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5 alternatives to Whatsapp

Now that Whatsapp is part of Facebook, some might feel a bit exposed using it. But I wouldn’t worry about Facebook doing something with their chat conversation data. I would worry more about the fact that it has been known to have very weak security.

Also last weekend, after the Facebook purchase, the service had a major fail. I had several friends going back to SMS messages to communicate.

So for those cases, here are 5 alternatives to Whatsapp in case you don’t like it, don’t trust it or when it fails:

### Line

line logo

Besides normal chat like Whatsapp, Line offers free video and voice calls. It has emoji like Whatsapp plus stickers, and you can also send location, photos, videos and voice messages in the chat stream. Another plus with Line is that it has a desktop client, so you can reply and continue your conversations on your desktop while doing other things, instead of having to reach your phone every time.

Download Line

### Viber

viber logo

Viber also supports emoji, stickers (and you can download extra ones if you need), and like Whatsapp it supports group messages with up to 100 members. Besides texts, Viber only supports voice calls. Like Line, it also has a desktop client. Oh, and they explicitly say they value your privacy.

Download Viber

### Telegram

telegram logo

When Whatsapp went down, Telegram signed up 5 million new users. This app is getting more popular every day.

Telegram supports group chats with a maximum of 200 members. You can share photos and any other media, and videos up to 1Gb. The most unique feature of Telegram is Secure Chats. These chats have end-to-end encryption and they claim are not logged in the chat servers. Also you can set them to auto delete themselves after certain time on both ends.

They also claim to be concerned about your privacy and security and they show it with their features. They also claim to never disclose data to third parties.

The interface is very similar to Whatsapp if you’re migrating from that. The downside is that it doesn’t support voice or video chats. It supports emoji but no stickers like other clients and no desktop client either. Although you can install it on a tablet, it lacks a tablet design.

Download Telegram

### Skype

skype logo

Well, we all know Skype by now. It supports chats with very limited emoticons, no emoji or stickers. You can send files but not share pictures easily in the chat timeline. The advantage of Skype is its large user base and its voice and video chats. And if you have skypeout or similar you can have an additional phone number to receive calls on any device.

Download Skype

### Google Hangouts

hangouts logo

Hangouts is Google’s chat client replacing Google Talk. It supports voice and video chats, emoji, photos and location (no videos or voice messages for now). It has a desktop client (actually a Chrome extension) so you can continue your chats anytime your browser is open, or you can do it while having your Gmail or Google+ window open. Like Google+ in the social media landscape, Google Hangouts is a late-comer into the mobile messaging world and it has slowly been adopting features from its competitors. But since it has the Gmail user base behind it and every new Android phone seems to have Hangouts included, it is slowly gaining popularity and it is very likely that your friends already have it, ready to receive your messages in case other services are unavailable.

Download Hangouts

If your concerns are more into the privacy and security area, I recommend you to read my post about secure communication apps.

Digital rights Law & Freedom GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

10 apps for privacy and secure communication

Mobile security

With all the recent news about privacy violations, user data requests, gag orders and the like, it is useful to know that there are tools to communicate in safer ways. I can’t say that they are bullet-proof, as I’m not a security analyst, but at least you can add an extra layer of complexity to those trying to tap into your communications.

  1. Redphone – allows you to have encrypted phone calls
  2. TextSecure – for secure SMS/MMS communication
  3. Gibberbot – for encrtypted chat over Jabber (XMPP) or Google Talk (Hangouts), Facebook Chat, VKontakte, Yandex, Hyves, Odnoklassniki, StudiVZ, Livejournal, and more
  4. OscuraCam – helps you censor out parts of an image like a phone number, license plate, a face…or body part
  5. NoteCipher – stores encrypted notes on your mobile device
  6. GNU Privacy Guard for Android – to encrypt anything, from notes, photos.. any file and emails
  7. K-9 Mail – an open source email client with PGP support for sending and receiving encrypted emails
  8. Orbot – a free proxy app for your mobile device that encrypts your traffic using the TOR network.

    On the browser you can use:

  9. Mailvelope – for encrypting your emails through webmail.
  10. Cryptocat – for private chats within the web browser using OTR encryption

As I mentioned before in my encryption tutorial, having your privacy is not about having something to hide, it’s more about protecting yourself.

In the words of author Ayn Rand:

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.


The importance of real-time personal communication

I Hate Digital

For the past two months, I’ve been staying at an old friend’s house, who’s helping me out while I move my things and rent a flat in Guadalajara. He has no Internet access at home and he says he prefers being “more analog” than, for example, me, that I do everything “digitally”. We are very good friends but handle things on a very different way.

One day we were discussing how my search for places to rent was going. While I was telling him how I found listings on the Internet to start calling, he said the best way is just to drive around the neighborhoods of my interest and look for leasing signs outside the buildings. At first I thought it was a very innefficient way to do it, but after we tried it a couple of times, I understood it is a better option. This way I knew exactly where and in what conditions the property is. The best part was that sometimes calling the owners while being outside the property got me opportunities to visit it right away, since some of the owners lived nearby and could show me the place.

Waiting for a phone call

A situation I felt bad for was when he offered to give me a ride home from the office. I was not finished yet and I was going to take some extra hours before heading out. I sent him a message using WhatsApp but I never saw that my message was not delivered immediately. He waited outside for 20 minutes, then left angry about me not telling him what was going on. I apologized later when he told me what happened, and he’s right: some things are better handled directly, either by going in person or calling in real time to make sure the other person is aware of the situation.

In retrospective, it reminded me of the times when I sent my girlfriend messages and she replied 2 hours later, when my message was no longer relevant, with the excuse that the phone was in her purse and she didn’t see or hear the notification. That pissed me off constantly.

I’ve been handling everything very asychronously or through indirect communication for a long time. I’ve been constantly communicating via IM (which can sometimes be not so instant) or Email instead of talking to people directly. It feels more comfortable to just send a message, very impersonal and you get the illusion of being in touch. It sometimes takes some extra effort to call or go to the person and talk right away, but in the end, you get instant feedback of what you need, resolve situations faster and you get in a better relationship with the people around you. I know because I feel better when I get a phone call from an old friend, than an email or a Facebook message.

It’s a good thing that my friend made me realize this and made me aware of the consecuences of indirect (or impersonal) communication. Sending an sms, a message, or emails might be practical, but sometimes is not the right way to do certain things. Calling someone right away to get realtime feedback, make things faster, easier and more personal. From now on, I’ll try to interact with people directly instead of through messages.

Some things just can’t wait for a reply.

Old school phone call

How do you balance “digital” vs “analog” communication?

I Hate Digital photo by the|G|™
Old pix of Hanim photo by rèi
Old school phone call photo by zubrow