Private messaging systems

There are quite a lot of new-breed instant messaging systems which (claim to) put privacy first; that is, instead of having centralised servers which can read all your messages (a la skype, google hangouts, AIM, etc) there’s encryption involved and so on. They also have extremely varied approaches to user friendliness, from polished pleasant clients for many platforms down to “download and compile the ncurses client from this CVS repo”. SOme of the ones I know about are bitmessage, torchat, telegram, jabber/xmpp plus OTR, and tox. I’d be interested in any thoughts that anyone has on any of these, whether it be thoughts on the underlying crypto, the platform diversity, the usability, or the attitude of the developers.

Try https://adium.im/ - it will allow you to route your various chat protocols through and encrypt them. The smaller the user base on these programs is, the more I am suspicious that they need a thorough security review.

Recently I’ve heard of Bleep, by Bittorrent, and MegaChat, a supposedely secure alternative to Skype by Kim Dotcom (news here).

I’m curious to see what it’s gonna be.

In the meantime, I’m using:

  • Telegram with a few friends and my gf, mostly because it’s a pretty good alternative to whatsapp with an added layer of security AND especially because there are smartphone apps, desktop apps and web apps available, which means you can chat on your computer and keep the conversation going on while you’re on the bus using your smartphone. In addition, I have to say these apps are really well polished.

  • gchat + OTR (using a Pidgin plugin) with exactly ONE friend, because it’s a pain in the ass to set up and use.

  • gchat without any encryption with a few other friends, because they are not technoparanoid people like my other friend above

  • whatsapp with my family because it’s wide-spread in France and we can easily share photos and all… I wish they could switch to Telegram but I don’t think it’s gonna happen, unfortunately. However, the good news is whatsapp end-to-end encrypted message is being rolled out by Whisper Systems, according to their blog.

Ya. I’m using Telegram with a couple of friends, and that’s despite how there’s been some doubt about its true security, because it’s got good apps for Ubuntu and phones and a web app. (The distinction between it and supposedly more-secure things which are way harder to use is what prompted the question.) I don’t care about whatsapp because they not only refuse to support my platform but actively prevent others from doing so; I use viber with my family exactly because they do support all the platforms I currently use (although there’s no Ubuntu for phones app for it).

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Another thing I keep an eye on is Firefox Hello. It looks like an alternative to Skype and Jitsi using open Web standards. It’s decentralized, and hopefully secure. It will eventually become cross-browsers, and you can start a video chat by sharing a URL, which is quite simple (I could do that to discuss with my mum for instance).

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What about write :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve played a bit with Getgems Messenger. It’s is built on top of Telegram, except it adds a cryptocurrency layer to it in an attempt to bring Bitcoin to the masses. If you want to maintain (some) anonymity, you can use a fake username; I think your phone number is still required though.

You’ll receive gems (a token), which eventually can be traded to bitcoins, by using the app, referring friends etc. If you want to direct message strangers, you’ll have to pay whatever price the user has set for unsolicited messages (think of advertisers having to pay you to gain access).

The app is in the early stages still, with the crowdfunding ongoing a few more days. iOS development seems to have hit some roadblocks.

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I run my own XMPP server (Prosody), and over the last 5 years I’ve found less and less people using instant messengers. Therefore, I’ve found that I don’t tend to open a client often any more. At work we heavily rely on an XMPP server that is currently Openfire (but looking to move) and we have various FCA regulations applied which means we have to log conversations etc. I imagine running OTR on top would be a disciplinary action, even though (to the best of my knowledge) we’ve never actually read the logs on the server.

I’m a perpetual idler in IRC (checking once or twice a day) but overwhelmingly rely on e-mail. My parents communicate with me via SMS, and anyone who isn’t “tech” generally gets me via Facebook Messenger, because that’s where everyone is.

I have absolutely no expectation of privacy, and should I want to discuss something private I will generally see someone face-to-face. I have absolutely no desire to join any other service (though I’ve tried Telegram) primarily because it’s far too difficult to create a contact list from scratch.

That’s almost exactly my usecases in Indonesia. I persuaded my gf to use Telegram, as well as members of a local Linux community, but apart from that the only people I see there regularly are other technophile friends.

I also have to use BBM (ugh) because of legacy issues (some friends wedded to their hardware keyboard – Android vendors really do us a disservice there). Let’s not talk about its lack of integration on iOS and Android (it maintains its own contact database totally unsynced with the system one, it doesn’t use the platform’s push messaging system, etc.)

On a related topic, Whisper Systems also produced Red Phone - letting you easily make encrypted phone calls - tried using it a couple of times but over Indonesian cellular networks the voice quality is not that great.

It exists there now, though, which is a big change; my daughter’s previous phone was a Blackberry just so she could use BBM, because it’s where all her friends were. Most obvious example of lock-in I’ve ever seen :slight_smile:

More than facetime?

Now FaceTime is ahead. :slight_smile:

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