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WhatsApp gives users an ultimatum: Share data with Facebook or stop using app (arstechnica.com)
2254 points by erwinmatijsen on Jan 6, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 1148 comments



It's harder for US folks to understand just how much of a monopoly WhatsApp has in Europe and the UK.

Pretty much all of our school and local community communication happens via WhatsApp. I'd change to Signal or Telegram in a heartbeat, but the inertia is so great it's not possible.

It pains me to say, but we're getting to the point where companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google need to be treated like utilities or something so that such moves as these can be scrutinised and controlled more effectively as Facebook could pretty much (within current law) introduce whatever policy they like and users would be faced with the option of accepting or being cut off from their local community.

Given the pandemic and the UK lockdown, this is not tolerable.


I'm also in the UK and I deleted WhatsApp 2 years ago when it became clear that Facebook intended to move in the direction of fuller integration (I deleted my Facebook account after 1 month of usage 10 years ago). However, I had to reinstall WhatsApp because all of my kid's sports activities and school updates are organised through WhatsApp groups and it is impossible to participate without WhatsApp. Much as I believe in the cause, I'm not going to go preach it to the volunteers who coach my kids' rugby team. The scary thing here is that the actual real-life "social network" has been privatised and monopolised, and now we can't participate in society in very important ways without going through Facebook.


My experience is similar.

I want to add that when I left WhatsApp (~2y ago) I deleted my account. WhatsApp kept accepting messages on my behalf. People didn't know I wasn't getting their messages. I'm surprised I don't see this mentioned to the point I wonder if I did something wrong at the time.

In the end, I reopened a WhatsApp account recently because everyone is using WhatsApp in France and I couldn't stand breaking everyone's efforts to bring us together during lockdown.


> People didn't know I wasn't getting their messages.

They saw 2 ticks, meaning delivered to your device? Or did they see one tick, meaning only delivered to the server?

If it's the latter, that's a reasonable choice for the server to make. The server has acknowledged receipt of the message, and failed to send it to your device.

If you wanted WhatsApp to advertise to your contacts that your account was inactive, you could have maybe sent them a message yourself?


> The server has acknowledged receipt of the message, and failed to send it to your device.

Doing this without explicitly telling the other party is a dark pattern.


I would wager that most people using WhatsApp know the difference between one tick (server receipt), two ticks (client receipt) and two blue ticks (client actually read it).


Marking "Server received message and is holding it for user" with the same icon as "server received message and determined there is no such user" is dumb and bad and wrong, and probably also a dark pattern in this case.


If you click on the message you get a Message Info screen which shows you exactly what the state the message is and the timestamps. It explicitly says "Sent"/"Delivered"/"Read" alongside the ticks and at what time it happened.


I would take that wager. I certainly know what it means, and I imagine many users do, but the majority? I doubt it.


I can confirm my mother has no idea what these ticks mean. She can't make the difference between WhatsApp and iMessage either. At the time I left, I told her so and she kept wondering why I was not getting some of her messages (the ones she was sending on WhatsApp, that is).


I didn't know that until just now.


I didn't know that until after having used such apps for some year -- never thought much about those small symbols

@heipei: the curse of knowledge, i learned yesterday, via https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25658216


Were you a regular user? I’d wager most regular users know this. It’s a verb among my friends, like “she’s blue-ticking me”.

What’s more, if you tap on “info” after long pressing any message, the app explains it to you.


Most users don't search for extra info screens and extra information in apps. ESPECIALLY not the older generations. I'd argue that the majority of people may understand the blue tick, but that _very_ few understand the difference between a single check and a double check.

Even the ones who do understand a little about the checks probably don't bother thinking about the difference between "sent" and "delivered". They'd understand it if it was pointed out to them, they aren't stupid. But they don't care enough to realize it because they shouldn't _need_ to understand it most of the time.

And even so, the checkmarks are very subtle and easy to not notice if you don't expect to need to look at them. A user is more likely to say "well it didn't give me an error so it must have sent, I wonder why nindalf is ghosting me" rather than "huh, I wonder if WhatsApp actually _delivered_ the message to nindalf, let me check"


I use it multiple times a day. I'm in half a dozen groups.

I use it somewhat reluctantly which might reduce the degree to which I actively seek out understanding. I wish we'd all go back to vendor neutral channels of communication but I also apprecitate the fact that it is less sucky than SMS.


I’ve been using WhatsApp a few times a day for the last year, a d infrequently for several years prior, and I had no idea.


What is with HN and throwing around words like dArK pAtTeRn?

No it’s not a dark pattern. They’re being as transparent as possible. If you long press the message and click “info” they even explain what each tick means and when each event took place. It’s literally not possible to be more transparent than that.

And before the privacy brigade who’ve not used the app show up, this is configurable. You can opt out of sending and receiving read receipts. And since it’s a closed app with no other implementation, you can’t circumvent that either.


You're wasting your time. This is HN - any decision made by by Facebook or a Facebook-owned company is automatically evil.


he deleted his account. it's absolutely not reasonable to accept my message without informing me the user I'm sending to is not on the platform anymore


I can only guess that people sending messages to my cancelled WhatsApp account saw only one tick. That's still meaningless to less skilled users and there's no way to tell if the user has gone forever or if they're just offline for a bit.

Anyway, my point is that WhatsApp shouldn't silently accept messages for a non existent user no matter what weak signals you get. When you send a text message to a non existent number, you get an error. Same for an e-mail.

I can't help but think it's a way to deter users from leaving WhatsApp.


Did these marks even exist 2yrs ago? I know they didn't when I started using WhatsApp ages ago, but I don't recall when they were added...


They've been present for at least 5 years


> WhatsApp kept accepting messages on my behalf. People didn't know I wasn't getting their messages.

As an FYI to you and anyone reading this, you can convert your account to a business account using WhatsApp for Business. It has an auto-reply feature that you can enable with a custom message, to inform people you've moved to whatever platform you've decided to move to.


This is precisely the dilemma in a nutshell.

You have a choice but it's a bit like voluntary solitary confinement. Especially during a lockdown.


When I switched from Windows to Linux, sure there were some inconveniences but with enough technical knowledge and a bit of inconvenience I was able to get by.

But social media? What do I switch to?

> This is precisely the dilemma in a nutshell.

Exactly my problem too (car mechanic, plumber, school parent committee, loads of my friends …) – I need my car fixed, I need my plumbing fixed, I need to communicate with other parents. I hate that I have no choice but to use a Facebook product when I am not even on Facebook!


Just thinking out loud here, as I was considering something like this.

