On 7 January, business magnate, industrial designer and engineer Elon Musk came out with a decisive tweet, writing just two words: Use Signal.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
And yet, the inevitable question begets: What is Signal, and why is everyone flocking over to it right now?
Without further ado, here are ten facts pertaining to that exact phenomenon.
What Is Signal?
First and foremost, Signal is a free, messaging and voice talk app that’s supposedly privacy-focused.
With Signal, you’re able to text, voice or video call your friends, either one-on-one or in groups.
There are also emojis and stickers to signify those animated moments.
To join, you’ll only need your phone number – which may even be tweaked in the near future to ensure optimal privacy.
Sound familiar? Yes, it works just like WhatsApp or Telegram. Or ICQ.
The app was created by a small group of privacy activists in 2013.
No budget was set for its development, and Signal has purportedly never sneaked in an advertisement.
According to a news report, Signal is not a for-profit company, but instead a non-profit organisation.
It’s supported by grants and private investors – two of whom are more than familiar-sounding.
In 2018, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, who left WhatsApp after a disagreement with Facebook in 2017, contributed $50 million to develop the Signal Foundation, which is now operating Signal.
Meanwhile, Musk expressed that he had donated to Signal a year ago, and plans to give more.
Spike In Popularity
Initially the preferred method of communication for activists, hackers and those concerned about privacy, Signal has since gone mainstream.
The progression lies in the wake of Elon Musk’s ‘powerful-sounding’ tweet, and of course WhatsApp’s privacy-grating declaration.
Lest you’re not aware, WhatsApp has notified users that it’s sharing user data with Facebook – a notion that has apparently been occurring for years.
The revelation has led many to look for a more secure messaging platform. Or in this case, Signal.
Apparently, communications on Signal are end-to-end encrypted.
This means that only the users involved in conversations can see the content.
Not even the company is able to view it.
Incredibly, sticker packs are also specially encrypted.
For the record, Signal is reported to have created the whole encryption protocol that major companies such as WhatsApp and Skype have since adopted. As Mashable puts it so aptly:
“It is the gold standard of privacy.”
Yet, just how gold is gold?
For one, messages can be set to disappear after a particular (customisable) time frame. This is not unlike similar features in applications such as Telegram.
For two, Signal reportedly collects next to zero data on its users. All they have is your phone number, and even that might be removed in the future – with Signal’s prospective encrypted contact servers.
As such, Signal is private to the extent that should the police come knocking…
The company can say that they have no data to pass over, and it wouldn’t even be a lie.
“We can’t read your messages or listen to your calls, and no one else can either,” Signal explains on its website. “There are no ads, no affiliate marketers, and no creepy tracking in Signal.”
At this point, you may wonder.
What exactly differentiates Signal from Telegram, the former golden boy of Privacy and encryption keys?
Well for starters, messages on Telegram are not genuinely end-to-end encrypted by default.
The fact that private groups are unlimited, easily accessible and distinctly not moderated have also made it a hotbed for illegal content (think: Nasi Lemak).
On the other hand, though content on Signal is also not moderated, group sizes on the platform are limited to 1,000.
Rather than groups of strangers, the application is more about communication with actual contacts.
Signal is available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
And now, it nestles at the top of the Free Apps chart.
Fun fact: its two-factor authentication onboarding system got delayed briefly a few days ago because too many people were trying to hop on the bandwagon.
Elsewhere, it appears that a tiny medical device company has raked a fortune in the light of Signal’s success.
Following Elon Musk’s two-word recommendation, numerous investors poured resources into Signal Advance Inc.
No, Signal Advance Inc is not the Signal Messaging App. And yes, it’s a classic case of mistaken identity.
By the end of 7 Jan, the medical device company’s shares have already jumped by more than six times.
And despite reports clarifying the confusion, stocks continued to rally until the gains were eventually pared.
Next Messaging Phenomenon
We saw WhatsApp dominate the Earth.
We witnessed Telegram’s emergence as a prominent dark horse.
And now, it appears that Signal is set to claim the throne.
Though whether it’s a lasting one remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, you can check out these alternatives to the conventional Facebook-owned messaging services here.
In the meantime, you might want to watch this video about Telegram (and please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more informative videos!):
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