open source messenger overview

WhatsApp open source alternatives

On February 20th Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion (Read more). Even though they probably won’t change anything for the WhatsApp users, it is a good time to consider switching the messenger app. Why? Well, Facebook knows a lot about your private life and WhatsApp has a lot of data from your chats too. It is not a good idea to give one company too much power over your private life. Furthermore WhatsApp still has a lot of security issues and does not use open protocol standards. WhatsApp is also closed source, so you have no idea, how they use the app-permissions you gave them. Here is a small overview of WhatsApp open source alternatives:

App namesize of userbase mobile plattformsgroup chatattach- mentsuser friendlydesktop programen- cryptedopen source
WhatsApp~450 million
TextSecure0.1 - 0.5 million
SureSpot> 50.000
Kontalk10.000 - 50.000
ChatSecure0.1 - 0.5 million

 

TextSecure 

I use TextSecure for over a year now. It is a stable app, with lots or settings and a team behind, who knows what they are doing. They are a featured App of the guardian project and exist for four years now. The App is an all-rounder, and works for SMS as well as internet communication. They support group chat and attachments, I couldn’t find anything I would miss compared to WhatsApp except of the profile pictures (they use the ones that are stored on your phone), but that is acutally good, because it shows how important privacy is to them. The app encrypts everything, there is no normal and encrypted chat. Encrypted is normal. I think this major update will give the App a boost in users. The App is right now only available for Android, but a version for iOS  should come within the next months (At least they say so). For a full list of features take a look at this post.

Download textSecure for andorid

 

SureSpot 

As you can see SureSpot got a lot of search queries since Facebook bought WhatsApp. This App does not feel that smooth, when starting the first time, but seems to be rather powerful. SureSpot wants even less data from you than TextSecure. They need to skim your contacts to find friend, in sureSpot you have to send requests to friends, similar like you would do in msn, Skype or ICQ. This is on one hand really nice,  because you don’t have to fear, that they will store data of you, but on the other hand, it takes some time to find all friends. Other than that, SureSpot also has an encrypted local storage and supports audio messages. Once again it was not possible for me to take screenshots in the app.

Download telegram for andoridDownload telegram for iOS

 

 

Kontalk Available for android

Edit 30th of October: The app still hasen’t managed to get any more users, and the development speed has decreased a lot since March, I think kontalk won’t be interesting in the future anymore.

Kontalk is a very nice little app. It is open source AND user friendly. Right now they work with a proprietary protocol, but soon they will switch to XMPP, which will help to connect this app to other programs, so that it will be possible to chat from your phone to a desktop environment. They are also trying to implement an iOS version. The servers used are decentralized and everybody can set up his/her own server. They are managed through a web of trust system. All messages are encrypted and attachments embed very well (as is WhatsApp). A group feature is sadly still missing. They also have problems, getting users, which is critical for the success of a messenger app.

Download Kontalk for andorid

 

ChatSecure 

ChatSecure is ambitious  program, which tries probably a bit too hard to implement as many features as possible without talking care of a clean, consistent UI. It is very powerful and uses only open standards, which makes it possible to use existing server structures and chats to other programs like pidgin for the desktop. It is for people, who know what they are doing and don’t care about the UI, not for the average mobile phone user. Sadly it also does not support group chat, but it has almost anything else you could want. This app is also featured by the guardian project, which is really worth a visit , if you are concerned about your privacy.

Download chatSecure for andoridDownload chatSecure for iOS

 

Those are of course only very few of all the possible messenger apps out there. There are many more with a good encryption, but are not open source. I tried to get a list of interesting open source projects. For further reading I would highly recommend an article by Joshua Lund. He covers the apps with a lot more detail and also lists more alternatives.

 

4 thoughts on “WhatsApp open source alternatives

  1. Hello there, just was aware of your weblog via Google, and located that it is really informative. I’m gonna be careful for brussels. I will appreciate in case you continue this in future. Lots of folks will likely be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the kind words! I will for sure continue writing, but as you maybe have noticed, it is on a very irregular bases with lots of different topics, I just write whenever I feel that I can add valuable input to any topic.

  2. Hi,
    I think this site should be updated. Especially Kontalk.
    Since you post they worked hard on this App.
    Now it used XMPP protocol and PGP encryption.
    Audiomessages are available now.
    Groupchat is planed for July (hopefully it will be realized until end of august 2015 ;-))
    Platform indepedent Desktopclient is available as a betaversion.
    Thake a look on
    http://www.kontalk.org

    Developing is going on:

    https://github.com/kontalk/androidclient/milestones
    or
    https://github.com/kontalk

    1. Thanks for your reply. I totally agree, a lot of things have changed since my blog entry. Very interesting to see, that Kontalk did survive and also made quite some progress. I will write a new article once I find the time.

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