I always believed that there are no free lunches. For any business to sustain, there has to be some sensible explanation for how they make money!
I will explain each one of these messengers one by one, starting from most secure one. (If you are impatient types, you can directly go to the end of this post to see the summary table :p )
Rank 1: Signal and Telegram
Product of Open Whispers group. This is most secure messenger in market right now. Just to give you an idea, Edward Snowden uses this application! Also, most of the secure chats e.g. WhatsApp, Telegram Secure Chat, Allo Secure Chat, fb Messenger Secure Chat is based on Open Whispers Platform.
Signal is funded through grants and donations by different organisations such as Freedom of Press Foundation, Knight Foundation, Shuttleworth Foundation, Open Technology Fund etc.
While Telegram want to form secure alternative to email and instant messenger. Signal wants to form secure alternative to SMS and calls. And hence, SMS, instant messages and calls are end to end encrypted. Signal stores the messages on their server only till the time they are delivered to recipient.
The only problem with Signal is, their messaging is not as fast as Telegram or WhatsApp. Their application doesn’t give as smooth experience as Telegram or WhatsApp.
Telegram has pretty interesting history. It is founded by Durov brothers. They are of Russian origin and know what is the importance of privacy. Telegram as company is based out of Germany. But actually speaking, there is no single country that Telegram belongs to. It is a Global Non Commercial Project.
As far as financials are concerned, founder Pavel Durov has given financial backing to Telegram via Digital Fortress Fund. In future, if they require more money, they plan to get it via grants or donations and non-essential paid option. Telegram is non-profit seeking firm. So, they would ask money when they actually require to increase their capacity or so.
Telegram doesn’t have voice or video calling. Their aim is to form secure alternative for email and instant messaging functionality. Hence, you can send almost any sort of file via Telegram. For email, it is important that all messages are available from multiple platforms. Hence in Telegram, all messages are stored in Telegram Cloud in encrypted format. These messages can be read from multiple devices.
If you want truly secure chat, you must use “secret” chat option in Telegram. In secure chat option, messages are not stored in cloud. Secret chats are based on Open Whispers Platform. It should be noted that, normal messages are deleted from cloud, once both, sender and receiver delete those from their application.
Rank 2: WhatsApp, iMessage and Bleep
Rank 2 goes to WhatsApp, iMessage and Bleep. All these three messenger have end to end encryption by default, there is no need to select special mode for securing communication. The reason they are ranked second and not first is because these messenger share personal/non-personally identifiable information with parent companies which in turn is used for tailoring advertisement.
If you read story of WhatsApp, you will appreciate the humble beginning of revolution. I can’t stop but think how wonderful it would have been, had they carried on with their subscription mode of funding rather than selling it off to facebook.
The good part is, even now, they have maintained some fundamental principles intact. Even now, chats and calls are end to end encrypted and facebook can’t read them. Setting aside the commercial communication plan, WhatsApp scores pretty good on privacy front.
With iMessage, Apple has built seamless experience for SMS and instant messaging. It uses multiple keys mechanism so that messages are available on multiple devices and yet end to end encrypted. This mechanism is ingenious!
Apple envisions hardware and software completely integrated. So, they have already baked the pricing for software development in their iPhones and iPad. This is why separate revenue model is not required for different services by apple.
Bleep is owned by US based BitTorrent. Like torrents, Bleep uses P2P mechanism to deliver message. There is no server or cloud involved in which message is stored. Messages are end to end encrypted. On the downside, application is still in nascent stage and it doesn’t work as smooth as Telegram or WhatsApp. Revenue model of Bleep is just like torrents, Advertisement.
Rank 3: hike messenger and WeChat
Rank 3 is shared between hike messenger and WeChat. There is only one important reason that they rank better than those on Rank 4; both hike and WeChat delete messages from server once it is delivered.
Hike Messenger is owned by telecom giant Bharti Airtel. Voice calling function is also available in hike messenger. Hike gives an option of end to end encryption as added layer of privacy, but this is an opt-in feature and works only when device is connected to WiFi.
WeChat is owned by Singapore based Tencent International. Voice and Video calling is available in WeChat.
Rank 4: fb Messenger, Hangout, allo, Viber, Skype
There is only one difference amongst these messenger. fb Messenger, Google allo and Viber offer Secret chat option in their chat clients. Secret chat works on Open Whisper Platform.
fb Messenger and Google are US based. Viber is based out of Singapore and is owned by Rakuten Conglomerate.
Rank 5: JioChat
The crown of least private messenger goes to JioChat! JioChat is owned by Indian Conglomerate, Reliance industries. This chat client offers voice and video calling functionality as well.
- “Personal Information will be kept confidential to the maximum possible extent“. (Personal information will also include email address, Physical address, Pincode etc.)
- “[Jio] may provide your information or data to its partners, associates, advertisers, service providers or other third parties to provide, advertise or market their legitimate products”. (It doesn’t specify whether is personal information or Non-Personal.)
I wouldn’t use JioChat in my right minds.
Following is the comparison table which would sum up the article:
Device Specific Messages means Messages can be only read on source device and destination device. It won’t be possible to send it from mobile and then continue conversation on web browser.
Personal Information means Personally identifiable information such as:
Phone Number and Contact Book,
Profile Name and Photo, Status Message,
Social Networking integrated public information etc.
Non Personal Information means:
Application logs and crash reports,
Device type, Carrier type, Online Status etc.