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Facebook to integrate the infrastructure for WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger (nytimes.com)
474 points by tysone 58 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 306 comments



> Mr. Zuckerberg has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption, the people said, a significant step that protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation.

I don't blame NYT for getting this wrong wrt WhatsApp but it bears repeating: if you let someone else broker the key exchange, you trust them implicitly. That is to say that IMO this is not truly trustworthy "end to end encryption". To add insult to injury, WhatsApp permits rekeying to take place without any indication to the conversation's participants [in the default settings].


> if you let someone else broker the key exchange, you trust them implicitly.

Sort of.

Yes, they could serve you a MITM key, but it would be easily discoverable when you compare security codes in the client. And since the client is widely distributed on major app stores, it would be very risky to ship a compromised client.

Ultimately key exchange is a hard problem to solve. Notice that Signal doesn't do anything that much different; Signal does the key exchange and unless you verify each user's key offline, you have to trust it. Both WhatsApp and Signal have an option to display a notice when keys change, but Signal's is on by default.

Overall it's still pretty damn good. WhatsApp is perhaps the only major form of consumer communication where, by default and with no opt-out, every single chat really is fully encrypted using a widely respected protocol (libsignal). That's not nothing.


> Notice that Signal doesn't do anything that much different; Signal does the key exchange and unless you verify each user's key offline, you have to trust it.

Let's not forget Signal is FOSS and has reproducible builds (https://signal.org/blog/reproducible-android/). This makes it far easier to trust its verification code.


Unfortunately verification of reproducible builds is not baked in the OS (Android/iOS) so it's still possible to target someone with malicious update. When vast majority of people don't verify the build it's possible that the attack would go unnoticed.

Another interesting extension of reproducible builds: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Security/Binary_Transparency


> so it's still possible to target someone with malicious update

I'm no Android or iOs dev, so I might be wrong, but to my knowledge there is no feature to push an app update specifically to a narrow set of devices?

So at the very least, third parties (Apple/Google) would have to be involved in such an attack. This removes some entities from the list that could create an attack.

Also, Apple/Google have a big reason not to play such games. Their app stores are partially so popular because they, as companies, are trusted. Apple/Google would only do this if they'd be legally required to. IF they were involved, even against their will, this would mean tremendous risk to trust in these companies, meaning risk to the stock. And for a publicly traded company, there is no bigger motivator. Apple/Google would get out all the lobbying power they have, trying to fight off whatever coercion tool the US government uses against them to make them comply.

Even if there'd be no opposition from Apple or Google, people outside would notice sooner or later that they've got malicious updates. If they use it once or twice, they might go undetected, but if governments or other entities start using this as a vector repeatedly, it will get to the public.

This doesn't mean that I think that these issues aren't important. Reproducible builds, binary transparency, gossip protocols, all these things are very important areas to invest research in, but right now they aren't a vector that is being abused on observable scales.


> I'm no Android or iOs dev, so I might be wrong, but to my knowledge there is no feature to push an app update specifically to a narrow set of devices?

Yes, it's possible to target "narrow set of devices" by using Device Catalog. An excerpt from the ToS:

> Google Play Console Device Catalog Terms of Service

> By using the device catalog and device exclusion tools in the Play Console (“Device Catalog”), You consent to be bound by these terms, in addition to the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement (“DDA”). If there is a conflict between these terms and the DDA, these terms govern Your use of the Device Catalog. Capitalized terms used below, but not defined below, have the meaning ascribed to them under the DDA.

> 1. The Device Catalog allows You to review a catalog of the Devices supported by Your app and search the Devices by their hardware attributes. It also allows You to exclude specific Devices that are technically incompatible with Your app.


I agree, targeted compromise remains feasible.

I wasn't aware of Binary Transparency, thanks! A cool idea, akin to Certificate Transparency.


Yes, it's funny that you mention CT because BT actually uses CT under the hood :)


Yes, signal is better than FB or sms.. But the whole requiring phone number puts a nail in it on my end.

So Signal can learn who talks with whom via requests going through their LDAP-like server. They can get an idea how long calls are, and if it was a vid or audio call. They know the times of communication.

You know, they can see the metadata. When's the last time we had problems with metadata? The POTS network? Yep.

And you're indeed right the client has reproducible builds. But the server side certainly doesn't. And we have no way to ascertain that.


> You know, they can see the metadata. When's the last time we had problems with metadata? The POTS network? Yep.

Yes, metadata is a problem, particularly with calls. However, Signal recently added the sealed sender (https://signal.org/blog/sealed-sender/) feature which makes the server blind to who the sender of a message is.

> And you're indeed right the client has reproducible builds. But the server side certainly doesn't.

That's true, but the server side is much less important when it comes to cryptographic assurances.

Signal is definitely not a panacea, but by many counts it's better than anything else that currently exists and has any semblance to something a typical user can use.


For what it's worth, they don't retain any of that metadata. This has been tested in court:

> We’ve designed the Signal service to minimize the data we retain about Signal users, so the only information we can produce in response to a request like this is the date and time a user registered with Signal and the last date of a user’s connectivity to the Signal service.

https://signal.org/bigbrother/eastern-virginia-grand-jury/

This was even before sealed sender, so if anything my confidence in the Signal Foundation has only increased.


Everytime Signal is brought up someone just has to chime in saying ‘we must abandanon Signal at all costs because metadata’. The metadata limitation is well known and if metadata interception is a problem for your threat model there are steps to obscure your identity or you should use a different tool. For the 99% of other cases where I just don’t want anyone snooping on my conversation with friends and family but don’t care that people know I’m obviously conversing with my friends and family Signal is great. Let’s not throw Signal out just because the metadata is still there.


Briar is good if metadata is a prime concern, but even Matrix, XMPP and email have very similar metadata problems to Signal, plus contact discovery problems as you can't casually gather that your friend or relative is on the platform (phone numbers mostly solve this).


If metadata is good enough to drone strike weddings, it's probably good enough to throw you in a concentration camp too. And since data never dies, it might be enough to throw your grand kids in concentration camps.

Now, protecting everyone's meta data is hard (probably impossible), and I don't mean to be defeatist - but "it's just metadata" doesn't sit well in a post Snowden world. We know all large intelligence agencies hoover up this stuff.

And we also know that agencies are made up of people, and some people abuse their access.


I certainly don’t mean to discount the importance of metadata. I specifically mentioned ensuring Signal fits your threat model.

To suggest that metadata of communication over Signal between my spouse and I will be used against my grand kids one day is a bit absurd though. Of course there’s tons of metadata connecting my spouse and I. It would be more suspicious if there wasn’t.


Spouse, "family" and friends are different goalposts. Mapping friends and family is AFAIK a key part of who gets bombed by the cia. Sure, if your spouse is found to be an "enemy of the state" under a new totalitarian government - your immediate family will have problems.

If a friend turns out to be union organizer, you might be banned from jobs, if the government decides to collude with employers (again).


You do realize that this "LDAP-like server" you're describing does not store the phone number, right?


Threema is ok. No number. But paid.


Just clarifying something you alluded to: Signal claims that Whatsapp actually uses the same protocol, so naturally the key exchange is very similar.


> Yes, they could serve you a MITM key, but it would be easily discoverable

Like a lot of things it boils down to your threat model. If the broker or a state are your adversary, it wouldn't need to be a general design feature to behave this way but it could instead target you at the time of key exchange. Not an implausible scenario for reporters and their sources, e.g.

Those folks are especially vulnerable because they might be led to believe claims of "end to end encryption". Put that together with those default settings and interception and impersonation can happen right under your nose.


