With Facebook finally changing how WhatsApp works to profit off of the users (as expected), many people are choosing to switch to other internet messaging apps like Signal & Telegram. We’ve already talked about how naïve that is, given there isn’t anything stopping Signal & Telegram from changing their policies or adding anti-features in the future (they have already). If you haven’t had your ear to the ground in places like the Fediverse or Free Open Source Software communities, you probably haven’t heard of Delta Chat.
Yes, it’s yet another internet messaging app, but it does things in a much more “freedom-friendly” way for users. It has an interface almost precisely the same as what you’re used to in WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. It repurposed the Signal interface from Signal’s open-source client code, so if you’re familiar with that already, it’s going to be very easy to use. Delta Chat is an open-source program still in development, so there are bugs, but it’s still very usable. There are versions of the app for Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows, so practically every platform is covered. You can download any of the performances here, and you can communicate any bugs and wishes here. Meanwhile, let’s look at how Delta Chat is better than many other popular electronic messaging apps.
1. You already have an account
Delta Chat uses the most widely used international network of internet messaging in existence: email. If you have an Android device, or iOS device, or Mac, or Windows PC, or an Xbox, or a Playstation, or a Nintendo Switch, or a job, or a bank account, or went to school at some point during the information age, or ever downloaded an app from an app store, then you probably already have an email account.
2. It works with the most extensive user base on the internet
Almost 4 billion people(1) have at least one email account already. That’s probably the entire population of the internet. WhatsApp’s 2 billion user base is dwarfed by the number of users with email accounts. Delta Chat works with all of those people out of the box with no need to pressure them into installing a different app and building another network silo. There is no messaging network silo here, and that’s a huge advantage. But if your friends do want to use Delta Chat, they might like it better than their default email apps.
3. It doesn’t require your phone number
One of the worst things about WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram is that they all need your phone number to create an account. This can be a violation of your privacy since your phone number can be associated with your real identity, bank accounts, address, place of work, etc. It can also be used to create relationship maps. If you give any of those apps access to your contacts list, it will scrape the phone numbers and match them with phone numbers in the service’s centralized server database to tell you which users have accounts on the platform you’re using. That should be recognized as another privacy violation. I can quickly tell who has what app by matching their phone numbers without their permission or knowledge. In the case of Facebook, they can probably fit your WhatsApp contacts with Facebook contacts and create an even more significant relationship map, thus making manipulation via advertisements even easier. Also, see: Why are we still using phone numbers? Delta Chat doesn’t need to create relation maps to tell you who else you can chat with because you can chat with literally everybody. You need to know their email address which is probably already on your contacts list. No server-side contact matching is required.
4. You can use your servers
What’s more, you already have a server! Delta Chat works with any email server that supports open standard IMAP protocols. It probably won’t work very well with more proprietary security-focused services like ProtonMail and Tutonota. Practically anything else can be set up within Delta Chat. Of course, Gmail and many other free consumer email services work right away via OATH 2.0 authentication. Still, if you care about privacy and security, you’ll want to use your self-hosted email server or at least a more trustworthy one. There are many ways to build your email server in your home. Many big businesses run their servers (which will also work with Delta Chat). There are thousands of paid email hosting services as well. Email hosting often comes free with website hosting or internet service. You can even buy a pre-made email server to use privately (See: Helm).
5. It’s less likely to stop working
The ability to use your servers or any server you want is essential for longevity and stability. Remember when the Signal servers went down in January? That meant no one could use it. This single point of failure should be a clue as to one reason why centralized services are potentially harmful. With Delta Chat, if one person’s IMAP/SMTP server goes down, the people who use that server are the only ones affected. Everyone else using the thousands and thousands of other servers on the internet are all still functional. And if your server goes down permanently, you can easily switch to another. If you control your own domain name’s DNS mail exchange records, you can switch servers without changing your account address.