With over 2 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp is currently the most popular messaging service worldwide. Following that, Telegram has 400 million members, while Signal has somewhere between 10 and 20 million monthly active users. Looking at the raw data, it’s obvious that WhatsApp is extremely well-liked and practically everywhere, while Telegram is catching up and Signal appears to have just entered the race for million downloads. Having said that, statistics alone cannot tell you everything, which is why we are providing you with a thorough comparison of WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal.
In this post, we thoroughly examine each messaging service’s security mechanisms and highlight its unique characteristics. After all of that, let’s read the article to find out who prevails in this conflict.
WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal: A Rundown (2022)
These three instant messengers will be contrasted in terms of ownership, features, and security. In order for you to make an informed decision about which app you wish to use, we will go through everything you gain and lose by selecting one of these messengers over the others.
You can always jump ahead to any part you want to read by using the table of contents.
Since security is the most contentious and divisive issue among the three messaging platforms, I’d want to start there. In this conflict with Telegram and Signal, let’s start with WhatsApp’s security model.
End-to-end encryption is one thing WhatsApp clearly has going for it. Additionally, E2E on WhatsApp is supported by each and every communication method that the app offers. Therefore, everything you share on WhatsApp, including messages, voice calls, video calls, and photographs, is end-to-end encrypted.
This implies that the only people who can read the communications you send to someone else are you and the recipient. Your security and privacy are ensured by WhatsApp since it cannot decrypt the contents of your messages, calls, photographs, or other content.
Nevertheless, it’s notable that WhatsApp makes use of the E2E protocol created by Open Whisper Systems, the company behind the Signal messenger. The Signal protocol is open source, has received a lot of peer reviews, and is widely regarded as one of the best protocols for implementing end-to-end encryption in messaging platforms, so that’s a positive thing.
It’s also significant that, despite the fact that WhatsApp uses E2E encryption for all of your communications, backups are not encrypted by the firm (cloud and local). Additionally, the metadata that is utilised to transport communication between two destinations is not encrypted. One of the main issues with WhatsApp’s security model is this. Although metadata prevents anyone from reading your communications, it allows law enforcement to know who, when, and how long you messaged.
Yet, that is a later step. What about the security measures WhatsApp offers its users? To lock your WhatsApp chats with biometrics, WhatsApp includes a built-in app lock functionality on both the Android and iOS apps. Additionally, the app offers support for two-factor authentication (2FA), which is wonderful for security.
In general, WhatsApp does a good job of protecting its users’ security. Nevertheless, WhatsApp has experienced a few serious privacy nightmares, particularly the latest problem with group messages being indexed by Google search. Although the problem has been resolved, it did not look good for the messaging service.
In terms of security, Telegram does provide some safeguards for its users. The method Telegram encrypts your chats and other data has a number of flaws, though. For starters, while E2E encryption is supported by Telegram, it is not turned on by default. Telegram’s private chats feature is the only option to employ E2E encryption.
It’s good that messages sent in a private conversation are E2E encrypted, however they are not for regular talks. Messages are encrypted on your device and then decoded on Telegram’s server, according to this. Once more, the messages are encrypted on the server before being transmitted to the recipient’s device for decryption. As you can see, Telegram has access to your regular chats in principle because it controls the encryption keys used in this procedure on the server.
For what it’s worth, Telegram claims that in order to access any of your data, one would need court orders from numerous legal systems all over the world because to the way it controls its message storage and decryption keys. In actuality, the corporation claims that up to this point, it has shared 0 bytes of data with both third parties and governments.
Even when using secret chats, Telegram encrypts your communications using its own proprietary technology, MTProto. Although it’s a closed-source protocol, security researchers can’t confirm whether or not this is okay. Security experts think it would have been preferable to have used an open-source, generally trusted protocol like the Signal protocol instead than Telegram’s proprietary, closed-source encryption method.