I'm confused what does the client have to do with this. My understanding of these end to end encryption models is with public/private keys. You (Facebook, Whatsapp, or the user) generate a private and a matching public key. You distribute the pair of keys to the user who'd like to do communication. The user should not share their private key, not even to Facebook or Whatsapp. The user publishes his public key so other can encrypt messages using the user's public key and send their messages to said user. The user then uses the private key to decrypt the encrypted message. If Facebook keeps a copy of the private key, then they could read the encdypted message.

Maybe the client itself is generating the keypair. In this case, the only issue I can see is the following: when the user wants to communicate with a friend, how can they be sure that the profile they are sending messages to (as displayed by their user interface and communicated by Facebook or Whatsapp or the friend's server) actually do belong to their friend?

I'm confused what you were talkimg about, with the client build possibly being a trojan


>Maybe the client itself is generating the keypair. In this case, the only issue I can see is the following: when the user wants to communicate with a friend, how can they be sure that the profile they are sending messages to (as displayed by their user interface and communicated by Facebook or Whatsapp or the friend's server) actually do belong to their friend?

That's exactly the point though, how can they be sure in the event that their client (on the author's side) is a trojan? If the "author" client is deliberately compromised, there is no longer any reasonable means of ensuring that the public key the author uses to encrypt the messages is actually equal to the public key the recipient published.

Of course, this point is very much riddled with paranoia: it is exceedingly unlikely that the WhatsApp client deliberately contains such a trojan, especially since there are much easier ways of gaining access to user's messages (such as compromising their firmware with some form of rootkit, possibly installed via the baseband, and then simply sending copies of the local message cache to the NSA).


The only way to know for sure is to verify your friend's signature in offline.


How is WhatsApp using libsignal without being obligated to disclose their source code - as it's licensed under GPL?


If WhatsApp uses a version of libsignal whose copyright is solely in the hands of Open Whisper Systems, OWS can have a separate deal with WhatsApp which does not involve the GPL. AFAIK, this is already done to get Signal into the App Store (IANAL though).


Moxie was brought on as a contractor at WhatsApp iirc, the code wasn't just purchased. While WhatsApp uses the same cryptographic architecture its likely they didn't just drop in libsignal (as libsignal is set up to tie into Signal's servers, rather than just be an encryption library like OMEMO or olm).

If your looking to build software that integrates with Signal, then libsignal is great (having built a few things with it).


iMessage, though operating at a smaller scale than WhatsApp


Indeed! iMessage should get an honorable mention. Having lived outside of the US for a few years, sometimes I forget it exists, because here even people who both have iPhones use WhatsApp. iMessage deserves an honorable mention, but with some caveats. As I recall and quickly Googled:

There have been some concerns with their security:

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/03/imessage_encr...

https://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/technology/need-kn...

https://www.tomshardware.com/news/imessage-weak-encryption-m...

Additionally, iMessage doesn't have any means of out-of-band key verification, so you actually have to trust Apple to faithfully exchange keys and there's no way to verify that it's done so.

iMessage also tells you after a message is sent (via the color of a bubble) whether the recipient received it using iMessage. That's not very good assurance if, say, you're messaging a journalist in an authoritarian country. Will it go out over SMS or iMessage? You can find out, but even a little bit of doubt about that can have significant consequences.

I'm glad iMessage does do encryption like it does, but it's no replacement for Signal and WhatsApp uses libsignal for its encryption.


You can turn off the SMS fallback to ensure it gets delivered via iMessage.


> you actually have to trust Facebook

Do you mean "you have to trust Apple"? I don't see what Facebook has to do with iMessage.

[EDIT: Now corrected above. Thanks!]


Think-o.


The colour of the send button tells you if it’s an iMessage or a text message.


Yes, and no. If you send a message to someone you've most recently conversed with on iMessage, it will be blue. But if iMessage can't deliver the message, it will fall back to using text messages. I believe on the next attempt, the button will be green, but I don't have a way to test that right now.


No, it will ask you if you want to send as text. It doesn’t do it without you explicitly allowing it.


As recently as last weekend, I had it go through as green instead of blue without asking because the recipient was in a no-data area. Perhaps because I'd previously approved green messages for that person.


Didn't China receive special access to iMessage from Apple?


If iCloud backups are enabled, then, yes, keys are in China. If you aren’t using iCloud backups, then no.


They began letting another company handle iCloud data in China—one that complies with Chinese law[1]. Same-same, but very different.

[1]https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208351


> Yes, they could serve you a MITM key, but it would be easily discoverable when you compare security codes in the client.

Who does that for every conversation? Or even once per week/contact?


Or use a client like Signal that tells you when the key has changed.


security researchers


So put them in a cohort and treat them differently than the rest of the users? Personalised key exchange? Possibilites are endless. If you don't trust the closed source operator here, then that end to end encryption should mean nothing for you.


This is fundamental. If Facebook messages are still to work as before, with a web interface, an archive etc. then you need to supply Facebook servers with a decryption key. You no longer have end to end encryption.

And I don't really see how they could get rid of the web features, it represents a massive number of FB Messenger users. This ties nicely with the older pressures from Zuckerberg to monetize WhatsApp and the resistance of the founders for security reasons, this most likely means access to the conversation plaintext.


WhatsApp Web already provides this, by connecting to the phone and proxying messages through it. Of course, that also requires implicit trust in WhatsApp Web, but it is possible. And using WhatsApp requires implicit trust in Facebook anyway, so...


It still requires you to run the WhatsApp phone app though. I doubt that facebook wants to require all of their users to have phones. You can reimplement WhatsApp's functionality in client side JS but then you get into deep technical problems rooted from the fact that js is, in general, ephemeral and not something permanent compared to an ios/android app. E.g. when someone logs onto facebook on a their friend's computer to check their messages you want everything to be smooth including message search but in order to provide message search, either the server needs access to the plaintext or the client needs to download the entire message history... If there's an app the client already has the entire history so that's no problem, but it is a problem with ephemeral Javascript. Another problem you run into is that Facebook can serve specifically manipulated Javascript just for you ^ TM because you are an interesting target or something. For Android/iOS this would require an app update and need to go through a third party and I haven't heard that google or apple give you the option to push a specific app to a specific device.


you could type the key into each client each time, no?

isnt that how things like dashlane work? it sends the encrypted historical blob to your device, your device decodes it.


I don't think such unfriendly UX would ever be considered in such a mainstream service


You already have to login with a username and password to access Facebook, unlike whatsapp where your phone is the sole key. Facebook could just construct the key at logon time based on the user's password.


the OPTION to start an encrypted chat, with a chat specific password?


Or storing the key in localstorage?


To enable end-to-end encryption, you need more than local storage, you need local computation using local execution of signed and reproducible code. Javascript in browsers is fundamentally not such a platform, mobile applications are - to the degree you trust Google, Apple etc.


i guess by "each time" i was being somewhat ambiguous. it could mean each login, or each install, or each time the session clears.


Couldn't the messages be encrypted using the user password?


I think end-to-end encryption is currently undergoing a crisis of definition. Within the security and cryptography communities, implementations of secure messaging like Whatsapp and iMessage are considered to be end-to-end encrypted communications. The philosophical intention of end-to-end encryption is to enable communication through infrastructure which you do not trust.

Beyond the technical considerations, different demographics have various expectations about what end-to-end encryption means. Sometimes their position is that end-to-end encryption does not exist without decentralization. Some want to have a fully federated protocol. Others believe that allowing an intermediary to broker key exchange invalidates the end-to-end confidentiality and authenticity assurances.

This often leads to nitpicking about what defines end-to-end encryption which, while a useful exercise in its own right, doesn't capture the heart of the grievances at play. In many cases it would be more productive to talk more directly about expectations regarding the security and privacy of a service or protocol rather than whether or not it fulfills an underspecified set of criteria.

