- user accessible backups. WhatsApp backs up to your Google Drive account but you can't access it directly. Only WhatsApp may do that (f_ck you Google for contributing to WhatsApp's lock-in). Local backups are encrypted so you can't read them. Exports are incomplete (for example, on one chat it would give me the last month or so when I could scroll back more than a year). WhatsApp discards old messages at its discretion without letting you configure otherwise. I lost a ton of very important texts from the last months of my now-deceased mother. I f_cking had to scrape what was left from WhatsApp Web.
- open protocol and open source clients and servers, with network working independent of any particular provider to be able to ditch any misbehaving one.
- no expiration on software versions. Why are we being forced to update versions to view old messages?
>save my chat history in the cloud so that i dont lose everything when i move from iOS to Android or vise versa.
Implementing this could make key management either less secure, or more difficult for users. If the user still had access to both devices, it wouldn’t be too bad. But if you want the users to be able to ‘recover’ their message history on any device, then you’d need to use something like the mnemonic seed phrase, which isn’t an improvement in UX, or security.
The audio transcribing sounds difficult too, as you’d have to do it all client side if you wanted to preserve the security model.
Is there any issue with the Automatic Key Backup feature in Riot?
>Once enabled, your device will maintain a secure copy of its keys on your server. To ensure those keys can only ever be accessed by you, they are encrypted on your device, with a key that you either store yourself or secure with a passphrase and upload to your server. It is important to understand that to protect your privacy your keys will never touch the servers unencrypted.
This is probably the most elegant solution to achieve that functionality, but it still has a few security downgrades.
To back up the keys, you either need to manage a server yourself, or store them with a 3rd party that you trust.
To protect the backed up keys, you either need to manage another key, which just kicks the can down the road, or use a passphrase. If you give your users the option to protect their keys with a passphrase or with a mnemonic word list, a lot of them will pick the passphrase because it’s easier. It’s also less secure, especially if your users choose a weak passphrase, which a lot of them will.
I really like the whatsapp solution, because it has all the security under the hood and doesn’t let the users revert to less secure behaviour. It has an obvious UX tradeoff (with lost message history), but the alternative is to downgrade the key management UX to that of managing a cryptocurrency wallet.
For me, the problem is that it requires internet access. When I found that WhatsApp was deleting important messages and that the backups and exports that I was counting on were useless, as I mentioned in another comment, I found that the easiest way to save those messages was to scrape them from the web client. However, connecting the phone to the internet meant that it would receive more messages and hence delete more messages. I took screenshots manually of several days of the oldest available messages to avoid losing them, but it wouldn't have been necessary if the desktop client didn't require internet access.
It is possible to do so, using third party applications. I've done it with the help of a friend, although it required using paid Windows apps that looked like there was no way they could possibly be legitimate and not a scam - they worked like a charm. the process involved an application downgrade, forcing the iPhone to make local backup instead of backing up to the cloud and a handful other things, all of which where automated.
I use signal on the reg, and the short comings are both superficial and unrelated to the security. In my opinion.
What are your specific concerns? I could list things like: lack of bold and italic , poor voice message UI, lack of video conferencing , lack of group names, ...
Note that WhatsApp was wildly popular for over half a decade before it got most of those features.
In other words: I don’t get the point of talking about these cosmetic blemishes. * Signal today feels like WhatsApp at its inception. I.e. a messaging app with the potential to be used by everyone and their dog.
Or is there some fundamental problem you’re encountering that I’m blind / oblivious to?
* edit: let me clarify: “... talking about these cosmetic blemishes as if they’re fundamental blockers to adoption. “
Text search across full message history has been part of stable production releases (on Android at least) for a decent long while, just fyi. (Desktop client has also gotten better (but is obviously far from perfect); those messages end up retrieved later on, fwiw).
Not sure if it's because I run the beta version but I have the search feature in individual conversations and use it often. There is a desktop app and I agree it's not the best. The desktop app is the only place I've had the retrieving messages issue. So really the only gripe I see you having is no decent non-phone client. For me that's not a show stopper at this point in exchange for a secure, easy to use application.
Note that the horse a buggy was wildly popular before the car came along, so as this follows Tesla would be find starting a horse and buggy company. I'm a bit exaggerated in my sarcasm here to really illustrate how arrogant it is to assume that features you don't value are 'cosmetic blemishes' when they really do fundamentally hinder the adoption of the product. While you may value security as a priority that overcomes all others, but most by network effect influence, do not. And if you really care about security, it follows that the 'cosmetics' matter as well.
