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Show HN: WhatsApp for Desktop (whatsapp-desktop.com)
120 points by halfimmortal on June 22, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

It looks like a tidy application, and I'm assuming it's functional - good job.

You're probably going to need to deal with the WhatsApp legal team very soon. I recall several HN threads discussing various shutdowns of 3rd party WhatsApp-based services. One example which came from a quick search was: https://github.com/venomous0x/WhatsAPI

Good luck!

> You're probably going to need to deal with the WhatsApp legal team very soon.

And for good reason. Remember that trademarks are a consumer protection policy to avoid confusion. I was certainly confused at first. If it wasn't for the "Show HN" on the title, I might still be confused. The product name is "WhatsApp for Desktop", the page includes links back to whatsapp.com for the user to find more information, pictures copied directly from whatsapp.com (itself a fairly obvious copyright violation), and the file that's downloaded is called WhatsAppSetup.exe.

It is quite reasonable to think that someone could think this was official, easily missing the fine print that clarifies.

I strongly suggest anyone releasing software on the internet familiarize themselves with the relevant laws on trademark and copyright so they can avoid mistakes like this. There is no way this could stand up to legal scrutiny. Naming your product AnotherCompany PrepositionalPhrase is not something which presents an interesting legal debate, it's an amateur mistake.

I am not a lawyer. This comment is not legal advice.

Pretty much this. There are cases where trademarks are defended overly aggressive (e.g. recently IMAX vs arstechnica) but in this case a regular person could reasonably assume that this is official (domain,name,layout,colors).

My advice to the author would be to take the website down, change the domain,repostory binary name. There is no realistic scenario where this (as it is) survives thismonth.

I agree. 'Desktop client for WhatsApp' sounds about ok. I guess with a name like 'Unofficial WhatsApp for Desktop' would remove all ambiguities and also convey very clearly that you're not trying to trick people.

It might've been better to do what "Reddit News" did when it turned into "Relay for Reddit" [1].

So it shouldn't be "Whatsapp" for something. But "Something" for Whatsapp. I'm not entirely sure if that avoids all the legal issues or whether it was just something Reddit itself was willing to compromise on in the case of "Relay for Reddit", but at least you should start with that kind of default rather than shamelessly using other company's product name as if it was your own.

I think others who have used Google's name or other product names in their own Chrome extensions have taken a similar path. Like how "Gmail Checker Plus" (or something) became "Checker Plus For Gmail" [2].

[1] - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=free.reddit.ne...

[2] - http://jasonsavard.com/checkerPlusForGmail

"[Name] for [Service]" is a popular format in the third-party client world, and it's one that's tolerated by all the big players.

Much older examples include "Plume for Twitter" and "FriendCaster for Facebook". In the case of the former, it was by agreement with Twitter: Plume used to be called Touiteur until Twitter made them change it.

You're seeing it more lately because Google recently changed the Play Store's app naming policy to forbid using the name of an existing service as part of your app's main brand, only allowing a special clause (e.g. "for [Service]") following the main brand. Also, around the same time, reddit changed their API policy to add a similar requirement.

In the long run, it's going to be beneficial for app developers because now they can take their name and use it for apps across multiple services. For example, the developers of Plume could create a "Plume for Facebook" app and so on, so they end up with a whole family of Plume apps, each one for a different social network.

Speaking as someone who created an extension for a Google service (Youtube) - the name change was forced on me. My extension was taken down from the Chrome store with guidance to change the name to "XXX for YouTube" with the requirement to follow their branding guidelines etc.

I totally agree "Whatsapp for X" implies that Whatsapp proper created an application for X while "X for Whatsapp" doesn't have the same implication.

So is "Desktop Client for WhatsApp" a better name?

I honestly don't think it's legal to use the name WhatsApp unless you propose a service totally different (If you sell chocolates and are called WhatsApp, there would not be any problem for example). Writing "Unofficial" or "desktop" won't change the fact that you propose the same service and using their name to promote it.

So WhatsApp for Desktop will become, "Message Reader for WhatsApp for Desktop"?

^ Hit the nail on the head...

I've been using a similar wrapper for whatsapp web that I built myself with nw.js, but I didn't upload it to github because of obvious reasons (see WhatsAPI case...)

Hope not - their reaction shouldn't be lawsuits, it should be "hire this guy/ gal"!

I don't see why so many popular mobile apps seem to refuse to have web-versions for use on other platforms. Even if it's less functional.