On the user-facing side, Telegram has a built-in app lock just like WhatsApp. However, the software hardly ever uses end-to-end encryption. Because Secret Chats are only supported for single-user conversation, Telegram groups are not encrypted. Furthermore, on any operating system other than macOS, the desktop client for Telegram does not support E2E encryption.
It is obvious that Telegram’s security is far weaker than WhatsApp or Signal Messenger’s.
When it comes to security, Signal is by far the finest, whether on the service’s user-facing or back-end sides.
As was already noted, Signal implements end-to-end encryption using the open-source Signal Protocol. Additionally, all kinds of communication on Signal are protected by E2E encryption, just like WhatsApp.
While Signal goes one step further and encrypts the information as well, WhatsApp only encrypts messages and calls (which is sufficient for most users). In order to protect user privacy from all corners, Signal devised a new way to communicate between the sender and the recipient and it s calledSealed Sender. In essence, Sealed Sender makes it such that nobody—not even Signal—can find out who is messaging whom.
In addition, you have some incredible privacy features on Signal that is going to make your messaging experience even more private and secure. For instance, you can lock Signal with a passcode or biometrics. Thenthere is 2FA and an option to block screenshots within the appand the recent screen. And recentlySignal added a new feature to blur facesautomatically before sending images. That s cool, right?
Not to mention, Signal by default encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase. And if you want to create an encrypted local backup then you can do that as well. The app now also supports encrypted group calls.
There was recently some reporting about Cellebrite cracking Signal s security. However, Signal has since debunked that news and you can read more about ithere. All in all, in terms of security and privacy protection, Signal stands head and shoulder above WhatsApp and Telegram and that make it themost secure messaging appbetween the three.
Moving on, let s take a look at the features offered by these three apps and see which one offers the most to its users.
For the most part, WhatsApp offers almost every feature you might need. You get support for group chats with up to 256 members. You can also broadcast messages to multiple contacts at the same time.
There s also support for voice and video calls, both for individual users and groups. However, for group video calls, you are restricted to 8 users at any time.
Apart from that, WhatsApp offers a distinct feature that neither Telegram offers nor Signal. Yes, I am talking WhatsApp Status (also called Stories). Users love this feature as they are able to express their thoughts and feelings to their closed ones. In a way, this makes WhatsApp asocial media platform, and not just a messaging service.
Moving ahead, you can share all sorts of files on WhatsApp, but there are file size limits to adhere to. For photos, videos, and audio files, the limit is 16 MB. However, documents can be up to 100 MB. You can alsoshare live locationwith your contacts and I am sure many users find this feature helpful.
And since WhatsApp is meant for general users, itoffers seamless backup and restore functionality throughcloud services like Google Driveand iCloud. And the best part is that cloud backup is completely free. Not to mention, WhatsApp now also supports dark mode. To learn more about its features, you can head over to our article on thebest WhatsApp tips and tricks.
While WhatsApp offers most of the features you d need,Telegram is basically overloaded with features. The app offers so many features that it s incredible. Similar to WhatsApp, you get the basics such as chats, group chats and channels. However, unlike WhatsApp s 256 member limit, Telegram brings support for groups with up to 200,000 members!
It also offers multiple group-specific features such as bots, polls, quizzes, hashtags and a lot more which can make group experiences a lot more fun.
The app also offers unique features such as a self-destructing messages feature which is great if you re sending messages that you don t want to remain on the recipient s device for eternity. You also get support for editing sent messages, along with features likemessage scheduling, sharing uncompressed media, themes, and a lot more.
Telegram also offers incredible granular support over notifications you receive from the app. Plus, the size limit for sharing files on Telegram is a whopping 1.5 GB.
Up until a while ago, Telegram didn t offer video calls. However, the app now supports both voice and video calls on Android and iOS devices, which is great because video call support was a big omission from the app.
While Signal beats Telegram and WhatsApp handily when it comes to security, it falls short on the features it offers. Still, I don t think there s any big missing feature that might deter you from using the app.
