Signal's user count surges after Musk recommends it over WhatsApp
Signal, the privacy-centric messaging service, took to Twitter to thank new users for their support. It also took the opportunity to apologize for delays in delivery of verification codes preventing registration for many new users. The surge in new users for the messaging platform can be traced to a two-word tweet from billionaire Elon Musk encouraging his followers to use Signal instead of WhatsApp.
Signal is an open-source messenger funded/supported by Brian Acton (co-founder of WhatsApp), and used by the likes of Edward Snowden, Jack Dorsey, Bruce Schneier, and other privacy advocates. The platform is known for security features, such as disappearing messages which was available since 2016 but seen only recently on WhatsApp. Other exclusive features include encrypted profiles, incognito keyboard switching, and clients on Linux distros.
Since its acquisition by Facebook in 2014, concerns over WhatsApp's data handling have grown. Facebook was widely critiqued for its handling of user data in 2017, when European regulators noticed WhatsApp numbers were being shared with Facebook networks for advertising purposes. The fact that people prefer to use different platforms for different purposes also does not help WhatsApp's cause.
Monetization of internet platforms is primarily done through advertising. As highlighted in the movie The Social Dilemma, advertisers' interest in user data stems from its utility in delivering precisely targeted advertisements. The demographic insight of this system makes it invaluable to both brands and advertisers.
WhatsApp recently updated its terms of service, revealing that it will share phone contacts, IP addresses, and more with advertisers and other Facebook entities. In contrast, Signal is upfront with no ads or trackers. Despite its two billion-strong reach, consumer confidence in WhatsApp is waning due to privacy concerns. The deluge of new registrations experienced by Signal is a good indicator of this trend.