I can also not give up the WhatsApp account due to the social pressure. What if I would use a second phone, a cheap one, used only for the whatsapp (and some other essential but privacy invasive apps). I would not have that second phone always with me, but it would provide me access to the social network I need without feeling tracked or providing more data than needed.

I do understand that this doesn't fix exactly the issue presented here, but I already assumed that whatsapp data was already in Facebook's hands one way or another. But I would limit the amount of information that WhatsApp can track about me by having this application on a phone which does not really represent my full actions as i don't have it with me.

Edit: Corrected some typos.


Trouble is you are privileged enough to be able to afford two phones. For many families, even a $300 device is a significant expense. So if your approach was the only approach, only the rich would have privacy.


Thankfully his approach is not the only approach - just don't use WhatsApp! I never have despite the pleadings of my friends to use it.

If they can't be bothered to email or send an SMS to me or use Signal or video call via the multitude of alternative messaging services (Duo, FaceTime, Skype, Signal etc. etc.) I don't think they're that bothered about being my friend are they?

If their friendship hinges on me using a specific mobile app, that's a shallow friendship.


There's a "social capital" thing going on here. Your friends are usually willing to make some amount of effort to talk and hang out with you, depending on how close friends you are, but there are limits to that. Nobody wants to get together with someone who insists on doing everything their way every time. Most people don't care to spend what social capital they have getting their friends to use a different messaging app. You're only burning even more social capital if you try to lecture them about things they don't care about, such as Facebook having their personal information.

Particularly, this social capital is at its minimum when you're trying to develop new friendships. Good luck starting any when you refuse to use the app that everyone else in the area uses to communicate.


That just sounds like "everyone else is smoking, so I should start smoking too". Just because everyone else is doing it does not mean it is the right thing for you to do.

In this instance, if developing friendships relies on me sending my data to some unknown person the other side of the world so that they can build graphs on my activity and follow me around just because everyone else has decided that's what they want to do, then I would choose another path.

Wouldn't you? If not, please send me all your data and details of your activities, all the time. If you can trust that data to some guy you've never met in a datacenter, then why not send it to me. You've got my username - that's more than you'll ever know about the people looking at your data at Facebook.


> "everyone else is smoking, so I should start smoking too"

No, what they said is equivalent to "everybody is smoking but I'll annoy the hell out of them so they stop, and I'll refuse to meet them in person before they quit"


It's an individual-level realpolitik. You (the general you) are welcome to take such a stand if you care to, but the price is that your social opportunities may be severely constrained. There might be other things about you or your life that also constrain your social opportunities, things more important than who has your data, and if that's the case, then taking such a stand may leave you rather seriously isolated.

I would not "choose another path" because those things are more important to me. To be blunt, I'm not sending such data to any individual HN reader because that would have no relation at all to my practical ability to maintain friendships with people in real life.


You may have missed the point that in Europe, many many things are organised via WhatsApp. Kids football clubs, dance clubs, parents' evenings, school closures, social club outings, ...lots of things.

Other people are saying that in their countries, Health Services and bank transactions are coordinated via WhatsApp.

It's not just about messaging your friends, and for many people, "opting out" of WhatsApp is not a viable path.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25669702

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25669600

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25671117

[4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25671855


I live in the UK. I understand that people arrange items via WhatsApp but it seems baffling to me. Why not just use email to notify people??

When you sign up to any service, they ask for an email address. They don't ask for a mobile number necessarily, and there is never a "my mobile number is on WhatsApp" checkbox. Why is the assumption of the organiser that you're on WhatsApp your concern? They have assumed you're on a certain platform, and it's their mistake.

It reminds me of the tidal wave of people suddenly abandoning their own websites and instead using "Find Us On Facebook". They might as well put "Use this keyword on AOL".

Facebook is not the internet, and WhatsApp is not the only communication method.


You can be as upset about the state of things as you want to be -- yes, it's wrong and broken and unfair -- but you can't change the state of things by just wishing hard enough. The GP's point stands, things are organized via WA, even though they shouldn't be, so your choices are exactly these:

  - Use WA and participate
  - Don't use WA, don't participate
  - Go stand in front of the home of whoever organizes the activity and have a little one-person picket parade with angrily-worded signs -- this is the same as #2 but might make you feel better


I am not upset about it at all - I think you are projecting that. I don't use it and it doesn't affect me. I was just presenting the alternative mechanism of using the established communication method of email for notification of events since an email account is requested for most things (tax returns, bank account, most accounts).


Perhaps it's baffling, and perhaps I agree, but one cannot deny the reality. They don't use email, they do use WhatsApp, and not using WhatsApp is effectively impossible for people in that situation.


Then the reality is insanity!

My mind is blown.


Why the use of the word “privilege”? We don’t know what balance of OP’s wealth is earned vs unearned (privilege).


We also don't know how much the phone was. It could have been a very cheap device. My main phone was £200 and the previous one was £120.

Looking on Amazon.com, a Huawei P Smart 2019 (32GB, 3GB) 6.21" FHD+ Display, Dual Camera, 3400 mAh Battery, 4G LTE GSM Dual SIM is $209.99.

I think some have assumed that he went out and bought an iPhone 12 Pro Max as a second phone, and we don't know that.


It could also be that he had the "privilege" to earn it (as not everyone has that privilege).


Seems a bit reductionist of the concept of privilege because everything becomes privilege as there is someone who has experienced worse with few options. For an extreme example, dying with cancer becomes a privilege compared to someone who loses their life immediately in an accident. Only one of those two has a chance to say goodbye as well as prepare their friends and family.


It’s not just reductionist, it’s a misuse of the word in a way that is becoming more fashionable. Buying phones does not come under the meaning of privilege, unless perhaps you’re in prison (I struggle to think of an example that might occur and isn’t patently absurd). The rest of us can walk into a shop, those things that are open to the public.

Hopefully this misuse is just a fad and we can go back to a more sensible use.


Or it could be they just worked really hard or prioritised or what do I know.

But I agree privilege is vastly overused.


Exactly. Privilege can indeed be earned through hard work (without implying that's the only way to gain/earn it), and one is free to use privilege in life. It's still privilege, and the troublesome part is when that goes unacknowledged.


Who does not have the privilege to earn money for a second phone and what would that privilege be?


Please describe what you mean by “privilege”. Privileged enough to have a second phone? What does that even mean? Am I also privileged to have a second laptop and a PS4? Should I feel ashamed because of this and why, exactly?


If you can afford to have a throwaway phone with a second phone line of service -- remember, WA must be tied to a phone number, and you don't want to give FB your real phone number, right? -- then you are probably doing better than the average person. Remember all those articles about how the average US resident can't afford a single $400 surprise bill? That's called privilege. Nobody is saying to "feel ashamed" about it, just remember that if you're suggesting a second phone as an acceptable solution to this problem.