This is to say that you can make a compelling argument that allowing a third party to broker your key exchange is insufficiently secure for you. But if you anchor that critique to whether or not the protocol satisfies end-to-end encryption, you're inviting rebuttals that don't substantially respond to what your critique is. Whether or not something satisfies end-to-end encryption is somewhat less important than whether or not you think it holistically satisfies what you consider to be strong confidentiality and authenticity assurances. If your problem is that you don't want a company like Facebook bootstrapping the key exchange for you, then you should defend that (valid) opinion by choosing a different set of criteria to work with.


Decentralization/federation and the existence of third-party brokers don't really come into play here. What is required is

  a. a cryptographically secure protocol
  b. an UI that is strict about checking that the keys and signatures match and is loud about notifying the user when they don't
  c. an open source client


Open source client doesn't really get you much, since you would need to audit the entire source code, then build it yourself, which you probably won't do. If you aren't doing that, you're implicitly trusting others to have audited the source code, and to provide builds that actually correspond to the source code. Now there are reasons to trust the open source community like this (lots of eyeballs, and people who care about security and privacy can inspect the source code and third party builds), but there is also one advantage to commercial software (including closed source) over open source: you're more likely to have someone to sue if they lie or mess up.


An open source client is not required for end-to-end encryption.

Do you see what I'm getting at? We're quibbling about a technically precise definition instead of what you'd like to see in a secure messaging application.


If it's not open source, the e2e is merely a claim, instead of a verifiable property.


Yes, this is what I meant. Unless we think of some magical way to verify that e2e is really happening (enter quantum voodoo or something similarly wild), the only way to verify is by actually inspecting the source code. Even this may not be enough, but it is a necessary precondition for now.


For sure if you are using any app or OS over which you don't have complete knowledge and control, and which isn't entirely unhackable, you are trusting someone somewhere.

Application companies will always be able to backdoor their apps.

What e2e encryption does do is make messages nearly impossible to be intercepted in transit or on a massive scale by anyone without the cooperation of the company.


> What e2e encryption does do is make messages nearly impossible to be intercepted in transit or on a massive scale by anyone without the cooperation of the company.

No, this is a non-standard definition of "e2e encryption" that I've never heard of. In fact, it's exactly counter to the whole point of e2e encryption. The reason "end" and "end" are specified is because it precludes anyone in the middle from getting the plain text of the message. End to end encryption is supposed to assume "cooperation of the company" as a threat model!


> What e2e encryption does do is make messages nearly impossible to be intercepted in transit or on a massive scale by anyone without the cooperation of the company.

I don't understand why you and others in this thread describe it this way. "end to end" in this description sounds a lot like "transport security" -- like what you get from TLS (https, e.g.). How is this version of "end to end" (where are the ends?) any better than TLS?


> I don't understand why you and others in this thread describe it this way. "end to end" in this description sounds a lot like "transport security" -- like what you get from TLS (https, e.g.). How is this version of "end to end" (where are the ends?) any better than TLS?

TLS is client-server oriented. When a messaging system uses "transport security", like Facebook Messenger, that normally means that your client's connection to Facebook's server is encrypted, but Facebook's server still has access to your message plaintext. Whereas an "end to end" encrypted system would encrypt messages on your client that are only encrypted by the person you're talking to's client.

(I'm similarly skeptical about how much difference this makes in practice - I don't know what the threat model is where you trust a closed-source app and closed source google play services but don't trust the same company's servers. But it is a real distinction in behaviour)


You may have misunderstood my reply to mean that I don't understand what's different between TLS and end to end encryption.

In fact I don't understand the difference between TLS and -- let's call it E2E' (that which might be "end to end encryption"). If E2E' permits the message broker to intercept messages, does it satisfy the conventional definition of "end to end encryption"? No, certainly not. Is it any better than TLS? No, not in my opinion.

Here's what I quoted, which I believe to be E2E':

> What e2e encryption does do is make messages nearly impossible to be intercepted in transit or on a massive scale by anyone without the cooperation of the company.


> If E2E' permits the message broker to intercept messages, does it satisfy the conventional definition of "end to end encryption"?

By "broker" do you mean the server or are you including e.g. the company's code running on your device? "End to end" conventionally means "device to device" since few if any strong cryptosystems can be implemented by humans without mechanical assistance.

Key exchange is traditionally assumed away as outside the scope of analysis; we assume as a starting point that the users have a preshared secret key. So in theory E2E is very different from TLS. But in practice key exchange is very relevant.

There is still a very real practical distinction though: WhatsApp/Signal/... do not allow the server to passively intercept messages. There are active attacks that the server can perform against they key exchange process, but these would be very likely to be detected if performed on a large scale (even by insiders at the company).

It's also worth noting that a TLS approach leaves a much bigger attack surface for bulk attacks from outside the company: any security hole in the company's servers gives a single point at which an attacker can capture plaintext messages on a large scale (as the NSA is known to have done to GMail).


Yes, that does safisfy the definition of end-to-end encryption. The broker - and anyone else - can intercept messages, which is fully accounted for. That does not compromise the confidentiality or authenticity of the secure channel. What is explicitly disallowed is the intercepting party getting access to the plaintext. That includes the broker.


TLS establishes a secure channel between a client and a server. Both the client and the server have access to the plaintext.

E2EE establishes a secure channel between two clients who each have access to the plaintext, via an intermediating server which has no access to the plaintext.

The two clients are the "ends" in E2EE. E2EE does not mandate that the server is uninvolved in the key exchange.


You can enable a notification in the settings when a person keys changes.


I have a hard time believing Zuckerberg would purposely exclude himself from the conversation.

You know what's bizarre to me? Most US states are either one party consent or 2 party consent states. Meaning to record a conversation, at least one party must consent to the conversation being recorded.

So how does this not apply at all to private conversations online?


to me all this end-to-end business sounds too much like marketing. As long as you have to use the clients provided by facebook, it doesn't matter that the chats are end-to-end encrypted.

Facebook controls the clients and as such can do whatever it likes with your chats (or whatever you agreed to)


End-to-end encryption is about decomposing trusted parties and compartmentalizing untrusted infrastructure. There are meaningful differences between end-to-end encryption and server-side encryption. These differences are entirely orthogonal to the question of whether or not you can verify the client or the server.

This is what I was getting at in my other comment. If you’re going to reject end-to-end encryption because you can’t verify the client, you’re looking at a very different set of criteria to establish the confidentiality and authenticity assurances you want. In particular, you are at a point where it’s difficult to establish a secure channel unless you’re using a fully decentralized, federated protocol with a server you stood up yourself.


Yes, that's why you need independently developed and independently distributed client software. Otherwise there's no meaningful compartmentalization.

The parent poster is not rejecting end-to-end crypto itself, but how it's typically done. (on a locked phone you don't really control in an autoupdating app you don't control at all) Web based end to end encryption is even more ridiculous (say mega.nz for example), because then it's even more trivial to distribute different code to differnet users.


There is meaningful compartmentalization without independent distribution and development. That point was the entire basis of my comment.


What application would you say has "real" e2e encryption? Signal and all the other apps have exactly the same problem right? If you don't compare your keys offline, you're always at risk for this attack. You can't build cryptography out of sand.


keybase does! https://keybase.io/


You're saying at Keybase you don't have to compare your fingerprints out of band?


Correct. Key verification is done by looking at signatures on a given user's linked social networks / websites etc


How does it handle DNS spoofing or ip redirection?

And what happens if you have no social networks / websites like me? HN is probably the closest I got to a social network online.


How does keybase do key exchanges?


Software that uses the user's public key as the user's identifier (or potentially something that uses namecoin) do not have this issue - consider tox and ricochet for example.


