Every year for the past five, we have run our regular reviews of some long established and some newly arrived privacy claiming messenger service providers. A series we have cheekily subtitled as "Secure or not too secure?" to paraphase the great communicator, William Shakespeare :-)

During the course of last year, we conducted another 9 reviews and these are attached below. We haven't done it as a 'ranked' exercise, we have our favourites but are just laying out our findings for you to see and use to maybe find the service for you but with eyes, hopefully, slightly wider open!

Since iOS 14.3 Apple introduced their privacy 'invasion' screens to all apps, we believe it is worth extending that to all the reveiwed services so we've attached these with some comments.

February - The 2020 Review Series Kickoff

The 2020 decentralize.today review of Messaging Service Providers
To secure or not too secure? That is the question!​For the third year in the row, decentralize.today is going to take a look atthe more popular privacy based messaging services. So don’t expect to seeanything good about Google, Facebook or Microsoft! This year, we will be doing things a little d…

March - Telegram

dt.gl - 2020 review Messaging Providers: Telegram - not for privacy
To secure or not too secure? That is the question!Telegram has about 200 million users globally. The company operates out of Dubaibut originated in Russia. Whilst Telegram has apps for Windows, MacOS and Linux,most users are probably using it on a cellphone. The app has a native iOS(mobile) and …

Telegram uses a few identifiers that are directly linked to you. They also have your contacts synced and stored in plain text format! Remember you do not need to give permission for some of these. Telegram does, however, let you disable the upload of your telephone book. On Android install the FOSS version from F-Droid but again do not give permission to upload your contacts.

April - Threema

The 2020 review of Messaging Service Providers: Threema, still among the best
Threema has, year on year, been on our list of the best performing and securemessaging services out there and that has been consistent for the 5 years wehave been conducting this survey. This year we’re looking a little deeper into the services’ systems includingwhere their servers are and how t…

Threema asks you if you would like to sync your contacts and, if so, they are encrypted on their server. The Identifier is a Threema ID, not your telephone number or email address, unless you select either of these. If you are an Android user, do not use the Google version, but get Threema over the APK on the website, also use polling which switches off any Google involvements.

May - Wire

2020 review of Messaging Service Providers: Wire - Secure & Private?
For the last 5 years or so we at decentralize.today have been conducting arolling review of all available messengers but in that time we have never reallylooked too deeply into Wire. The name has popped up on occasions and we’ve nowhad some requests to look into it so let’s see why people believe…

Usage data? What? And why?

June - Nextcloud Talk

DT 2020 Messenger review: Nextcloud Talk - Integrated & Self Hosted!
Every month we write about a messenger app, but this months it’s more then justthe usual ‘secure or not’ and it’s not just about a messenger. It’s aboutNextcloud Talk. Which is fully integrated into the whole Nextcloud setup.Personally, I am a very big fan of Nextcloud, but not only for the talk …

Nextcloud hasn't updated the app since this feature was introduced. So we need to wait for the next submition to the app store to see what they have planned for us. However, remember you host can this one yourself! For the Android users amongst us without Google Play we still don't get notifications of incoming messages! Sad!

July - Status

Status - Messaging Service Provider - a review from December 2020
New decentralized, privacy driven messaging service and a whole lot more...In the final installment of our quick look at available encrypted messagingservice, we turn to Status.....never heard of them, well, don’t worry....we havea feeling that you will. They have set themselves some fairly loft…

Way to go! Push notifications have also been fixed since our review. APK is provided on the website for all Android users.

August - Delta Chat

The 2020 review of Messaging Service Providers: Delta Chat
As many of you know we’ve been looking at messengers for nearly 6 years now,trying to find ‘the one’! But while some are better than others and can even bedescribed as great we cannot come out and say that any one of them is perfect. So today we’re looking to a new entry, one we didn’t look at i…

No update since 14.3 was introduced, so we need to wait for the next one to see this. For Android users Delta Chat is available via F-Droid, get it there!