That wasn’t me, I did not suggest that. Though your choice of wording is horrendous and your understanding of the term “privilege” is ridiculously wrong and borderline humiliating. It is not a privilege if you earned it by hard work. I spent years, decades of my life learning languages, educating myself in tech, and now you are saying that I am more privileged than an average person because I am earning more? I don’t think so.


On Android you could use Shelter [1]. Might no be as good as as second phone but it heavily limits the data you expose. You can also freeze the app if you don't use it actively.

The biggest annoyance is that Android only allows having exactly one of those "Work Profiles".

[1] https://f-droid.org/en/packages/net.typeblog.shelter/


>What if I would use a second phone, a cheap one, used only for the whatsapp (and some other essential but privacy invasive apps). I would not have that second phone always with me, but it would provide me access to the social network I need without feeling tracked or providing more data than needed.

This is what I'm doing currently: an old phone used exclusively for whatsapp (with an empty contact list); it always stays at home. I only use it to coordinate kid's stuff (school, social activities, etc), so there is no problem with me not having it with me the whole time.


You can limit what an app can gather anyway, if you wish. If you would go to such extremes to have a second device just for WhatsApp, there are ways to hide things from it on your one main device, too. I go for microg in order to cut Google's surveillance, and usually allow no permissions on untrusted apps, so all they can get is the IP. You can mitigate that too when needed, though probably with more effort than is practical (accessing the internet is something that can also be restricted from default Android permissions).


When this article went up, I realized that I'd allowed WA to access my Contacts, so I went in and revoked that permission. It immediately reformatted my whole conversation list as phone numbers instead of names. I can't rename the conversation, but I can "add to contacts"... which inexplicably shows me my OS contact editor, which they're not allowed to read. So I guess that as punishment for not letting them constantly vacuum up my contact list and send it all to FB, they make it harder to figure out who I'm talking to. Classic FB.


I have a second dirt-cheap used phone with a disposable SIM card just for WA. But you could make a WA<->Matrix<->Signal bridge (https://matrix.org/bridges/) using a temporary phone no.


Or even a VM if you don't want to have a physical phone.


I've recently switched to using Whatsapp in an emulator, which is kinda similar. I even almost got a virtual camera working so I can share my desktop screen via whatsapp call (would be super useful for parent tech support). Laptop cameras should work fine though.


I'd be very interested if you could add some info regarding what software you used to do this.


I used Bluestacks emulator (and Nox too, one has to be a clone of the other I guess) to run the app. For the virtual camera I used OBS with a plugin to emulate a webcam. This worked for the webcam feed in the browser, but in Windows > Camera it wasn't detecting anything. I got the same results when trying to use an old smartphone as a camera via DroidCam before I gave up.


I tried to run a branch of a charity without WhatsApp and Facebook for two years and it was impossible. I had to give in and sign up.

So, these things should be regulated and operated like utilities. Phone companies don't have the right to mine my contact list, and neither should Facebook.


> I'm not going to go preach it to the volunteers who coach my kids' rugby team.

Why not? I would.


And tell them what? Please all go install a different app? That only works if you can get everybody on board, it's unacceptable if a parent gets left out because he isn't there that day or cannot get it to work.

You would also have to explain to them that Facebook cannot read your messages, but they can see the meta data. And then you have to explain to them what meta data is.

I think your kid is not going to appreciate your efforts.


The point is that you can tell everybody why you don't like WA, and even come up with a really good way of explaining the problems to non-technical people. This might even work in some cases. The problem is that WA has an enormous head-start in Europe. So maybe you talk around your gym, but your kids' school can't justify switching. Guess what, you're still stuck picking between using WA and missing out on big chunks of your real life.


Wait for them to ask the why, tell them as succinctly as you can that fb is evil and there are alternatives.


How do you tell them succinctly in a way they can understand that the company that makes two of their favorite apps IG and WhatsApp is evil?


'they deliberately fine tune their product to make it more addictive'

'yes, and?'

'other companies have the same product (talking about chat) and don't contribute to the formation of monopolies'

'you're way out of line'

'i just don't trust them and i use a different service'

'ah? tell me more.'


If you think privacy is important, you have to do something about it.

It's a lesson in civics. To do nothing and say nothing while expecting someone else to fight the good fight is poor citizenship, but it is very good consumerism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_...


Wow I had a similar experience at university. I only joined Facebook because my course had a Facebook group where we all communicated. Now this same hook exists in WhatsApp. It’s pretty crazy


the issue is that people would probably not want to pay for an app like WhatsApp, and so the 'free' alternative takes hold, and whoever controls that gets the cost of running the infrastructure in advertisement fees.

If some company could set themselves up as a utility, and the mobile network operators were to pay that company to run the messaging app + infra, then it could be made to operate like a utility and nobodies data would have to be sold.


I could remember initially paying for a Whatsapp subscription a couple of years ago, I was happy to do so as I believed they were providing an essential service.

I think that model could've worked.


And wasn't it just $1 for a year?


This could work as a good argument to switch if executed well.

'your device owns you and is siphoning cash from you'


In the U.S., my experience with Whatsapp was that I created an account and never used it once to communicate with anyone, then I deleted it.

I've also withdrawn from social media.

The exception for now is HN, because it's more of a forum, even when bad information sometimes instates itself as reality for a large conversation, like a big gathering of fans talking about their team that will inevitably fail to win or perhaps a bad STD.

I learn what others are doing through direct and intentional communication, even if technology is used or if the information is second-hand. I don't text back or call back immediately, which my friends and family forgive, but it sometimes seems to hurt my relationships.

I still worry of dependence on large companies, big data companies gathering more information about me than I know myself, and the potential of out-of-control AIs. However, I attribute these in-part to my own paranoid thinking that use my memories of large company layoffs, privacy concerns raised in the tech community, and mostly fiction.

While I've come to the realization that the act to trying to be happy and successful is the very thing that makes me unhappy, and I just need to exist, maybe becoming better at whatever I'm naturally good at, while being here and now with those I'm with, giving my service to them... I still keep wasting time replying about things that don't matter.


WA is not particularly good, it's just that I don't know anyone who doesn't use it (in the Netherlands), even when you want to contact helpdesks it is sometimes the preferred way. I mean, we have this in many streets: [0]

Without kids I could see myself getting away with not using WA, but with kids you are really setting yourself up for a very hard time (and prepare to be judged by other (annoyed) parents and your kid will feel the consequences at some point, the kids will miss out on critical and fun information).