You have secure messaging, voice, and video calls and all communications are end-to-end encrypted. Further, you can create groups, however, you don t have the option to broadcast messages to multiple contacts at once. Plus, Signal has recently added support for group calling as well, something that was missing from the app for a long time.
You have features such as disappearing messages similar to self-destructing messagesof Telegram, and the ability to send a one-time viewable image. For me, the best feature of Signal is Note to Self . Unlike WhatsApp, you don t have to create a single-member group to send notes to yourself. On Signal, the feature is available natively and you can jot down your thoughts and ideas while messaging with your friends and family.
Apart from that, Signal allows you to relay voice calls to its servers so your identity remains concealed from your contacts. The feature is somewhat similar to what a VPN does. Signal also offers a built-in option to hide your IP address. Further, you canenable incognito keyboard while typing on Signal, apply dark mode, delete old messagesin one stroke, and of course, blur faces and private information from images using itspowerful photo editor.
There are also emojis and some privacy stickers, but they are very limited in comparison to WhatsApp and Telegram. All in all, Signal has some of the best privacy features but might fall short for users who want endless customization options. You can learn more about Signal features from our article on thebest Signal tips and tricks.
While that was all about security and features, now we need to discuss the ownership of all three platforms: WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. Ownership is important because it allows us to understand how companies are looking to monetize user data and lets you take an informed decision.
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, and while for quite some time the company had managed to keep WhatsApp at least a little bit less intrusive into your personal life as compared to its eponymous social media platform, that s changing now.
That s not all, throughout WhatsApp s lifetime under Facebook, there have been multipleallegationsaround the company breaking encryption and creating backdoors for government agencies.
There are also reports about ads on WhatsApp becoming a reality sooner rather than later. That gives Facebook even more incentive to monetize your WhatsApp data. Plus, since WhatsApp doesn t encrypt metadata, Facebook can readily use that to track your behavior.
Alas, this is Facebook we are talking about, and I don t think I need to point out the sheer incompetency (or unwillingness) of Facebook to protect user data or give any sort of privacy protections. That s something we have witnessed in a lot of detail since theCambridge Analytica scandal.
Coming to Telegram, it was launched in 2013 by Nikolai Durov and his younger brother, Pavel Durov. Both are from Russia and are currently on a self-imposed exile. Pavel Durov was dismissed as CEO of a Russian social-media site after he refused to hand over data of Ukrainian protesters to Russia s security agencies.
Apart from that, on many occasions,Pavel Durov has takena principled position against censorshipand government interference. Looking at the history that geared the development of Telegram, I would say, it does inspire trust. However, the closed-source encryption protocol and optional E2E support leave the room for more transparency and improvement.
Finally, Signal is owned by the nonprofit Signal Foundation which is run by cryptographer Moxie Marlinspike and Brian Acton. Moxie Marlinspike used to run Open Whisper Systems the brainchild behind the Signal protocol. After he met Brian Acton in 2018, they formed a new alliance calledSignal Foundation. It now wholly funds the development of Signal messenger. It s noteworthy that Brian Acton was the co-founder of WhatsApp. However, he left the company 3 years after Facebook acquired it. Moxie Marlinspike / Image: TechCrunch
Now, he oversees the development of Signal along with Moxie Marlinspike. Many high-flying people including Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower; Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, and others endorse Signal. In addition, Signal has received top scores on the EFF s Secure Messaging Scorecard making it the most secure messaging platform.
Signal is run by donations and grants, in case you re wondering how it makes money. In fact, you can also donate to Signal to fund its future development.
The Verdict: WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal
On the other hand, Telegram messenger may not be the best in terms of security. However, it offers a boatload of features that are enough to make any group admin drool. Plus you do get end-to-end encryption on Telegram, albeit restricted to secret chats.
To sum everything up, I d suggest going with Telegram if you want more features than the average messenger. You can consider Signal if you re looking for the essential messaging and calling features along with a high-standard of security. However, WhatsApp is looking more dicey than ever now with the new policy update.