This isn't really a solution, though. It's just moving the problem somewhere else. The problem then becomes things such as linking existing Third Party Identifiers like email, phone numbers etc. to the users key (which most regular users want to be able to do). The idea of a user per key in general also becomes problematic with multi-device usage or a device compromise. You will not be able to revoke access to any device without throwing away your whole identity.


At the very least, Signal notifies on rekeying and in both the desktop and Android versions it doesn't appear to be changeable.


WhatsApp also notifies on rekeying. A yellow message is shown warning that "your conversation partner's security codes have changed" or something of the sort.


It's an option. And it's disabled by default.


Also, last time I checked Facebook still sees all the links you exchange in the conversation.


I guess it's fair to assume that when we say "the conversation's participants" we explicitly mean everyone except the broker. I think it's important in this day and age to accept that the broker is now a conversation participant as well. Maybe we should look more into P2P messaging software.


> the broker is now a conversation participant as well.

I don't agree. This is the antithesis of the intent of the term "end to end encryption." Otherwise you could just use TLS to secure each of the {client->broker} connections and then you could call it "end to end".


I don't see why my comment was down voted. I made a valid argument that the expectation of the broker not being privy to the conversation is a bit unreasonable and we should further explore P2P.


Oh man ignoring the privacy implications of this, all the "product" people at Facebook are going to destroy WhatsApp as we know and love. It is going to become a giant monstrosity with a 500MB binary size, lag, whole bunch of tracking code and super slow servers. It has begun to a certain extent already and it's only going get worse.

I assume they think that the network effect is going to lock users into WhatsApp but the moment it becomes too painful to run on a 100$ Android phone with 1GB of RAM, it will inevitably die. Sure it's not going to be instantaneous but I'm a 100% sure that all the PMs that run Facebook Messenger are itching to get their hands on WhatsApp.

I understand these changes are only on the server side, but I imagine the client side is not too far away. Some client changes are inevitable because I'm pretty sure they'll build a "unified" API for all these apps and it's is going to contain a whole bunch of messenger service code (because look at all those messenger features that noone cares about, surely we can't just drop what a whole org has been working on for two years)


> all the "product" people at Facebook are going to destroy WhatsApp as we know and love.

Well, let it just die quickly! There's not much to love in products from a company that's repeatedly so hostile to its users. I'm all for anything from Facebook dying sooner, and will be cheering when that happens.


You don't trust Zuckerberg to keep your private messages private? Even if that somehow happens, he'll be selling your messaging network info to everyone with two nickels to rub together.

No thanks. Delete Messenger/WhatsApp and move everything onto other services.


you have to delete instagram too


Nobody ever accused me of being a Facebook shill, I'm happy to say I've helped a number of people off WhatsApp after Facebook bought them.

But let's keep this serious: Instagram isn't a tool for secure messaging. It is a tool to publish images, mostly public images.

A person might very well decide to move sensitive communication off Instagram and continue to post their cat videos on Instagram.

A valid reason for not using Instagram however is to lead by example and weaken the network effect of Facebook.

Facebook is already in panic because users are leaving the platform so IMO now is a good time to test out alternative solutions :-)


This is precisely while I'm on instagram: There's no pretense of anything being private. It's like the best parts of Facebook (cool pictures/info from people who interest me) without the bullshit (TDS-fueled ramblings).

I'll be out of there as soon as a federated alternative pops up and gets the least bit of traction.


Already gone... it stopped being enjoyable years ago.


> Facebook are going to destroy WhatsApp as we know and love

Was this ever a question? Seriously.


Seconding this; The article's talking about a consolidation of the messaging infrastructure, not the product experience. In theory, this could be done with super minor changes to the product code, and in practice, there's nothing stopping Facebook from making arbitrary product changes to WhatsApp anyways.


The article said to allow users to easily message cross-app. That change to me looks like on the front-end product side.


There is not only that social form of "network effect" keeping in, but also the "free basics" network effect. I noticed that while travelling Asia: In many areas you got Facebook's limited form of free internet, where Facebook's services can be used even without money in the prepaid card. Thus WhatsApp is the central communication channel. Many shops, taxi/tuktuk drivers, guesthouse owners etc. use it as primary communication channel to make reservations etc. That lock in is strong. (One has to see how Facebook will monetize this, but we'll internet==free basics==Facebook+WhatsApp gives them a strong advantage.


I note this story is the top read item on the BBC news right now, clearly people do care quite a bit.

The web has evolved with messaging APIs and server side push notification things, how easy is it to put together a group chat for just your family these days? The wider friend-verse can stay on these common platforms but the inner circle can be kept off servers and so long as someone in the group has the messages then a complete transcript can be had?

I don't believe it can be that hard. Facebook has become a behemoth and you don't need all that to just share messages within a small family sized group. Whilst Facebook merge their triplet of behemoth apps I am sure it can be possible to put something together that just works for the inner friend/family group everyone has, a little advert free zone that just does text and phone recorded media. Can it be done utterly serverless or is this something the blockchain crowd have solved already for me to have dismissed as snakeoil?


> I am sure it can be possible to put something together that just works for the inner friend/family group everyone has, a little advert free zone that just does text and phone recorded media.

I've been researching this lately and I'm about to test out private (but possibly federated) instances of hubzilla and nextcloud as soon as I can get some time.

Both looks extremely promising although I know there are issues.


So we are still in roll your own code mode really. I can't get my dad to 'just download this' yet. That is why WhatsApp et al. are 'so good'.


I wonder what the EU commission will say to that. They only agreed to the WhatsApp takeover because FB stated that they would not do exactly what Zuck has in mind.


FB have already been fined over that "When Facebook took over the WhatsApp messaging service in 2014, it told the [EU] commission it would not be able to match user accounts on both platforms, but went on to do exactly that." https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/18/facebook-fi...


Doing this after they're already talking about forcing them to sell WhatsApp is a bold move.


You can't sell the platform if it's heavily integrated. Whoever buys it will just have to rewrite it from scratch then.


>You can't sell the platform if it's heavily integrated.

Do you think lawmakers care? There is a fair bit of public goodwill for acting against big evil intl tax evading tech companies...so I think they actually could force this.


Presumably the pre-integration builds are still sitting around somewhere on Facebook servers. I suppose they could destroy this IP specifically to sabotage the sale-value of it, but I can't imagine shareholders being too pleased with that.


> You can't sell the platform if it's heavily integrated. Whoever buys it will just have to rewrite it from scratch then.

Not necessarily. My understanding is WhatsApp basically uses the Signal protocol right now, Signal itself is open source, so I assume an acquirer could just stand up some new Signal infrastructure and get 80%+ of WhatsApp functionality without much redevelopment.


Not if they integrate the messaging infrastructures as described in the article...


> Not if they integrate the messaging infrastructures as described in the article...

WhatsApp is a phone app. Even if Facebook heavily integrates the messaging infrastructures, the problem an acquirer has is porting the existing users over to a new messaging infrastructure. Signal-based infrastructure is (relatively) turn key, most of the software is already developed, deployed, and tested. After you have that, the main thing you have to do is push a new version of the app out to all the different app stores that uses your new infrastructure. Bam, you're done.

I am simplifying certain things (there'd definitely be a somewhat complex transition period where your new app would have to support both infrastructures), but my main point is that this integration is not as big of a barrier to re-separation as it may seem.


> the problem an acquirer has is porting the existing users over to a new messaging infrastructure.

If you're selling it, it would be your job to port it. This wouldn't be the purchaser's job, it would be Facebook's job. It would be like expecting someone to dismantle a bed your selling on eBay. No one in their right mind would agree to dismantle it for you unless you were giving it away.