WA has almost become what email used to be. Except that it's a controlled platform and we are locked into a single provider, a provider that once promised a focus on privacy and an app free of commercials, forever...

[0] https://duckduckgo.com/?q=whatsapp+buurtpreventie&t=ffsb&iax...


It has completely replace texting in NL and some parts of Europe too, and I mean that literally.


yep, here in the UK everyone I know uses whatsapp. Some people have telegram as well, but WA is the baseline. The only SMS texts I get are marketing and automatic notifications.


What does it do that's so great?


It's "good enough", and it used to be free when texting wasn't.

And it's better than SMS at Unicode.


And at sending/receiving pictures... MMS was even more expensive here.


It's more reliable than sms - I used not to receive some of the texts people would send me, which caused all kinds of misunderstandings. I ended up doing experiments with friends sitting beside me just to prove my point. The same thing happened to family members.

I'm not sure what the problem was, but WhatsApp solved it.


I don't actually use SMS but I don't think that most people get read/receipt confirmation. The little check-mark system in WA is a big step forward compared to plain texting. Of course, similar features exist in other chat applications, but if the comparison is just between WA and SMS, that's a big difference.


it just replaced texting back when phone contracts tried to charge lots of money for texts. The network effect does the rest.


At one point I had unlimited data (2011-ish?) for 5 eur/month and a text was 20 euro cents per 160 chars or so... So I guess providers wanted SMS to disappear here.


>Twitter, Facebook and Google need to be treated like utilities [...]

Our generation is reinventing the wheel here, our ancestors had exactly the same problems with the power, water, gas, telephone and rail networks (at some point in time, all those were unregulated and privately owned) and did exactly that. Critical infrastructure needs to be heavily, regulated if not outright publicly owned.


I think similarly to how europe has forced Banks to interoperate by making them write a protocol that can interoperate, governments need to force social media companies to write down a protocol and use it.

I like the analogy with utilities, but the issue is that we pay for electricity, but we don't pay for our usage of social media. As long as that's true we can difficulty do what I'm suggesting above


Exactly that. There needs to be a mandated federation protocol for instant messenger apps that have lets say > 10 million user in the EU.


I think India's Unified Payments Interface is a better analogy here. From what I understand (as an outsider, so based only on what I've read) it provides a universal API for mobile applications to interface with banks, essentially standardizing the federation of bank transfers. Therefore, your account at bank X can be used to pay an account at bank Y for some service that uses app Z.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Payments_Interface


Why would that be a better analogy than the European system that allows you to do the exact same thing?


I wrote a tweet thread about this which I will post here for convenience:

Consolidation is a debt. You gain market cap at the cost of introducing systemic weakness and reducing broader market innovation. Once a company becomes a fundamental service they need to be regulated like a utility

(I will illustrate with Facebook)

Facebook can get the license to operate it but they also need to open up their API’s so others can build on top. These should become web standards governed by w3c.

Facebook is an interesting case as this system would remove all the perverse incentives driving their business model (no more ads). It would also crash their stock. That value hasn’t disappeared though, it has been pushed out to the edge nodes of their network (specifically the companies building on top of their API’s). My thesis is that this model will increase the overall pot while reducing the share the largest players have.

The knock-on effect of this is that investors will see this as the final outcome and be less incentivised to invest. That may be a problem as we don’t want to stop the emergence of billion scale companies altogether. Therefore a mechanism for the people to buy out the company at a fair legally agreed market value should be in place. This will stop crazy upsides and protect the undesirable downsides. The asset then becomes publicly owned but privately operated according to regulations.

AI would fall under the same model. With open API’s and standards anyone can get the data they need to build new AI companies. Especially feasible if we move towards self-sovereign identities and crypto methods of exchange.

To facilitate more small tech innovation we need to introduce a UBI. It will allow more people take risks with their time leading to more cottage innovation. In 100 years it will be a fundamental aspect of fiscal policy.

Additionally education needs to be refocused on making things. People are not equipped with the skills to build things. There is no better way to learn, grow and generate value. If we want a diversified small tech eco-system economy we need to focus on helping people develop the skills that make it possible.


I don't like the idea of government having full control of these services.

I believe that we need fully decentralized system, much like the e-mail, but realtime and E2EE. Sadly, it seems to me that we're taking the opposite direction. Just few widely used messengers, all of them are centralized, some of them have E2EE, but who knows for how long - EU commission seems to like the idea of breaking in. No matter what their intentions are, I didn't sign up for that.


In essence I agree with you, but let's not forget that in most countries, the government has already complete (albeit strongly regulated) control and access to postal services and everything that is sent through them, and I think most citizens (me included) are okay with that as well.

Furthermore; I'd much rather have the government spying in my stuff than Facebook selling my data to the highest bidder; at least if that were my only two choices.


> and everything that is sent through them

Are you seriously comparing letters and private IM conversations? I don't know about you, but I received/sent maybe 5 letters in last 10 years, none of which were from/to another private entity.

> I'd much rather have the government spying

I consider this very short sighted and dangerours, but that's your choice.

> at least if that were my only two choices

Those are not your only two choices, that's kinda my point. We actually don't have to choose between a greedy company or a state. The only decision people need to make is centralized or decentralized system.


I share most of your sentiments, I really do. In a perfect universe, we'd all be using fully e2e-encrypted messaging systems. But:

> The only decision people need to make is centralized or decentralized system.

They already have this choice; Matrix and others exist for quite some time already. Yet it is evidently clear that your average citizen will flock to whatever messenger is the easiest to use and is already used by their friends/family. Security/privacy are second thoughts at best, if at all; and even if it were important, grasping the different implications of all the available options isn't exactly easy either.

And since we can probably agree that the vast majority of folks already "fail" to make the right choice in this regard, I'd much rather have a regulated, government-controlled messenger than some company like Facebook. The former is accountable to its citizens, the latter to its shareholders - if I have to pick my poison, the choice is clear.


> Are you seriously comparing letters and private IM conversations? I don't know about you, but I received/sent maybe 5 letters in last 10 years, none of which were from/to another private entity.

...because email and IM exist. they used to not exist and people sent paper letters to each other all. the. time.

now there are places and people I need a particular digital post office company to communicate with - and the worst part is, it's because they don't really care and thus force me to risk giving up my data if i want or need (read - am forced to due to life circumstances) to talk with them.


I think this trust difference is a general division between Europe and US. Europeans generally trust their governments more than private companies, and vice versa in the US. I would assume both have valid reasons for this on their own side of the pond.

For what it's worth, I too would trust the government a whole lot more than Facebook.