Whatever their reason is, it is certainly not a technical reason e.g. inability to write the client. It's a choice they have made.

> their reaction shouldn't be lawsuits, it should be "hire this guy/gal"

For building a webview wrapper with nw.js? It cost me 5 mins to build mine... It's an "app" that will never leave my desktop and I still give Jan Koum credit in the About section... xD


Let's hope the WhatsApp team won't be too harsh with the guy. Clearly it's been an ingenuous move by a young dev. Hopefully they'll come to terms just taking it down or renaming completely the project.

> Even if it's less functional.

Having something with missing functionality and/or bugs isn't always better than having nothing if you look at it from a marketing perspective. I agree that hiring someone talented who seems to like your brand to work on their extensions of your product would usually be a good investment, just not always.

Whatsapp already have a web version. He merely converted that into a desktop client with the help of Node Web Kit.

My app doesn't use their API directly, nor does it try to interfere with it.

Doesn't matter, you're using "whatsapp" trademark(and your logo is similar) and their api without any disclaimer, directly or not. And they have enough money to at least shut you down. Some projects have been shut down for way less. Nice project though, good luck.

So this is indeed a very simple wrapper around the web.whatsapp.com. Just an <iframe>. I wondered how they reverse engineered the security and worked around whatsapp's SSO permissions. They didn't, you can just as well open web.whatsapp.com and realize that this still doesn't make it work with an iPhone.

Now all they did is make themselves a target for legal action, because they're using the whatsapp trademark on the domain name and spent a load of time doing basically nothing.

> Also: remember kids. If you're using coffeescript, save yourself the trouble and just write Javascript.

Adults, on the other hand, should come to an informed decision by weighing the pros and cons.

It looks like he also built a wrapper around Facebook's Messenger site, including copying the color scheme/layout and an almost identical favicon: http://messengerfordesktop.com

Seems he is based in Romania, so we'll see what Facebook's/WhatsApp's reaches are I suppose.

>Seems he is based in Romania, so we'll see what Facebook's/WhatsApp's reaches are I suppose.

FYI Romania is a member state of the EU.

7th of 28 by population, 27th of 28 by either GDP or Human Development Index. (Completely unrelated, but maybe interesting.)

Yeah they could use a lot of help. Hardworking folks for the most part; but tremendously disrupted by Glasnost. Communal farms lost their equipment when the bureaucrats sold it out and ran off with the proceeds. Villages lost their social support (schools, old folk stipends, post-natal care) overnight. Small towns and villages lost all their young folk to the city over a period of months.

Slowly this is changing. But its a bleak picture for towns with no partner. Our church partnered with a village there, sold their crafts at an auction here to pay for a school building, books, old folks support, even a tractor. They were the only village in the area to get all their fields planted that year.

This kind of partnership helps bootstrap folks. I don't think of it as charity. More like investment. Returns aren't in cash but still very real.

That's kind of disturbing. I've been using Messenger for Desktop for a while now, and I thought it was an official Facebook product (just checked again and there's a disclaimer saying it's unofficial, but I don't remember it being there when it launched).

Yeah, while I'm against services going after third-party client developers 99% of the time, this isn't one of them. I hope he gets nailed to the wall for this, because he's creating actual confusion, which is the very purpose of trademark law.

I hope he gets nailed to the wall for this, because he's creating actual confusion

This is a mean spirited wish. What would you have him/her do? Why not hope Facebook brings him/her on board since they are solving a problem FB is not addressing currently?

> What would you have him/her do?

Choose a name and icon that make it clear his client is a third-party product.

Yes, and you could have suggested this without wishing any ill on him/her. Give being nice a try my friend, specially when you have the upper hand.

By the way I did not downvote you.


Now that's a completely reasonable reaction. Do you not think the author might read this? What if you released something you thought was harmless and people start asking for you to be crucified

Crucified on the big F is an horrible image :)

I'm sorry for the confusion, I'll try to make it clearer on the website it's not an official app.

Do you know how I should contact Facebook to discuss these legal problems? I can't find any way to contact them, and the help center isn't helpful at all.

Apparently the Facebook one "has over 100,000 visitors/month and more than 1 million downloads so far (including updates)"

I wonder at what size Facebook begin to care..

So this doesn't work if I have an iPhone? Bleh, cancelled download. Thanks for the heads up.

Is it a wrapper around https://web.whatsapp.com/ ?

If yes, what's the advantage over opening a browser tab ?

