Earlier this week, Facebook bought the mobile messenger WhatsApp for $16b. During the last two days my Facebook wall was full of people complaining about it, comparing the price to different things and, most importantly, alternatives to WhatsApp.

While I think that it’s kinda ironic to complain about data-safety on Facebook, privacy-aware people should start looking for a more secure messaging alternative. Telegram looks like a good alternative to WhatsApp and has tons of features to offer. Here’s what we think about it:

Telegram – taking back our right to privacy

Telegram is a cross-platform messenger which seeks to provide a secure, fast and free messaging experience. It first popped-up on the App Store in August 2013 and on Google Play two months later. So what are reasons to use Telegram instead of WhatsApp or other alternatives?

  • It’s cloud-based
  • It’s heavily encrypted
  • It’s open source
  • It’s available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone
  • .. and Windows, Mac OSX & Unix
  • It’s free – no fees, no ads, no purchase price
  • If you want to be really safe, you can use a self-destructing end-to-end (or client-to-client) chat connection

Good on paper – but does it actually work?

Setting up my account using the app was quite easy and fast. Simply open the app, enter your phone number and you’re good to go. You’ll receive a text message including a verification code, which should be recognised automatically by Telegram. The app automatically checks your contact list and shows people who are using Telegram already.

The app itself looks a lot like WhatsApp and offers everything you need. Group chat, file transfers (files, photos and videos) and location sharing. Everything you basically need. But here comes something new: Download and install the desktop app and you can also use the program on your computer. I’ve tested the Mac and Windows programs and they both work pretty well. Messages are delivered instantly across all devices.

How safe is Telegram really?

The language on the Telegram website is quite strong and directly attacks WhatsApp. Telegram messages and file transfer are delivered using a 256-bit symmetric AES, RSA 2048 encryption and Diffie-Hellman secure key exchange. I’m not a encryption specialist and, probably like most of you, I don’t fully understand these words.

However, what I do understand is that Telegram offers the possibility to send your message directly to your addressee, without using their servers. The so-called “secure chat” option looks really cool and offers a few cool features like auto-deleting messages and files. As messages are delivered from client-to-client, both people have to be online and active to receive the messages.

Whether you’ll ever use this features is questionable, simply because it’s rather impractical. I mean it’s cool and all to have a spy-like communication app, but do we really need this on an every day basis?

Telegram also offers $200.000 for the hacker who’s able to crack their encryption, so I’d say they are pretty confident that it is secure as hell (or have way too much money to give away).

Final thoughts

Yes, some of you might say that it’s ridiculous to look for WhatsApp alternatives just because Facebook bought it. I mean we’re using Twitter, Google, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, [insert endless list of data-hungry apps here] every day. Hell, most of use are happy to get something for free in exchange for their personal data (or don’t realize that they’re paying with information). But that’s not the point here.

With the recent discussion I looked into alternatives. Not because I really want privacy, but more features. I mean WhatsApp didn’t add features in the last years. Hangouts looked fine because it provided a desktop client, but it’s really buggy and laggy and it doesn’t look like it’s getting better anytime soon. Telegram, on the other hand, is really fast, stable, looks good and provides all the features I need. Privacy is a nice add-on, but not the main reason for me to switch.

I hope that many (not tech-savvy) people will jump on the bandwagon and look for an alternatives. It’s been a hassle to get people to switch from WhatsApp to Hangouts, but I hope that some people are simply making the switch now because of some (pseudo) privacy issues. We’ll see how it goes in the next weeks!

Download Telegram for Android, iOS and other systems