The Signal Protocol only covers the E2E encryption of message content (and related activities like key management). Think of it more like OTR from the old IM days, but more deeply integrated into the product and invisible to the user.

All the other protocol bits are very much WhatsApp-specific.


Which isn't a lot of work now that WhatsApp doesn't support the userbase that supported them in the beginning (all the crappy old hardware and twenty different platforms). The network effect is what makes WhatsApp worth billions instead of thousands. The software can be reproduced in a few weeks.


They can force them to un-integrate it and then sell it.


I think this is another opportunity to look at it under the GDPR lens.


afair Facebook has been already fined something like 2% of profits they made on tracking/profiling whatsapp users. EU and FB are OK now and it's also OK to lie to governments, because punishment will be smaller than profits.


because punishment will be smaller than profits

This is easy to fix by increasing the punishment, right?


but... but will lobby support this?


Just another fine and they will look away again. The legal way of greasing some palms.


Interesting. Source?


"The Commission found that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are not close competitors."

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-1088_en.htm

That release sums it up indirectly -- they had no issue with it because they were all distinct platforms with different features, but if Facebook consolidates them, I think that somewhat implies they are competitors and there is clear duplication of offerings.


I'm going to start this comment by saying that I don't agree with or approve of most of/anything Facebook has been doing. Security and Privacy are very important to me when it comes to the internet. I don't have a Facebook account.

So now I'd like to point out that the article has a couple mistakes. You don't actually need to provide anything but a phone number to use Facebook Messenger, but not many people know this, it seems. Related to this is a lot of hand-wringing about "oh no this will mean Facebook is watching us in all these apps now". Well, I'll address this in a second. I want to talk about this quote in the article:

"Matching Facebook and Instagram users to their WhatsApp handles could give pause to those who prefer keeping their use of each app compartmentalized."

This is already impossible. WhatsApp and Instagram collect information on you whether you have a Facebook account and whether or not you are logged in if you do have one. They know who are you are (this is the reason why I don't really care how encrypted WhatsApp is, I'm not going to use it). So if this really bothers people, well, I've got some bad news.


> "a Facebook user could send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, for example. Currently, that isn’t possible because the apps are separate."

This freaks me out, as i have deliberately chosen to stay away from facebook since the early days! I somehow felt repelled by the idea of facebook back then, now its trying to hunt me down! Oops!

I have been thinking of quitting Whatsapp since facebook acquired it, but continued using it since almost everyone i frequently communicate with does so on Whatsapp.

Maybe it's time to quit whatsapp before this integration happens! Or am i just freaking out ? :D


I don't think you're wrong. The point of this integration is to start connecting Whatsapp's giant database of phone numbers with Facebook Messenger/IG accounts. At this time, it's still possible to be anonymous on Whatsapp, but that ends once this project is completed.

Been trying to get friends and family to switch to Signal since early 2017 with no luck.


You're only as anonymous as the contact records in all the phones you're communicating with, i.e. not at all. The only winning move is not to play

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/26/how-to-stop-your-phone-from-...


This is a sour point for me. It bugs me that other people can reveal information about me and there is little I can do. I actually stopped entering contacts into my phone because of this. Or I put false names for ones I man need to label. I recognise my contacts by their phone number. I doubt my part is overly effective because others likely don't do this but it is my way of saying screw off. I hope one day legislation will regulate these companies and what they share about us. I thought Facebook promised it would not suck up the whatsapp data how can they integrate without all that data? Reminds me of a child. Was told no so going to just do it anyways and see if there is a punishment after. I hope some regulatory body sinks Facebook over this idea.


It's almost entirely ineffective. Each phone book upload probably nets them something like ~100 contacts, multiply that by 1.74 billion and the war is entirely lost. A bit like how self-driving cars may shortly redefine the meaning of 'public space'.


May I know why you deleted your reply ? Should I also be careful around here ? :)


Self preservation :) I didn't want to get drawn into a thread about some topic I shouldn't be paying attention to just now!


Ha ha, true! :) but i felt your point was good, there is an upside to the fact we are acknowledging the state of affairs as it is.


Depressing to think that it's a lost case already!


Same with Truecaller, I had been rallying against the use of Truecaller for a long time. At least now, they have provided an option to get yourself delisted, if my memory is correct. :)


https://www.truecaller.com/unlisting

^Site to do so. I figured that I'd share my lesson[s] from my own idiocy: Note that you need to put in your full international number (even though they make you select a country?) for it to work.

So, for Sweden, 075555555 becomes +4675555555 (which most people don't store their contacts' numbers with country code but what do I know, yeah?).


i am surprised i can delist also my contacts, there is no verification SMS or anything


Yeah, it's pretty surprising for them to have such a glaring blindspot.


> "It bugs me that other people can reveal information About me and there is little I can do"

Very true and it has been bugging me since I have gotten familiar with internet since a long time ago. This was the reason I used to create accounts online without my real data back then. Up until recently that is. Once there were tools in place to get rid of ur discovery online, unless deliberately shared I stayed away. But everything comes under question once more. This is hostile takeover of data.

And yeah, I used to be as meticulous about data as you had been while storing phone contacts etc., But more and more it is becoming evident that what's given away online can never come back to you at least until there is effective regulation in place.

I appreciate the EU for their foresight and strict data policies!


I've been using the mobile web version of FB for the last few years; aside from a couple of TV show community pages, I don't use it at all. Still, FB likely has a chunk of my contacts anyway from 2012 or whenever I last had it installed.


Just a heads up: Facebook already does this. You don't need to have a Facebook account for them to know who you are.


You could try Wire and see if that would be easier to sell to friends and family. You can sign up with an email address and use usernames. There's no need to reveal your phone number. It has better reliability and user experience compared to Signal.


Exactly, once the integration is complete it's all over.

Also, I have been trying to request people to move on to other platforms with no luck for the past many years.


They already did connect the two databases and were fined in Europe for it.


It's an improvement for me as I'm desperately trying to get away from Facebook but all of my friends and family insist on using Messenger (I don't use the site itself anymore). I know WhatsApp is owned by them but one less Facebook app on my phone (by deleting Messenger Lite) can only be a good thing. I could even delete my FB account if they are truly interoperable.


You can try just using https://mbasic.facebook.com/messages/ on your mobile browser. It's quite limited but it gets the job done. Let's hope they don't shut it down as well.


Ideally, you should've deleted your WhatsApp account when Facebook bought it.

But it's not too late to wean yourself off of it and get rid of your account (though you have given more information to Facebook through WhatsApp all this while).

YMMV, but here are some suggestions. Turn off notifications and the message count badge completely. Then avoid opening the app. Do these for a few days until you realize that you're not missing much and are probably less stressed and happier than before. Get others to use Wire (I won't recommend Signal because it sucks and has a bad user experience even in 2019, and has only its protocol's fame going for it).


> WhatsApp account

There's no such thing though.


I don’t understand on what basis you made that comment and what you intended to convey. There certainly is a “WhatsApp account” and has been for several years.

WhatsApp calls every number as an “account”. I deleted my account when WhatsApp was bought by Facebook. Here are the links to WhatsApp’s own FAQ to delete one’s account on iOS [1] and Android. [2]

[1] https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/iphone/21325453/?category=524524...

[2]: https://www.whatsapp.com/faq/en/android/21119703


Do you think they will just erase your data? More likely, it gets merged anyways.


FB messenger never really took off outside the US because Whatsapp was dominant.

Clearly FB wanted to not just have access to those users, but also integrate them into the wider FB ecosystem.


FB messenger is absolutely dominant in Australia.


Denmark begs to differ.


I hate to sound pendantic but this part is wrong or very misleading too:

>"a Facebook user could send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, for example. Currently, that isn’t possible because the apps are separate."