That‘s a good observation, and I agree, though I wonder why.

It would seem to me that Americans have had more experiences with bad companies, and Europeans more experiences with bad governments over the past 300 years...


It seems most people have chosen the centralized system, whether we like it or not. So then, the next choice would indeed be „public or private“?


Amen.

Not to forget the things that were in co-operative ownership, either.


Sure, let's make the public alternative, but I am strongly against taking over businesses.


I am strongly for taking over businesses which are de facto monopolies.


If your public alternative can't win the users then "breaking the monopoly" will worsen the user experience. I don't want to live in that world - consider Telegram, a much better experience than WhatsApp, and it won over many users already. Evidently the monopoly is not as strong as is suggested. Telegram might not exist if there was a risk of losing the company. I don't want to be stuck with bad public software. In reality, when you destroy WhatsApp, people won't use the bad software, they will go to the next player and make it a "monopoly" because it most likely will be a better user experience.


At every step of the way, Facebook has leveraged its size and existing troves of data to undermine and buy out the competition. The goals of Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google are the same - world domination. Same as any mega conglomerate of years past. The difference now is tech scale and the willingness of regulators to allow it to happen.


Then how come my entire family and most friends use Telegram now?


Network effect and evangelism — i.e. you.

How come the absolutely, humongously overwhelming majority of families and friend groups don't use Telegram, but WhatsApp?


Network externalities in communication networks make it so that you can create a 10x better application and still have 0 chance of competing.


I disagree. Facebook, Twitter and Google are ephemeral utilities. They will probably be replaced by another company.

Privatizing them will just let someone else come along and Embrace, extend, extinguish them.


> They will probably be replaced by another company

Nobody has a chance, but different reasons in each company:

* What we have seen with Google - For a search engine, the more traffic you get the better results you can give (you can A-B test different algorithms for different queries, and optimise results). For new entrants they need to be popular before they can be better, which is a catch-22. Additionally Google has significant revenue which is very profitable because of it's monopoly position, and it can use this to reinvest in search technology to further widen the gap. It's going to take more than 2 people in a garage to beat modern Google at search!

* For a social network, Facebook buy out any potential competition when it's gaining traction to further solidify their monopoly. See WhatsApp, Instagram, Friend.ly e.t.c.


> For a search engine, the more traffic you get the better results you can give

Lately I have been noticing the opposite trend. Google search relevance is going downhil for me. I'm not sure when that started but I noticed it in 2019-ish last two years. Youtube search is so bad (note: I have history disabled), I rely on Google to search YouTube.

Playing cat and mouse with SEO seems to have taken its toll. I find myself going to DDG and Bing a few times a week. Before it was only Google.

> For a social network, Facebook buy out any potential competition when it's gaining traction to further solidify their monopoly.

Maybe, but each of those competitors is essentially a fad, and Facebook forcing WhatsApp users to login via Facebook, to me seems more like desperate move, than anything else.

I agree those acquisitions are IMO problematic, but I am not sure if they are strengthening Facebook, or killing it with a thousand cuts.


Them going out of business in 60 years doesn't mean we have to sit on our hands now.


I don't think they will last 60 years as monopolies. Like IBM if yesterday they will shuffle around shadow of their former selves.

MSFT is nowhere the behemoth it was, with Windows 10 being minority compared to Android.


Blame Carrier. Modern SMS could have been great, but Carrier didn't want to lose the however minimal revenue they had with SMS. ( Not every countries has unlimited SMS across all Network and across the world )

Or Blame MSN, the Instant Messenger, when Microsoft refuse to admit defeat to the Smartphone platform.

So WhatsApp took over in EU ( I believe iMessages or SMS is still popular in France ), UK, SEA, Brazil, Hong Kong. Line in Japan and Taiwan, KakaoTalk in South Korea. Unsure about Australia and Canada. ( They use WhatsApp but not to the extent of countries listed above. )

And it is iMessages in US. I have no idea why that thing even took off. I have tried it dozen times over the years and every few months it has problem with message delivery, people in group not receiving any messages. Poor Searching capabilities etc....

Telegram has gain usage but for different kind of reason. And I dont see it ever being used in the same manner as WhatsApp.

So most of friends just clicked yes and share their Data. It is important to note despite the increasing hostility against FB on HN, and in Tech Circle, most people in the world seems to have no problem with it. I dont see WhatsApp going away any time soon.

Edit: How does this data sharing fit in with GDPR in EU?


> How does this data sharing fit in with GDPR in EU?

It actually doesn't fit at all. As long as "payment" for usage is based on agreement to share personal data it is illegally obtained consent. Either they are ignoring their lawyers or they should fire them.

EDPS Opinion 4/2017 on the Proposal for a Directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content, 14 March 2017, p. 7.

"There might well be a market for personal data, just like there is, tragically, a market for live human organs, but that does not mean that we can or should give the market the blessing of legislation. One cannot monetize and subject a fundamental right to a simple commercial transaction, even if it is the individual concerned by the data who is a party to the transaction."

https://edps.europa.eu/sites/edp/files/publication/17-03-14_...


I think iMessage took off, because you don't realise it's not SMS. Open the Messages app, type a message, if there's an iDevice in the other end, BOOM, iMessage.

Where iMessage fails is when the device in the other end isn't an Apple device, or perhaps the contact previously used an iPhone, then fallback to SMS is troublesome.

Most of my familymembers will send an "SMS"... except it's via iMessage, but nobody knows or cares.


I have this problem. I use an Android phone, but have a Mac and iPad. My mum has no idea how to send an SMS to me so will send me messages on iMessage that I don't see for weeks because I haven't used the iPad or Mac (been working on Windows for a while writing code).

Infuriating.


I'm in the opposite situation. A friend has iMessage on the computer but just SMS on the phone. There's no way to force send an SMS on iOS anymore. All the guides I've found just mention the "Resend failed message as SMS" but messages never fail, they're just queued on the computer.


Oh so no way to explicitly send a SMS from iMessage on an iPhone now?

That'll explain why my mum can never ever get in touch with me.


Carriers now looking to RCS as the messenger alternative, but if they price it like MMS, they will kill it. To do it cheaper, they have to give a large chunk of the service to Google, which gives Google the data mining opportunities :(


MMS is free at this point, in many countries. The carriers in those countries will make more money by using RCS, because it will use cellular data (at least if I understand it correctly), which isn't free.

My point being that I don't think many carriers care about text messaging, or phone calls. They sell you a fixed cost plan for those. The only thing that can really affect your price is data usage. If Google wants to deal with the hassle of managing a messaging platform, great, that's money save on running a service that isn't making money anyway.


