WhatsApp’s six-hour outage shows we all need more than one chat app

WhatsApp's recent six-hour outage is proof to the app's two billion users that relying on it for all communication is risky. — dpa

Monday’s six-hour outage of Facebook and Instagram might have been a nuisance for those wanting to check in on news and posts from friends, but things are different when a chat app with two billion active users goes down for more than half of a working day.

WhatsApp’s sudden outage meant that millions of group chats, aimed at things like coordinating a workplace, keeping in touch with family and arranging events, all stopped working, as did one-to-one messaging and calls.

The Oct 4 technological catastrophe at the Facebook offices made it clear how dependent many of us have become on one single communication channel.

The good news is there are plenty of other chat apps out there – and some come with even more features and better data protection. Here are four major alternatives you may want to consider installing as a fallback.

SIGNAL: Free messenger app Signal is available for iOS and Android. It allows you to send encrypted text messages, photos, videos and other files to individuals and groups.

In addition, users can be called through a data connection. If you’re using Android, you can also send unencrypted SMS and MMS messages. There’s an extension for the Chrome browser on computers.

THREEMA: This app allows you to send encrypted texts, pictures, sounds, videos and locations. In addition, there are group chats for up to 50 members and encrypted file sharing.

The developers, who come from Switzerland, say that no telephone numbers or connection data are stored. However its user base is far more limited compared to WhatsApp and other chat apps.

Threema for Android will set you back €3 (RM14.50), while the iOS version costs €3.49 (RM16.90) and the one for Windows Phone €1.99 (RM9.60). Android users can also use Threema in their PC browser.

WIRE: The messenger app Wire runs on smartphones, tablets and computers. It enables the encrypted exchange of texts, photos and videos. Individual and group calls are also possible.

Special features include the simple sharing of image and sound contents from portals such as Soundcloud, Spotify and YouTube. Chat streams can be synchronised across multiple devices.

The manufacturers say that no user data is collected. Wire is available free of charge for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS X.

TELEGRAM: Anti-government protesters in Belarus, Hong Kong and Iran, Extinction Rebellion activists in Britain, terrorists... just about any organised group with something to fear from state officials uses Telegram to communicate using special encrypted chats.

Average users, meanwhile, appreciate the user-friendly interface and the public “channels” where like-minded people can discuss shared interests and causes.

The problem with Telegram is that what the company does with any unencrypted messages, other than sending it to another mobile device, remains unknown. Even WhatsApp offers more privacy assurances. – dpa

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