Nothing stops you from encrypting with your own scheme before sending the message to the other service, it’s just added inconvenience. More importantly it implies that you depend on the medium owner for the key management which (as others here are pointing out) defeats the point of encryption (in part) by allowing said medium to read the plaintexts.

Edit: Am I wrong?


At least on the East Coast, there is a growing groundswell for breaking up Facebook. I don't think we'll see it break until after 2020. But if I'm seeing it, Zuckerberg is seeing it. I suspect one reason for integrating infrastructure is to make it more difficult to unwind these companies in the years to come.


It makes a lot of sense from the technical point of view.

Essentially, one could share a single table of "users" between Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Because the accounts can be easily identified and connected by email addresses and phone numbers, which don't change that often.

This way, a "Facebook Account" could become like a "Google Account", but for social media.

This is exactly how Google integrated YouTube.

It's bad for privacy, but good for everything else.


It would actually make product development a lot harder. You have three end-user apps developed by different teams, supporting different content, wrapped in different structures. Managing the differences when sending messages from one to another is probably going to result in very weird and inconsistent user experiences, especially in the shorter term.

Also, because of E2E encryption, the server infrastructure really cannot do the sort of content translation necessary to make things seamless.


I think the front-ends would remain completely separate, and the back-ends would be namespaced by a platform.

For instance: facebook.users, facebook.ads, facebook.feed, facebook.messenger, facebook.instagram, facebook.whatsapp.

This way, users and ads would be shared across all Facebook's platforms, which is, I believe, the main reason for the entire integration.


> It's bad for privacy, but good for everything else.

I'd argue that then, as we are talking of platforms on which you share most of your personal and private digital life, it is nothing but bad.


Facebook already has all the data it needs. What this change would do, is make an average person more aware of this.

It would also help to increase the protection of the single "Facebook Account" to those, who will decide that they still want to have it.

There were many questions such as "Did you quit Facebook in 2018?" in the media. Yet, the question should have really been "Did you quit Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in 2018?".

This update would make it much easier to do.


[flagged]



I have a feeling that they will live up to their encryption promise and this will actually provide them with a long term messaging service that can provide some stability for their company. The messages themselves are likely not valuable enough to creep into compared to the unified metadata that all this messaging can bring in.


I have just the opposite feeling. Facebook is going to remove end to end encryption as the default from WhatsApp and turn it into something like Messenger or Telegram, where chats are by default not end to end encrypted, and the user has to explicitly choose it. There'd be some backlash in the press. But most users won't bother about it, just like they don't bother about all the Facebook scandals to move off the platform or care enough to look for better privacy elsewhere.

What's more, Facebook can, and will, paint this as something it's doing in order to monitor content and handle fake news, earning brownie points from various governments who'd be eager to tap into this new source for surveillance.


I think so.

It's rather betting the value lies in the social graph, not in being able to tell that this user is a democrat voter with a disabled child and that is a republican who is black. [#]

If facebook already holds that data on users and does not "give it up" then yes totally - they raise the bar so that absolutely no competitor can garner that data - a perfect moat.

If somehow a regulator forces them to anonymise the data - they are at the same stage as any competitor.

I guess that's the regulator challenge?

[#] ie arbitrary meta data about users but that is extremely valuable to advertisers and political campaigns. do not take the examples as meaning anything :-)


I'm not sure I understand the motivation. Seems like they don't have much to gain and they do have a lot to lose.

While (anecdotally) Facebook doesn't appear to be very hype with the youth today, Instagram and WhatsApp still appear to be quite popular. In a weird way Facebook is both the mainstream choice and the underdog, that's a good position to be in IMO.

Beyond that what does it mean for people like me who use WhatsApp but do not have a Facebook account? Is the plan to force people like me to create a Facebook profile?


The article is pretty clear about your question. This is just going to provide cross platform messaging between all current and future apps.


But how can they hope to do that without some form of unified account?


They /could/ do it quite easily. I can email people who have different kinds of email account with no problem. The Jabber / XMPP protocol was designed to link messaging systems in this way.

While it would be great if they moved to a pure Jabber federation model or similar, I very much doubt they will do that, however, unless someone like the EU can get their act together and force them to do it.


I think they would link all your accounts by phone number. This may not appear directly in the front end app.

Most likely though in the background they will use these links as ways to package your identity up when selling to advertisers. Thats what I'm guessing is the end goal , enrich their stagnant platform (FB) with their growth platforms (WhatsApp and Instagram)


I like WhatsApp but it seems that Zuckerberg is determined to destroy it.

At least I now have an incentive to move to Signal and convince my friends to do so, hopefully, or otherwise I’ll be alone. Well, I can always be reached by SMS or email.


I thought Whatsapp use is great in the U.S., but I realized how big it is outside the U.S. when I saw it firsthand. It is insane, there are people who use it to run their entire business/livelihood.

I really hope it stays out of Zuck's "vision" but it likely won't, considering the amount of money he paid for it


As an immigrant from India in the US, when FB bought WhatsApp, I still remember the sense of surprise/wonder among my american freinds/colleagues as to why Whatsapp was worth so much. The kind of traction Whatsapp has, even now in India, is something no bay area startup can even dream of achieving. Every family member, remotely related relatives, every single classmate of mine since childhood, everyone has whatsapp, and almost everyone uses it everyday.

as someone who has no FB apps on phone other than whatsapp, I hope/wish this move means someone from messenger/insta can send message to Whatsapp account and vice versa. Nothing more than that.

FB has done a good job in keeping Whatsapp true to it's core features (except the status/stories debacle). Once it's whatsapp payments / business messaging picks up, there's no looking back for FB even if it's core FB web platform goes to zero, Whatsapp + Messenger + Instagram will be a force to reckon with.


Switched to signal over a month ago and couldn't be happier. Only downside is slowness (might take up to 30 seconds) to sync conversations across devices if you haven't used a device in a while or you had a massive chat history with someone.


I'm repeating some of this from elsewhere on this page. I'd recommend trying out Wire first, since it's better than Signal (message delivery, speed, reliability, doesn't require a phone number to sign up, has usernames, etc.). A better user experience is easier to sell to others. Not everyone is interested in or cares about privacy or security, more so if it comes with penalties on the user experience (which Signal does).


can wire deal with SMS, video calls and has simple UI like SMS app?


Neither Signal nor Wire (or Telegram, for that matter) deal with SMS. On iOS, third party apps cannot access SMS. SMS is accessible only to Apple’s Messages app. But Wire does have video calls and chat.


you have no clue, signal it's normal SMS app for nonSignal contacts

ios it's irrelevant niche platform outside US, whole world use Android


As a person that doesn't have Facebook or Instagram accounts and minimal desire to be a part of that product line, I see myself abandoning Whatsapp. Only used it because of myself and family/friends I'm the only Android user to begin with. Guess I'm going back to iPhones in the next iteration.

ninja edit I was already debating going back to iPhone to begin with. I feel like this just cements it as my friends and I will give up Whatsapp for group iMessage


I deleted whatsapp after their purchase by facebook just to remain outside of the Zuckerverse. Signal allegedly offers a group chat feature, but getting 20 of your closest iphone-using friends to install signal rather than use iMessage seems unlikely.


I wonder what platform will he use for this? Like what framework?

If anyone has any idea, please share.

Edit -> I don’t understand why the heck are honest technical questions downvoted!! It’s not like I would have found a ready answer for my question with a simple Google search. If a question does not interest you, at least please don’t downvote it! Some dumb people are courageous enough to ask questions.


Whats app is made with Erlang:

http://highscalability.com/blog/2014/2/26/the-whatsapp-archi...

the article (and others) have crazy stories about scale in WhatsApp (70 million messages a second (from a few years ago)).