Is RCS using Google infrastructure? I thought it stands for Rich Communication Services, the SIP/IMS based telco system?


GDPR still holds. The data can only be used in an aggregated from for advertising purposes within platform (facebook, insta, whatsapp) and not be sold to others. You have the right to have your data deleted upon request.


Ditched it about 2 years ago. And man, it's so hard! Literally everybody uses it here in the Netherlands as well.

I'm getting strange looks every day when people hear I don't use the platform. It's horrendous.

I also really fear for the moment where I've to tell a nice girl I met that I don't use the platform, and that we should use X other platform instead. I can imagine that to be a letdown or to be weird. That's insane to me.


I got used to the strange looks. I got the strange looks when people heard I didn't use Facebook. If you asked them to sign up to a website on the Internet that was popular in your circles just so you could be friends, they'd refuse, eg. "please sign up to basschat.co.uk because all my friends like bass guitars".

If their friendship relies on you installing an app on your phone, that's a very shallow friendship isn't it?


> If their friendship relies on you installing an app on your phone, that's a very shallow friendship isn't it?

This argument doesn't make sense. You can't just ignore practical aspects entirely and justify it with a cheeky "if they're truely your friends they'll accomodate ahah".

Sure if I want to send a private message to a friend I don't care whether its via SMS or whatsapp, but if I'm in a group chat with 5 of my friends I won't send a transcript of the conversation to the one person who doesn't participate.


Why not inform your friend of the outcome? Half of the group chats seem to be utter nonsense until a final outcome is made, particularly with arranging something.

Or would you not want your friend to attend?

The choice is: do I want my friend to be included in my activities?

The choice is not: do I want my friend to be included and also send all of his data to some people I've never met?


Your idea of friendship is rather strange. It appears to involve other people arranging your social life for you on your behalf, and then presenting the plans to you for your approval via the communication method of your choice.

Maybe it works for you, but not for most people.


Not at all. You have that wrong. It is quite a funny way of presenting how I'd do it though! That'd be insane!

I ring them up or SMS people.


As someone who lives in the Netherlands, I feel your pain. I don't think I can get my contacts to really switch to something else, and even if I could, new ones would use WhatsApp anyway.

I think your fear depends strongly on how open-minded/techie the girl is, though: I've used Signal to communicate with all of my Tinder contacts, but I will admit people remark on how it feels like a 'drug deal'.


> but the inertia is so great it's not possible.

It is possible, but difficult. You may lose access to some groups, but you can't have everything you want without some sacrifice.

Personally, I'm leaving WhatsApp. Yes, my family and friends will be a bit annoyed about the hassle of contacting me separately, but so be it.


That sort of behavior is very selfish, wouldn't you agree? You expect everyone to be annoyed and go through the hassle of contacting you, when you can't even keep one app installed to communicate with all of them.

And in a lot of countries you wouldn't lose access to "some groups" but you would lose access to ALL of them, from social, to every other group.


You could easily flip it around. Why should others expect me to sacrifice my privacy to socialise with them?

For me, ditching WhatsApp is altruistic, helping make it easier for others to socialise without giving up their privacy and security.


What hassle would that be? They could send you SMS or call you.

Would they really find that too difficult? The mind boggles.


WhatsApp means groups. A lot of groups. Both long-living and ephemeral.


1 on 1 can be done. But group communication? They will leave you out and it will be your burden to get the info using another channels.


That seems quite the choice to make: learn about group chats or send all your data to Facebook.

It seems quite one-sided.


So many children using it. Wonder what the EU law is on data privacy and under age kids? Can under-18s legally sign this snooped data over to FB?

Hope some lawyers can stop this in its tracks. Otherwise Signal or some other service will get our business


Don't know about kids but I think there is some requirement that people can meaningfully say no. Seems this is a breach of such a requirement.

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-topic/data-protection/refo...


Sadly the law is written in a way that let’s the optional part be disregarded if the business considers the data that’s being shared necessary to run its business model... and advertising companies like Facebook will argue all data can help them sell ads better or for more money, hence all sharing of data shouldn’t need to be optional. This has yet to be tested in court, but both google and Facebook have taken this approach in their implementation of gdpr, leaving us wondering what the point was anyway... law without teeth :( the eu should have already slapped down google hard for their lack of an opt out, but it’s been years and still nothing. Seems the law makers aren’t really on the side of privacy after all.


Last I checked WhatsApp minimum age was 16 (in the EU at least) to comply with the regulations.

Obviously that doesn't stop (many, many...) just using it anyway. But Facebook will happily turn a blind eye to this unless their hand is forced.


Here all the kids use it as soon as they get a phone. If they can't write yet they'll send emojis (!!). The minimum age is just a meaningless smoke screen.


Yes, usage by kids is a real problem. My child is one of only two in the class that doesn't use WhatsApp. All the others do. They have what they call a "class group", even though not everyone is there.

When I try to tell parents how much Facebook learns about their kids (their friends, networks, and by merging data from different sources: habits, school, frequented locations, etc), they just roll their eyes. The response is "well everybody is tracking us, who cares".

All this even though there is Signal, which works JUST FINE.


Children luckily are much more flexible and chop and change with the wind. It's the older folks once something is established it ends up becoming bedrock and super hard to change. Parents/Adults are busy if something 'works', there's a lot of resistance to changing it.


Yes, though I feel like people are finally (slowly) waking up to the problems here. Both the US and the EU are finally looking deeply into Facebook and other big tech.

I don't think politicians are going to solve the problem for us entirely, but a bunch of us have been working on technical solutions for decades and they aren't the entire answer either.

A little regulation combined with the right alternatives may go some way. I'm optimistic, though we have a very long road ahead.


Thanks for the positive outlook among many negative ones :) I hope we can find a good alternative in the market. Anyone know of alternatives that allow end to end encryption with group chat support so far?


In Norway WhatsUp is popular, but my dentist still use SMS and email, and so other businesses that I interact with. My son’s school has own app for communicating with parents and teachers use Teams to present online lectures. My son uses Discord to talk to friends, but I think he is an exception.

What is really problematic is Facebook monopoly for organizing any social activities or events. There are simply no alternatives especially among 30-50 years old. Like the saying, “What parents were afraid video game would do to children, Facebook did to parents.”


I can cut out WhatsApp from professional use no problem.

There is no way to cut WhatsApp from casual/family use in Europe.

Schools, kindergartens, mechanics, contractors, plumbers everyone uses it.

The problem is that WhatsApp is the easiest method to share photos on mobile.

If you do not have WhatsApp your plumber can not send you a picture of pipes they fixed. How do you work around that?

