Messenger app Signal now lets you find people by name, not number

A Signal update with one major new privacy feature is being gradually rolled out to all users over the coming weeks. — Photo: Zacharie Scheurer/dpa

BERLIN: In the world of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, we typically find someone by their username. On messenger apps, however, we still largely find and save a new contact with a telephone number.

That's changing in an upcoming version of privacy-oriented WhatsApp rival, Signal, which is trialling a new feature allowing people to keep their phone number hidden and be found with a unique username instead.

What difference does this make to users? It means in future you'll be able to search for a contact with their name and not their phone number, while other users will also no longer be able to see your mobile phone number.

This will to be the default setting in future - at least for contacts who are not already in your own smartphone address book, Signal says. You can change your unique username in the app's setting.

The Signal update with the new features will gradually be rolled out to all users over the next few weeks once the beta test has been completed. The app will also let you share a contact by the username with a link or a QR code.

Creating a username is not mandatory, however, and anyone who wants to use Signal just as they did before can continue to do so.

Usernames can be changed as often as you like and can be deleted completely if you no longer wish to have one.

Signal says there are occasions where you may want to briefly change your username, say if you're making contacts at an event or planning a group trip.

Once this occasion is over, you can then change the username again or delete it entirely under Settings/Profile.

Another new feature is the option to specify how you can be found on Signal. If you do not want to be found by your mobile phone number, you can activate the setting that new connections can only be established via the username, but not via the mobile phone number under the settings.

The Signal Foundation, which develops the messenger, says that the new features were added in response to the wishes of many users, particularly in large groups, to be able to keep their phone numbers private.

However, a mobile phone number is and will remain a prerequisite for registering with Signal. Signal has already documented the new features on its help pages. For all of them to work in future, the latest version of the Signal app must also be installed. – dpa

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