Erlang (and Elixir) are perfect for this scale and high reliability challenge. But, its corporate decision, so it might wind up being rewritten in some idiotic language. Or, more likely, it will be a hodgepodge of micro services written in different languages and glued together with HAProxie (or whatever).


Electron


> The move, described by four people involved in the effort, requires thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger function at their most basic levels. While all three services will continue operating as stand-alone apps, their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified, the people said. Facebook is still in the early stages of the work and plans to complete it by the end of this year or in early 2020, they said.

Thank god. If they collapsed WhatsApp into Facebook Messenger, I would quit WhatsApp.


Some folks in this thread are convinced that end-to-end encryption is going away when the article says the exact opposite.


Unless they radically change how Facebook messenger works I don't see how it could even be called end-to-end encryption. For it to work how it does now (online and independently through the app) they would have to hold the encryption keys.

They would have to instead tie Facebook messenger to a phone like Whatsapp does and use a web app to send messages directly from the device instead. I don't see how else it could be done and still be called end-to-end encryption.


> Unless they radically change

And according to the article, this radical change is coming. Why is that so hard to believe?


Because there are no details beyond vague promises, and it entails serious restructuring and UX trade-offs that may affect revenue. At the moment, skepticism makes much more sense.


Just to be clear, do you think that the NYT is mistaken, or that Facebook has committed to something that is too difficult to execute due to technical and revenue concerns?


I don't think they committed to anything. It's just vague promises that can be reinterpreted in many ways, most of which can compromise trustworthy e2e encryption while also implementing some form of loophole-ridden e2e encryption.

Yeah, WhatsApp is e2e encrypted by default, but it also automatically backs up all your chat history encrypted using a WhatsApp-owned private key. Sure, you can opt-out of backups, but will your peers do as well? Without a clear spec, I think it's perfectly reasonable to be very skeptical of what will be the final product of this operation.


> just vague promises

Now I know you didn't read the article. There were no promises made because this was based on conversations with employees, not a press release.


I came to the comments to see how this can even be done. It seems like a classic case of a CEO promising something that engineering can't deliver, but Zuck is quite technical himself so I'd be surprised by that.

AFAIK, end to end encryption can't really support having multiple clients all using the same account. For example, WhatsApp's web interface is sort of wonky and goes via the phone, to get around the limitations, and I can't really see that being a solution here.

Of course, "end to end" encryption from a Messenger on the website is sort of meaningless anyway.


> AFAIK, end to end encryption can't really support having multiple clients all using the same account.

Improving your AFAIK here. Signal Desktop works independently without proxying communications through the phone (which is what WhatsApp does). Wire supports multiple platforms (Windows, Mac, mobile) and syncs chats across all of them with end to end encryption. There are different ways to do this. It's just that WhatsApp didn't implement it.


Oh interesting, thanks! Do you have any references on how Signal Desktop works and keeps the messages in sync across clients? Do they have separate keys, etc?


Zuckerberg and Facebook deserve the highest degree of scepticism.


>To add insult to injury, WhatsApp permits rekeying to take place without any indication to the conversation's participants [in the default settings].

Agreed.

A nice Twitter thread [0] by Mustafa Al-Bassam back at the end of November on how that might be exploited by GCHQ:

>Ian Levy of GCHQ has released an essay on how law enforcement should get access to end-to-end encrypted communications. Here is the critical bit to pay attention to. They're proposing to exploit the fact that users don't verify each other's public keys, and inject bad keys.

Then this [1] later in the same thread by Twitter @inag_fc:

>This is a coordinated attack by 5 eyes. They slipped it through AU parliament in the week, presumably as some horse trading because there was practically no debate nor warning, beyond the normal straw man proposals.

[0] https://twitter.com/musalbas/status/1068179464197156864

[1] https://twitter.com/iang_fc/status/1071373264646225920


I wonder how people will feel about this. I always thought that to some extent, people use different social networks to segment their interactions. I.e. will this make it feel like my mom is on Instagram now?


The comments here are rather bleak, but for me, this is fantastic.

My family is all on WhatsApp, but my friends and colleagues are on Messenger and SMS.

Previously, I would only ever use Messenger, checking SMS and WhatsApp once a month at best.

A while ago, SMS got integrated to Messenger, I started staying in touch with people who only use SMS.

Now that they're adding WhatsApp, I literally don't know a single person I can't reach from Messenger/Gmail.

I love it, and I hope things go smoothly.


You love it that all your communication is controlled by only a single for profit company?

I wonder how you will feel the day FB decided to ban you for whatever rule their algorithm would decide you violated.


I segment my interactions in this way. I have different contacts on Facebook and WhatsApp. I don't use the Facebook mobile app partly because I don't want my contacts from Facebook to annoy me anywhere, expecting me to respond on my phone any time of the day.

But I'm okay with ignoring people, asking people to stop, and mercilessly blocking people when they don't. Some are unwilling to take such deliberate action to reduce unwanted communications. Some perhaps have good reasons: it'll be socially costly.


I wonder much how XMPP is left over in WhatsApp's guts at this point.


facebook chat and whatsapp were both written in erlang and used ejabberd. It's kind of funny that through rewrites they have become less standard and compatible, and now the goal is to bring them back together closer to where they were.


Perhaps I'm being cynical, but I can see the business salivating over this. Integrate tracking into WhatsApp, you can now more easily graph who people talk to and use that for their FB and IG accounts, and probably destroy the e2e encryption while they're at it. Therefore re-monitizing that section of their userbase.


It's easy to grab your pitchfork when seeing just a headline, but I'm quoting the article verbatim here:

> Mr. Zuckerberg has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption, the people said, a significant step that protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation.


And Zuckerberg and FB have been true to their word every step of the way. I see the backpedaling now, “Well you see congressman, I ordered it but when we dug in deeper, it would have a material impact on revenue, so we were forced due to our fiduciary duty to remove it.” And just happened to not tell anyone until it came out via whistleblower or some other means.


If there is someone who will push Facebook to abandon end to end encryption, it will just as soon be Congress, facing pressure form law-enforcement, with the implicit help of the NYTimes, who will no doubt be happy to feed the Anti-Facebook hysteria with classics such as "Facebook is allowing child pornography to be sent through it's newly unified infrastructure".


You’re right I didn’t stop to think of the children. And there you go, now we have the encryption broken and the National security letters as the reason they were forced to do so. It’s just as many of the comments above are saying you’re really just making this new shared infrastructure an enourmous target.


I highly doubt Messenger will have end-to-end encryption, especially that they have to display those messages on Facebook web.


Messenger already has an encrypted mode on devices, though I agree default encryption seems unlikely.


WhatsApp's UX is pretty darn good and would be copied for Messenger. You sign-in on the web from your phone and then messages are proxied through it.

Also an option to enable web E2E with a password-protected key stored on FB's servers is still pretty darn good.


Yes but Whatsapp does not have a real web client unlike Messenger, web.whatsapp.com is just reading data from your phone.

People are using both Messenger & Facebook web to send messages, they will have to break that somewhere for end-to-end.


It just means that two (or n) keys will need to be able to decrypt the message database. The web client doesn't have to behave any differently than the native client.

If Facebook is storing your encrypted message database on their servers then the problem gets significantly easier.


Ironic timing: I just adopted Singal as a replacement for WhatsApp and have been telling all of my WhatsApp contacts I’m going to drop it in favor of Signal because I don’t trust FB not to fiddle with Whatsapp’s Infrastructure or pull games with the end-to-end encryption.


If they change whatsapp im moving to telegram end of story.


Move to XMPP. It's been around long enough to see it's not going anywhere, unlike the rest, and the modern server-client combos have all the needs - e2e encyption, message sync, etc - covered. It's also federated and you can run your own, but you don't have to.