Other parents are using WhatsApp for organizing out of school activities. Again, there is no way to go full Stallman here...


I'm in Europe, and I'm doing it to the best extent that I can: no permissions allowed to whatsapp, no profile picture, no read receipts, no notifications, sending a standard message to all personal groups that 'lads, I'm moving to signal, ciao'.

Beyond that, I will not entertain personal messages on whatsapp, only work related. Each new person will be greeted with "Do you mind awfully if we use Signal?" Does this come off as self-important? Sure. But it helps that I don't care too much if it does. I had the same attitude quitting FB and Twitter too, I just don't need people that much. I don't have a 100 friends anyway. I have like 15 that I really want to keep in touch with. Those 15 will understand.


What when other new person suggests Telegram? I have like four different messaging apps on my phone: WhatsApp, Telegram, Wechat and Link. Don’t need one more random app lol


I’d love to switch to telegram, but their default messages aren’t even end to end encrypted. And secure messages are not available for groups. So it’s not a great option for privacy actually.


Not only Europe and UK, LATAM is also pretty much governed by WA. I remember one time I had a visit of some folks from Canada, they were very surprised that we used it as our main chat/communication app. When I asked why, they said "we don't hear from it (referring to WA) that much, we all just use iMessage" I guess in their context/community most people own iPhones.


Exactly, the usage of iOS in some countries is high, and that’s where WhatsApp didn’t win as the most used chat.


Yep, in Australia I had basically never used WhatsApp. It's barely a thing. (However, Facebook Messenger dominates there, so it's not as if the privacy situation is any better, Facebook Messenger is just a better app/website to use).

Here in the UK I am literally required to be on WhatsApp to live in the building I currently live in. I have no choice in this matter. It's just the default messaging service for everyone.

If you join any kind of club? WhatsApp group. If you want to talk to someone about renting a room or apartment? WhatsApp chat. Live with housemates? WhatsApp group.

Plus the whole fact that if I deleted facebook, I would cut off contact with my friends and family (I can't expect like 25 people all to switch messaging services just for me). I would lose access to my thousand-dollar Oculus VR headset (I hate them so much for buying and linking facebook and Oculus, and hope a better competing standalone headset comes out).

And don't forget, you can't use an Oculus Quest with a blank facebook account you made just for that - they actually check that you're really using the account and force you to verify with photos and ID.

They are the absolute epitome of evil. Facebook, in many ways, but particularly in regard to Oculus, is a moustache-twirlingly, cartoonishly evil organization.

Could I just never buy an Oculus? Hopefully one day. But when not just your hobbies, but also your study and skillset and career prospects are right in that industry, you swallow your pride and make a damn facebook account.

I was also required to be in facebook groups for university classes back when I was a student. I HAD to be on facebook to get a degree. And for an amateur theatre group I joined.

Not to mention everything going on with misinformation about elections, vaccines, etcetera etcetera.

Some of this stuff is now moving to Discord, which is probably better than anything owned by facebook, but being better than facebook is a damn low bar, and Discord is still ultimately a for-profit corporation that would sell your soul if it made them a dollar.

This "just stop using it" attitude you always get on Hacker News and reddit about facebook and their various messaging platforms baffles me. Do you people not have lives? Jobs? Friends? Family? If you (in or out of a pandemic lockdown) want to do just about anything outside your house, or a whole bunch of things inside it, you need to use Facebook services.

It sucks and I've love to stop supporting them but it's not like most of us have a realistic choice.


> This "just stop using it" attitude you always get on Hacker News and reddit about facebook and their various messaging platforms baffles me.

Unfortunately, seems that for many people on HN, HN is almost all their online social interaction, + tech people on signal/mastodon. Some don't seem to understand the concept of having family and friends who are not tech-savy (or even hate tech). Or understand the concept of social capital.


Yeah. It's not that I don't believe those people, it's just that I don't think they should act like it's a real option for everybody.


> I can't expect like 25 people all to switch messaging services just for me

It’s not “switching”, they can start using another app and continue using whatsapp. I’ve done it with my family at least twice during the last 12 years, it was not that difficult.


When I lived in Russia my doctor messaged me via WhatsApp. I'm American so I was a little culture shocked, I don't know if this is standard procedure or anything but it illustrates how ubiquitous WhatsApp is.

I'm so anti-Facebook now that it's a part of the way I identify myself, and for all that I can't delete it. I maintain contact with a friend in Germany via Whatsapp or Facebook messenger, and in this case it would be possible to use email (which is not nearly as casual as firing off a message in your spare moments) or some other service but it doesn't solve the problem about friend groups.

I have friend groups around the world that my only way to participate in is Facebook. I believe moving abroad is in my future again, and Messenger is detestably the only real way to keep up with my friends back home. Leaving Facebook and Messenger is like leaving a bar I hate; I'm only here for the people and I wish we could go somewhere else.


I've lived in Germany for years and I do feel like, if we're going to stereotype people by nationality, they're one of the most privacy-sensitive groups you'll find. This is the country where, by law, if somebody picks up a (land-line) phone in the house, any other phone currently in use has to shut off. I'm not saying you can definitely convince that friend to get off WA / FB, but it's worth a shot.

(I don't know what to replace it with -- I mostly use Hangouts but it really feels like it's falling apart.)


For younger friends, I found that they can sometimes install a 2nd messenger, depending on how close you are. Of course, if they already use 2 or 3, you might need to use one that they have.

I would suggest to check if they use Telegram/Line/Kakao/Hangouts, or suggest it to them. They are all closed source, but at least is the lesser evil?


I am in europe, switzerland and plenty of friends in austria. Yes many of my social circle have whatsapp but none is using it exclusively as it was some years ago.

People have the choice and use it. Not sure what is holding other circles back?

I havent had whatsapp in 4+ years and only rarely have to fall back to SMS


What is the alternative are your social circles using? SMS is the only alternative with a wide install base and the experience is inferior to WA,Telegram etc.


Telegram, Signal, Discord, some via Email depends on the people. Everyone has a second or third messaging app


Do you have kids? What do they use?


I dont. Guess they would communicate by dancing on tiktok judging from my knowlege about teens these days :)


Steganography or the dancing pigs problem? :-)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_pigs


Not possible? I think you mean that it's painful.

And it is, and I sympathize, but you and your family will not die or starve. It's possible.

I'm fed up an will remove fb and wa from my phone, at least. It will be painful


Also in Africa, most business live out from WhatsApp.

You will find WhatsApp contacts for any kind of communication, ordering a taxi, food, whatever.

Move out of WhatsApp, and it is going to be quite boring out in the Savannah.


