Common sense prevails as users see that there are many alternatives to WhatsApp

Since Facebook, after paying billions of dollars for WhatsApp, started demanding that the instant messaging application be cost effective, things seem to be returning to a principle of common sense that should never have been abandoned: instant messaging applications are not intended to be profitable, but to facilitate communication between people.

There’s a problem with layering a business model on top of an instant messaging app – it’s something computer engineering students do as homework in class. It’s not particularly sophisticated or inherently complex. The idea is that if you want someone to pay for using an instant messaging app, you have to make it not only better than the competition, but also able to attract lots of users, in order to create the network. effect: when you log in, you see that your friends already have an account there. If you don’t charge for it, the alternative is very unpleasant for users, as instant messaging is where they exchange information with their friends and family, and the idea that you are spying on them to try to monetizing this information makes them feel constantly being spied on.

When Facebook announced in January 2021 its intention to merge data repositories from Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger and consolidate user information, the alarm bells started ringing. The following modification of the WhatsApp terms of service requiring users to share their data with Facebook, was a disaster and caused many people to abandon the app, benefiting competitors such as Signal or Telegram, which suddenly found themselves with millions of new users, first Facebook To delay the change for three months and announce that he was go back on its previously announced plans for deactivate the messaging operation for users who have not accepted the new terms of use.

What is the problem? WhatsApp has long been Facebook’s crown jewel, his the most popular and that he sees as his future, and the prospect of a massive exit by users of an asset that has cost more than $ 20 billion is terrifying. But as said: making a good instant messaging app is not difficult, the real challenge lies in creating the network effect. Meanwhile, some of WhatsApp’s already well-established competitors, such as Telegram or Signal, are ready to offer an alternative and have seen downloads have increased 1,200% since WhatsApp began announcing changes to its policies: Downloads from Telegram, which already started from a fairly large user base, increased by 98% in the first four months of 2021, and those from Signal, which was a little more unknown, by 1 192%.

Either way, we’re talking about apps that do their job very well, unsurprisingly: encrypted, secure, and free from the threat posed by attempts to monetize their users’ data. They are not equal: given the choice, experts prefer Signal’s confidentiality guarantees more telegrams, and the fact that the former is owned by a non-profit foundation that aims only to offer a good open source messaging tool, while the latter is under the control of Pavel Durov, an exceptional Russian promoter who fled his country and has financed it so far out of his own funds, but who has already announced that he will soon to exploit it economically while trying to respect the privacy of users. In my case, I uninstalled WhatsApp a long time ago and use both Signal and Telegram, and have never had any privacy issues yet.

Is Signal the answer? Probably yes, given that its creator, Moxie marlinspike, created the encryption protocols used by WhatsApp. In any case, the choice of the tool to which we go if we give up WhatsApp does not depend so much on us as on the decision of our friends and family to accompany us in this change, which forces concerned users to these problems to become missionaries and try to get the word out.

Fortunately, common sense usually prevails, and the idea of ​​concentrating activities that impact our privacy under one roof seems ill-advised, especially if that provider has turned out to be a complete disaster in handling this data and only interested in monetization. this. Whether or not you use Signal for your instant messaging, escaping the clutches of Mark Zuckerberg will always be a good idea, because a single provider with a virtual monopoly on your information is a bad one.

We will see how this market evolves. But what is clear at the moment is that no matter how you look at it, there are a lot of fish in the sea other than WhatsApp.