You can start at, for example:

- https://account.conversations.im/ (8€/year)

- https://quicksy.im/ (free account)


Signal is the better choice


I use Signal daily, while from a cryptographic standpoint it might be the superior choice from a usability perspective it's a mess. It's got a long way to go if it wants to be a credible stand-in replacement for WhatsApp.

I want to like Signal but it's kind of the worst of both worlds for me. Since they absolutely refuse to allow for easy modification of the client it means that I'm stuck with their crappy Electron app on the desktop that lacks some basic features (like being able to select the spellchecking language for instance). I can't script anything, migrating conversation histories between devices is messy and complicated etc... And of course on top of that it easily swallows half a GB of RAM to do all that.

On the other hand if I put myself into a random user's shoes it doesn't "just work" like WhatsApp does. I don't have a web browser client that I can use from anywhere. It doesn't have stickers and stuff like that that seems to be popular on WhatsApp.

It's basically a good crypto library with a terrible UI around it.


> It's basically a good crypto library with a terrible UI around it.

In my experience (after trying it a few times every year for the last few years), even its backend platform is unreliable and slow. So I'd call it as "It's basically a good crypto library with a terrible UI and a flakey backend behind it."


While it's the more secure choice, it's definitely not 'better'. Telegram has a better messaging infrastructure, more reliable, multi-platform (doesn't need a phone), can create identities without a phone number, and (most important, IMO) the quality of life of using the app is far superior.

Use Signal if you absolutely need end to end encryption, extremely secure chat, and no way to use it outside of your phone being on and connected to the Internet.

Use Telegram if you want chat. Don't except high levels of security and for the average user who already uses Facebook Messenger and Instagram, it's good enough.


> […] can create identities without a phone number […]

The number one feature I wish WhatsApp (and Signal) would adopt. I don't care for either service, but that would at least allow me or my partner to occasionally participate in group chats without resorting to buying an Android or IOS smartphone.

People just assume everyone under 60 has WhatsApp in some countries (the Netherlands being one of them), and it borders on being a requirement to function socially.

My partner went to a course for pregnant women, and during the first meeting it was agreed that all communication outside of the meetings would go via WhatsApp, but the course leader would send emails to my partner for changes in scheduling. (My partner has no smartphone, and doesn't want one either, but she owns a modern laptop and works in IT.) So basically any knowledge and questions shared in the group are invisible to her.

This situation is likely to come up again and again as we start raising a child, and all we can do to remedy it is buy a smartphone with one of the pre-approved operating systems, and join the social graph of Facebook…


> Use Signal if you absolutely need end to end encryption, extremely secure chat, and no way to use it outside of your phone being on and connected to the Internet.

You can use Signal on Desktop without your phone being online. (This does not work with WhatsApp.)


How does it work? Where is the private key stored?


On the desktop. It's synced when you set up your desktop client (you have to scan a QR code on your phone).


And therein lies the problem the original poster was referring to: no way to create a WhatsApp account without a phone number.


Depends on what. You simply cannot beat Telegram when it comes to desktop. Their client has feature parity with the mobile app (except for secret chats) and is fast & native (Qt/C++).

Signal on the other hand has a quite poor desktop app and I find their mobile app a little slow. It usually takes more time for me to open a conversation than with Telegram.


People suggesting Signal over Telegram must not have used either extensively.

Telegrams UX is leagues beyond Signal and good enough that I've gotten my entire social circle to switch.


About a week ago the Zimbabwean government blocked access to social media including WhatsApp. The recommendation doing the rounds was to use Telegram because governments cannot block it. I haven't done any research but I went from not having Telegram to at least 30 people in my list having Telegram. It appears to be the way people living under restrictive governments are starting to communicate. What are the issues with Telegram. A few links would suffice.


The general consensus is that they are 'insecure' with a custom crypto and custom protocol (MTProto).


On the other hand, the $300,000 bounty for cracking Telegram encryption has yet to be claimed.


But but everybody says "you cannot roll out your own crypto" so we should just stop trying anything new I think /s


Does anyone have any experience with Threema? https://threema.ch/en


I wouldn't go near Telegram if you paid me.


Why?


Telegram - unless you deliberately take action and opt out of cross-device sync for individual chats - stores all your messages in plaintext on their server. If you want your chats secure, you will need to convince everybody you're chatting with to opt out of cross device sync. Good luck with that.

This is in contrast to e.g. Wire, [a near-future release of] Riot.im / Matrix.org, and (AFAICT) Viber, which do end-to-end encryption by default and cross-device without compromises. The messaging providers don't know anything about your chats there. This is the way it should be.

There are also complaints about Telegram's "weird" cryptography, although nobody's ever shown anything close to a practical attack yet, and definitely not for the current version of their custom MTProto protocol. The core problem is really in their insecure-by-default service offering.


> There are also complaints about Telegram's "weird" cryptography

https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/18197/why-shoul...


On the list of end-to-end encryption platforms I would trust the least, Messenger might be number 1. If they can make this happen slowly, maybe it will work.


messenger listens to you 24/7 i experienced this first hand with ridiculously specific targeted ads.


"Currently, that isn’t possible because the apps are separate."

It is impossible, because the don't want an open API, which other clients can use too.


Open APIs led to some of the biggest anti-Facebook stories over the last two years. I'd also like to see external clients and so on, but I don't expect that, given how many problems that brings.


Facebook got into trouble for opening data about users to its business partners. I'm sure this is not the same kind of "open API" that you would use to access and control your account and your interactions with the Silo. However, this kind of API will empower you to use a client that allows you to spend less time on Facebook, the opposite of their strategy.


If only there was a federated protocol for messaging... oh, wait, there at least 2: XMPP and Matrix.

I guess everything old is new again.


While much of the commentary is negative here, I do think this will give us inter-operability among whatsapp, messenger, facebook and instagram. For those who have accounts on all these, it will be beneficial to be able to access them in an richer, integrated manner.


Apple should really make a android version of iMessage.


If they did it for iMessage and Facetime they'd capture all chat traffic in America in a week. They'd risk losing the premium status of the iphone, but I think the real risk is they'd start a war with facebook and google. They'd be betting that google and facebook would keep their apps on the iphone if they invaded the android ecosystem. At least that's what I think. I'm not sure if Apple is ready to say all their applications are better then Google's yet.


I think a lot of us are now sufficiently locked into our ecosystem. Most iOS users would never "downgrade" to Android but I bet many Androids would be willing to pay $10/year for iMessage


But By common logic Apple’s only motivation is to sell more phones...


I saw this a few days ago. If this means I can populate my empty Instagram profile (which was weirdly given to me by having a Facebook account) - then this is a win. I share a lot of images on Facebook, so if these went on my Instagram feed I would be really happy.


You might be happy but I'd be furious. If I wanted content on Instagram then I'd have created an Instagram account and put it there.


You can already automate that fairly easily.


You mean using something like IFTTT?[1]

[1] https://ifttt.com


It is also worth mentioning that Whatsapp relentlessly buggers you to backup to Google Drive or iCloud respectively, where all messages and contents are stored in plain text (at least on Drive, not sure about iCloud).

It's nice that they advertise end-to-end encrypting the messages in transit, but then just dump everything to the world's biggest data mining machine.


But, Instagram has messaging already, no? So it's only needed to drop WhatsApp and Messenger to get integration done. Ah, and move users accounts.


Anyone know of a viable whatsapp alternative that lots of people could use? The problem with all these systems is you have to go where people are, rather than where you'd like to be. whatsapp is ubiquitous but this is looking even worse for snooping now and I'd like to have a credible alternative to suggest. I thought signal was it but most people aren't using it


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