In France, SMS is still the most common, even though it is declining. I think it is historic: we had cheap unlimited SMS plans before internet data plans were common.

WhatsApp is popular but not a monopoly. Not really something to celebrate since its main "competitor" and #1 instant messenger app is Facebook Messenger. Skype and Discord are also significant, and I expect iMessage to be important too.


But with SMS group messaging is rather cumbersome no?


Yes, which is exactly why WhatsApp has replaced SMS : group messaging. People still use SMS for 1 to 1 conversation in France


Based on all the groups my wife is part of, it seems other people get absolutely nothing done in life since they appear to be sending pointless messages on a group constantly. Her phone is constantly buzzing, and 99.9% of it is utter nonsense.

It seems to me that the inability to easily message a group would be a bonus and not a loss!


Not just Europe + UK, LATAM is all WhatsApp.

Net neutrality not existing helps WhatsApp and other services here, one cell provider for example offers 1 year unlimited WhatsApp+Facebook including voice and video calls for a total (not monthly!) cost of 3USD on a prepaid chip. So you can't call, you can't write SMS, you can't use the internet but you can use WhatsApp for almost no cost. If you are on a budget this is a no brainer, for comparison - 5GB full internet access on the same chip is around 5$.

How are you going to break such a monopoly supported by providers? At this point it is something all providers do so if one starts offering it all other providers have a competitive advantage because everybody is already using WhatsApp. I am not sure if Facebook pays these providers, my guess is not - they are pushed into this by their competitors.

Net neutrality is very important to not let this happen. Similar deals exist for other popular services: Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, Spotify, Snapchat, Twitter, Netflix to name a few


>how much of a monopoly WhatsApp has in Europe and the UK

Everything you said applies to the Indian subcontinent, SE Asia and South America which form the bulk of the WhatsApp user base as well but with lesser or no scrutiny whatsoever when compared to EU/UK.


> I'd change to Signal or Telegram in a heartbeat, but the inertia is so great it's not possible.

It has to start somewhere. It is possible, but it takes will, and the acceptance that you will lose some contacts.


Most of my friends have migrated to Telegram now.


It's a little more nuanced than that. I don't question that WhatsApp is huge, in some countries and social circles, but it's by no means dominating across Europe.

Personally I'm not really sure who's using WhatsApp, I know two or three WhatsApp users. They all use it because they have friends other countries, mostly the middle east.

If RCS actually becomes a thing, then I don't see much of a future for apps like WhatsApp.


> If RCS actually becomes a thing

I have no reason to believe it will ever take off: It's been dead in the water since 2012 or even earlier. It doesn't support end-to-end encryption. Carriers would like to charge for it.


Assign everyone an IP V6, there's plenty. Then treat that as our internet phone number. Define a chat protocol that contains the very basics and everyone has to support that. Want to send a chat, you have their IP V6. Exchange using QR code. No server necessary for the basics. If a text fails sending device can keep trying or just give up.

This takes chat away from any single service.


This approach ignores all the aspects that made whatsapp / chat services popular in the first place. A short list:

  - Contact Discovery
  - Group chats
  - History / Log
  - Shared message order
  - Communication beyond text (emojis / reactions / inline images) 
  - Ability to receive messages while offline 
  - No need for technical skills
These aren't trivial features, they are prerequisites for any replacement, decentralized or otherwise. Just because we as developers like / tolerate things like IRC doesn't mean the rest of the world will accept it.


Everything you list could be supported at the client level with a decentralized IP6 level protocol without a need for a centralized server middleman.


Sounds great! Let me know when you’ve built it so I can try it out :)


Unfortunately, IPv6 addresses have to be assigned by someone, and they typically change when moving around/changing provider. And you have to go trough the firewall...

I prefer something you can generate yourself, like encryption keys. That's the approach taken by yggdrasil (and cjdns before): generate an encryption key, map the public part to an IP address (there's almost enough bits in v6). Plus, it can easily be end-to-end encrypted.

Another plus is that you can generate as many as desired.

As for the protocol, Matrix is experimenting a bit with going p2p.

https://yggdrasil-network.github.io/


username checks out


As UK resident I fully echo this situation.

I have Telegram and Signal installed and was chatting with friends above moving over (finally) but its painful especially right now.

With right amount of incentive, force and numbers - tipping point could be reached but I cant see it happening in the current situation.

With my cynical hat on I imagine FB know this and timed this policy change accordingly.


"Be the change you want to see in the world" -- I'm gonna have a go at switching as many people away as possible; friends, family, co-workers. It's all about critical mass so every step in that direction is a step toward your school and local community communications being on some alternative platform instead.


Why not make a local WhatsApp<->Signal bridge using Matrix (https://matrix.org/bridges/) and a disposable SIM card, and just use Signal app on your phone?


Is that easy to do? I thought WhatsApp didn’t allow api access.


Same case here in India, Sucks to have these apps despite knowing what they are doing just because your School or College groups are on these platforms. I tried educating my fellow mates about this but seems unlikely that it will have any effect.


While WA is near ubiquitous in Germany, from my own experience many non-technical people in the UK prefer Telegram to WA. WA is the only way I can reach some of my contacts in Germany, but with my UK contacts I can avoid it altogether.


Just an obvious point - you don’t have to “change”. You can install both and use signal as much as you can. This costs you almost nothing, maybe just a little app switching. Not much to pay for a better world.


Same in Mexico and (AFAIK) most LATAM countries.

If I need anything to be delivered to the house I need to use Whatsapp (gas, water, food, etc).


no they don't need to be treated like anything, they are completely new thing, so if you think that their dominant market position is an issue, they can be forced to implement public api(open standart), therefore unlocking their userbase and allowing infinite competition


I hardly know anyone who uses Whatsapp, people mostly use messenger in swe, nor, fin, den.


faced with the option of accepting or being cut off from their local community.

It’s a deal!


I disagree, they're NOT public utilities, they're private companies that people chose to use (why is beyond me).

What could be considered instead, is building public utilities as a community.


Almost all public utilities have started as private companies of some kind. Broadcast, telecom and railway companies are the most recent examples. They started as private companies but then, due to limited spectrum, unification pressure, needing to include everyone including remote places and wasteful duplication got transformed into publically owned or at least publically licensed and regulated utilities (depending on which utility and country you are looking at).

So, while they are not yet public utilities, they should be turned into such.


That's not true, I live in West Europe and I never used Whatsapp in my life. There are always alternatives to get informed here.


It's hard for most of to world remember that there isn't just US, UK and Europe in this globe...


Just use something else....


You guys do have emails though, why isn’t that used instead?


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