts can be used at the same time. This is good, for example, to separate private from professional matters.

Changing away from WhatsApp

There is often talk of “switching” away from WhatsApp. However, very few people will actually delete WhatsApp from their devices, as too many of their contacts are still bound to the service.

As long as WhatsApp does not provide an official bridge to the outside world, it makes sense to use provider-independent chat in addition to WhatsApp and at least offer it to your contacts.

Unfortunately, messenger apps are often collected like stamps, but not a single one of these then half-heartedly used systems adheres to or supports public standards.

The majority of “WhatsApp changers” are thus actually rather “seekers-after-alternatives” who, depending on their motivation, want technical security, data protection/privacy or simply independence - but at the same time do not want to give up convenience.


What about encryption, and is standardized chat a future-proof alternative?

Yes of course, because encryption is simply put “on top” as you need it. New developments and techniques can thus be easily added and integrated.

In addition to transport encryption as it is standard in the browser area by “HTTPS”, chat contents can additionally be secured by end-to-end encryption (E2EE). There are even several options here:

  • OMEMO (corresponds to the easy-to-use Singnal technology)
  • PGP (Pretty Good Privacy, as known from e-mail)
  • MLS (Message Layer Security - an encryption currently under development)

The technology known from WhatsApp and originally developed by Signal (AXOLOTL) is used in many systems today and is state of the art. If you want, you can simply “blindly trust” your counterpart in free chat (here called OMEMO) (in the technical language “BTBV” / blind trust before verification) - or, if you have an increased need for security, you can make sure by manual counter-checking that nobody is reading along the transport path or that security gaps are created later by additional devices.


Instead of “alternatives to WhatsApp”, it would be better to speak of “the alternative to closed systems”, because the use of various closed systems such as Threema, Signal, Telegram, Viper & Co. only consolidates the market power of WhatApp.

The use of international standards is also extremely important in chatting, must be rediscovered and learned, because:

Recognized standards guarantee innovation and future security!

Analogy to other forms of communication:
Browsing the Internet is not only possible with a single browser - just as every user has the freedom to choose the device and software for telephoning or e-mail.

Opening up or changing behavior is all the faster if, for example, contact data on Internet pages or on business cards includes the “chat address” in addition to the postal address, telephone number and e-mail address.

Then one has not only discovered the true alternative to WhatsApp and the solution to the problem of “interoperability”, but is also truly independent: Chat

Supplementary information:

Date: 20.01.2022
Rights: CC BY-SA
Autors: Diverse (Initiative Freie Messenger)

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