Thanks. From a quick glance, the added value seems to be a notification system and a context-menu. [1]

Does it worth it ? (not a regular whatsapp-web user).

[1] https://github.com/Aluxian/WhatsApp-Desktop/blob/master/src/...

Haven't tried this desktop app yet, but WhatsApp web already shows notifications, at least using Chrome.

If you don't care about the notifications, you could use Fluid to make a standalone app which wraps the website.


Why is it better that Node Web Kit?

Actually it isn't... nw.js uses chromium so it has all the newer HTML5 APIs enabled. Much better than fluid UI... (and also FOSS)

Hey, everyone, I'm the dev. First of all, thanks to @halfimmortal for posting this, I've just stumbled upon it. It's my first time on the front page ^^

I didn't realise using the official logo, their colours and the name was so bad. I emailed WhatsApp to discuss it and I hope we'll come to an agreement. Whatever we get to, I'm willing to rename the app and use another domain to keep the app alive.

The app is just a wrapper around web.whatsapp.com which runs on top of NW.js. What I did is make the notifications work, I added custom themes (will be available in the next release) and some minor tweaks to improve integration with the OS.

The app doesn't work on iOS due to some operating system limitations. I think WhatsApp is working on it.

Thanks for the support and the naming idea.

As someone who occasionally has to deal with this kind of thing on the other end, please understand that the way you just described e-mailing them is from a position of bad faith... you did something really really obviously wrong: you named your program after their program, and it isn't like the reason you did it was somehow unrelated... you clearly did it purposely so people would associate your product with their product, in order to give it that "official look" to it... that's why you spend so much time using their images and logos and put their name so prominently in the title; now, rather than saying "oh damn, I somehow failed to realize this was bad, I'd better change this" or even "oh shit, they caught me, maybe if I fix this quickly it won't be a big issue", you seem to have taken the position "I will keep doing this and see if I can achieve enough momentum to force them to come to an 'agreement' with me over the name", forcing them to scramble quickly to try to shut you down. Saying you are "willing to change the name" really just sounds like a stalling tactic, as yes: you need to change the name. The response you are going to get from this kind of behavior is thereby going to be much harsher than if you took a high road here, as the "ugh, someone is insisting on using our name and we are actively running into issues with people downloading this right now and trying to use it" leads not just to talking with you directly but to having them have to quickly send legal notices to domain name vendors and hosting providers to try to get the website shut down by force.

This is just not OK: there are so many other ways you could have played this; you didn't, in fact, need to use the name "WhatsApp" at all, and if you really wanted to have the greatest chance of success, that's what you should have done... you should name this thing "AluxMate" or something, and then have the body text of the website talk about how you've built a beautiful desktop client for WhatsApp. This is especially true given that you seem to have also built a Facebook Messenger client: it is actually not only harming these companies when you use these brands, it is harming your own project, because what you really should be doing is giving yourself a separate identity and purpose; the new "AluxMate" brand that you build, a brand that people can come to associate with you, could even be a unified desktop client for all of these normally-browser-only messaging services, and people might start talking about how awesome AluxMate is and how everyone should use it, or asking for AluxMate support for whatever new service is the new hotness... something that--and this is a direct outcome of stealing someone else's brand identity--can't happen if people are trying to say "you should use WhatsApp for Desktop!"... people are just going to go to the website for WhatsApp to try to download that, because that's what the name "WhatsApp for Desktop" signifies :/. That also totally divorces trademarks from the situation, which means that even if they don't happen to like you building a desktop client for their service, you aren't really to blame for people using your client.

Thank you for the advice. I really didn't do it on purpose. I just thought WhatsApp for Desktop was a proper name for the project. I wasn't aware it would produce so much confusion.

I'm going to change the name of the app asap. I'll also make it clearer it's an unofficial app. What else do you think I should do?

Do you have the same thoughts about http://messengerfordesktop.com/? Should I rename that app too?

Thanks again.

> Should I rename that app too?

Yes, in my semi-informed, non-lawyer opinion, you should change the name and remove all references to the FB Messenger icon. I don't think Facebook has a word mark on "Messenger", from a quick USPTO search, but using the name makes it harder to defend your use of trademarks like this one within the app: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4806:9la...

I will do a rebranding of both apps. I've already started with WhatsApp for Desktop which is now Unofficial WhatsApp for Desktop.

The link seems to have expired, can you please post another one?

Living in a Spanish-speaking country, I always thought the name "Qué Pasapp" would make sense. (Qué pasa translates roughly to "What's up?"). But I'm not a native Spanish speaker, so this may not sound good to native speakers.

