Since shuttering my Facebook accounts, including WhatsApp and Instagram, I have had time to explore alternatives. I’ve tried out Viber and Signal, but the only Messenger replacement I’m really enjoying – while trying to recruit more users to make it more fun and interesting – is Telegram. In terms of privacy and security, it’s much more highly rated than WhatsApp. Which means that although it has many of the same features, it lacks integration with your contacts on Facebook or Google+. You have to know or seek out your friends, and the only way you can find them is if you have their phone number in your contacts already, or if they have set up – and you know – their telegram username. With a username, you needn’t give out your phone number, but anyone who knows it can contact you there. And you can block them, of course, if they’re obnoxious.
In terms of features and functionality, it seems to beat them all. There are clients for Android, iOS, PC, Mac, and Web. (You MUST install it on a phone, first, and that device needs to be handy in order to authenticate with PC or Web.)
You can set up a Channel– think “broadcast” – a form of one-way communication that people can subscribe to, but not comment on. Or you can set up a Group– a group can have anywhere from 2 to 100,000 members.
As a matter of principle, how can I resist a service that incites spontaneous paper plane protests in Moscow?
That said, any effective encryption software is bound to be implicated in bad uses. So is postal mail. Privacy matters, and unfortunately, it matters to both good people and bad people. It’s like freedom of speech – it’s not always speech we agree with. Telegram and others – including WhatsApp and even PlayStation – have been criticized as providing communication channels used by various terrorist organizations. So has the telephone. So has snail mail. It’s a strange and sometimes dangerous world we live in, but I’m not in favor of relinquishing essential rights and freedoms for a little illusory “safety.”
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here folding paper planes… and sharing with you the new sites I’ve found to be fun and interesting. As always, I hope you’ll check out all the links in my post. They’re not traps, I promise.