September - XMPP/Conversations

The 2020 review of Messaging Service Providers: XMPP/Conversations
In the last edition of the messenger series ‘Secure or not too secure’ we lookedat Delta Chat [/the-2020-review-of-messaging-service-providers-delta-chat/] which is a provider that uses your existing email account. Personally, we’re notfans of this route as a solution but it remains your call. Th…

An Android app, self-hosted solutions are always the best!

October - SchildiChat

The 2020 review of Messaging Services - SchildiChat
In our last edition on messenger services ‘Secure or not too secure’ we lookedat XMPP what is considered as an long proven solution for private chat. However,I remain an even bigger of Matrix and have been an Element (former Riot) userfor a long time. I’ve managed to get most people I know to als…

They've got a desktop version now as well, for Android, my favorite matrix app!

November - Element

The 2020 review of Messaging Service Providers
A month ago, in our annual review of privacy focussed service providers ‘Tosecure or not too secure’, we introduced SchidiChat[/the-2020-review-of-messaging-services-schildi-chat/] as a great Androidmessenger based on the Matrix protocol. However, the best known Matrixmessenger, and actually fro…

As mentioned, the King of Metadata! Yet you can self-host it which puts a lot of the control back into your own hands.

December - Signal

The 2020 review of Messaging Service Providers: Signal
Since 2016 decentralize.today been runing reviews of many of the most privacyfriendly messengers around, asking (and attempting to answer) the question‘secure or not too secure?’. This year has been no exception and has allowed usto to feature a few messengers we’ve never looked into before. Th…

As you can see, Signal really does well when it comes to metadata!


Even though not reviewed by us, here's a look at how Facebook Messenger scores!

The Privacy Advocate's final few words...

We've had our say on each of the messenger service providers shown for 2020 (and you can find others from the past in the Messengers tag archive) and we'll continue looking to re-review the same messengers and additional new ones in 2021.

It's not for us to dictate whether you stick with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger but we know who and what they are so won't even bother reviewing them. But you could just ask yourself one simple question: is it worth it or right to have your metadata collected and in some cases sold to third parties? Is it worth seeing governments and law enforcement arresting people as they're demonstrating for their rights?

At the same time, what is important for you? Telegram has great channels for news and announcements and the secret chats are probably good enough for most people. If you want someone in the bar or that you've just meet to give you a contact and they offer their WhatsApp account, it's probably not appropriate explaining how Element works better, being as its decentralized, at the end of the day (night) you just want the contact ;) But you could suggest quickly downloading Signal, it only takes a few seconds and then they'll be ready to text you securely.

If you are an iOS user, and the other end is on iMessage, well, for the quick contact? Well ok but don't forget to sign out of the iCloud. Apple claims if you don't sync with the iCloud the encryption key stays on the device. This is, of course, in an Apple closed-source garden (although even I have to admit, Apple does now publish some white papers and code). However, as mentioned, all are better than WhatsApp and Messenger.

Threema is mostly open-source now, and is another great messenger, but it costs money, so it's not easy to give someone that option when you've just met them.

Ultimately, it's all about your personal threat level, or even how comfortable you are potentially sharing your metadata. Every step counts, every improvement is a step forward and each of the messengers reviewed will definitely be an upgrade to what most people are using e.g. WhatsApp and Messenger!

I use Element as my first choice with like-minded people, but I also use Threema and Signal. The latter because it is the easiest way to convince someone to switch. If the person is not willing to download an app, which is ready within seconds, you maybe want to re-evaluate the relationship!!!

Stay safe and expect many new messenger reviews here in decentralize.today over 2021.

Reference Link - The 2019 review of Messenger Service Providers: Results

To secure or not too secure? The 2019 Messenger Service Providers Review Results (revised)
Note: Article updated Saturday 20th June 2020 to reinstall a number of brokenlinks The results of the decentralize.today 2019 review of messaging apps are in...​During the course of last year, we undertook to review a number of the mostpopularly available messaging apps. This is the fourth yea…
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