I'm a native speaker and it sounds pretty bad to me. Besides, I think that most people in Spanish speaking countries don't even know what "What's up?" means.

Can I use my own phone number and contacts list, chat with people who aren't on Whatsapp, and use this client to type my text messages from my desktop? If so I'll be happy to pay for it.

My app has the exact same functionality as https://web.whatsapp.com. You can't chat with people who aren't on WhatsApp.

There's another OS X only client called ChitChat (formerly WhatsMac) that I've been using for a few weeks which is very cool:


I like the integrated window control buttons and it has a nicer name than this project. Besides from that both are good wrappers for web.whatsapp.com and have native notifications, notification counter etc.

Good job! I see that you also made a wrapper for FB Messenger. If you could do the same for Hangouts it would be awesome. Might be a bit tricky because Hangouts doesn't really have a standalone webapp right now (you might wrap the chrome extension though).

The default desktop app for Hangouts doesn't float your boat? https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/6098392?hl=nl

Not really. It had an ugly bug for osx so I didn't use it that much.

I got sort of used to the chrome extension, but that uses to much screen space. I want an app that takes advantage of the notification system built into OSX.

These sort of wrappers (like op's app) get really close to native apps (in terms of ui/ux).

I saw also the fb messenger for desktop - absolutely great!

One suggestion though, I definitely prefer 1 single app to catch all my IMs, like adium on Mac... I'd definitely prefer to have a single app for both whatsapp and messenger, or even better 2 plugins for adium.

Doesn't work if you have an iOS device.

I wish they'd sort that out (WhatsApp not this apps dev). It's kind of ridiculous there web app only works on one platform.

They blame Apple for that. Limitations.

Only because their web client works via the phone, and their whole service is based on having a phone number; they should do a more commonplace username/password based logins (with maybe two-factor authentication on a phone) and have a regular, proper client. It's probably the biggest chat tool out there; surely they can afford to build a native client or two?

As Cthulhu_ says it's more to do with the design of their app than iOS. Now that they have the clout of Facebook behind them they should be able to come up with a solution.

Why would you not just run WhatsApp if you have an iOS device? You want to run it as a secondary client?

Actually, it would be possible IF you device is jailbroken, but I rather not.

I'm wondering until when we'll have to wait. That shit man.

I've just tried it, it works well. Barring the delay on opening, and a small delay on resizing, it seems like a native app on Elementary OS.

Credit to WhatsApp for building an excellent webapp, and credit to the author for wrapping everything up to tie in with the desktop.

I would say there's definitely a benefit to have it as a separate hybrid app, rather than just loading the web-page. You can launch it directly, set it to run at start-up if you want, have a meaningful dock icon, notifications, etc.

Clearly, in general you'd prefer a native application, but this is definitely useful.

Cool, I don't need to run Chrome for this.

BTW, you should release some generic binary tarballs, those debs work just fine on CentOS/Fedora if you unpack them.

No notifications/tray icon in MATE though.

I have a question. How would one go about reverse engineering an API for something like WhatsApp? What are some of the tools you can use to discover how their API works?

Well this particular app seems like wrapper around the WhatsApp Web interface but if you are interested in reverse engineering API's used by apps, try Charles. It's a transparent proxy that saves calls in and out. It works great if the app doesn't have cert pinning.


Cool thanks! I remember this appearing on HN at one point, but one forgets :).

There is a plugin for Pidgin https://github.com/davidgfnet/whatsapp-purple/

It has some interface similarities with the Telegram app. (Not sure who was first!)


This is just another wrapper for Whatsapp's Web application. Hence it has the same limitations, especially this one: It does not work with an iPhone.

Yep, there's no API, how would he login with your iPhone on your behalf?

I see no advantage over using the --app flag on chrome. It does basically the same thing seeming as this is just a wrapper for whatsapp web anyway...

I wish you very good luck.

Bought by Facebook in 3...2...1...

still no ios support...

If only there would be a messenger with native iOs Phone/Tablet, Android Phone/Tablet, Windows, OSX and Linux apps... oh wait there is, it is called Telegram. And you don't even need your phone to use it.

Great, now I only need to convince everyone I know and meet to stop using Whatsapp ans switch to Telegram, sounds easy enough.

Friends don't let friends use Whatsapp (or anything owned by Facebook).

I bought an Ubuntu phone, not realizing that whatsapp wasn't available. Its a struggle getting people to switch.

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