Yes, although pushing a firmware update to turn a horse carriage into a model Y is, perhaps, slightly less practical than adding Markdown support to a chat client.
The original comment was a blanket "much more inferior in terms of functionality and usability." I hope to elucidate that, in the context of a DARPA grant, it might be worth the effort to look to the future, and differentiate between fundamental problems and fixable issues.
I wouldn't say the same for an XMPP client, for example. But WhatsApp and signal are very, very close.
Perhaps even closer than a horse and a model Y. ;)
You’re right and I agree with you, but as to point 1, they don’t really act like a proper open source project and it seems more like a “source dump” than anything. It’s hard to compile on your own and they don’t like forks connecting to official servers either.
That, and "just go contribute" is really just a cop out answer. Users can desire features without it requiring that they learn to develop software. And really, does anyone want brand new, fresh developers contributing to a privacy-oriented product? Of course not. We need experienced and skilled developers to do that, because mistakes can be costly.
To be fair he was talking about usability and not encryption/privacy features. I agree mostly though, even capable developers don't have time. Feature requests make software better. If you want people to use your app, you should build for the user. It seems they want people to actually use it and didn't open source just to share knowledge of the code. They probably open sourced it to inspire trust.
A 500 billion dollar corporation will always be able to beat nonprofits on usability. The question you should ask yourself is whether the marginal difference in usability makes up for all the negative consequences of being a Facebook user.
- Signal is a lot less "polished" - FB has spent tons more resources on making a slick streamlined easy to use interface. Even though signal looks similar its missing all the little things.
- there is no easy to use backup. Whatsapp can backup to google drive or icloud and restore it on another phone. Signal you have to figure out how to deal with and transfer your backup file. This isn't easy for regular folks, Signal needs to be able to connect to cloud storage (preferably of your choice).
- Whatsapp deals with and displays media better/faster
- calling works better. last time I checked whatsapp has easy group video and audio calls, Signal had neither.
There is actually lots more. I prefer the idea of using Signal over whatsapp, but I found it not close enough yet. Especially for non-techy ppl.
Personally, I don't want backups. I don't want to worry whether some joke I made 10 years ago would look bad in a future data dump. If messages could self destruct after three years that would be lovely
I personally will never user a personal messaging app without long term backups. In twenty years there I will have many fond memories of my past conversations. I see it (almost) no different from keeping old letters.
It feels much worse to use than both Telegram or WhatsApp, both on Android and on OSX. I had installed it on iOS and Android and uninstalled within 10 minutes of trying to use it. That is how bad my user experience was.
My main complain is that whenever I start the desktop client after few days, it takes forever to load the old messages. I'm not sure, but I think it tries to download all messages and attachments before showing the UI, which can be potentially made faster by first trying to get the messages from person I'm trying to talk to and downloading attachments after text messages (Not sure about implication to security protocol here).
I had issues with lag and dropped packets when I was calling from Europe to South America with Signal about 6 months ago. I was really cheering for Signal (still am) and had suggested we try it, but it failed quite quickly. We moved the call back to WhatsApp within a minute or two, and had no problems whatsoever.
So at least in my mind WhatsApp is still much more reliable.
A lot of the issues can't be solved without relying on an authoritative 3rd party (which is what facebook, whatsapp, skype, etc do). For example, because all messages are p2p, you can't view conversation history that isn't stored locally or sent by the other party upon request (which may not include deleted messages, etc).
Its end to end encrypted and ciphertexts aren't stored long term on Signal's servers, but Signal isn't truly p2p. To send a message a user encrypts the message using the keys for the user, sends them to Signal's servers to be queued, Signal delivers the encrypted message to the receiving user, the receiving user decrypts it. Phone calls would probably be the closest thing to p2p, but it still uses Signal's servers as a broker for connecting the two parties instead of some other form of discovery.
Signal also does not allow for third-party clients to connect to their hosted Signal servers. This further makes them an authoritative 3rd party, as you need to run the code approved by Signal to connect to Signal's servers to send messages to Signal users. Not that I am complaining about this structure, just sharing knowledge.
WhatsApp is Signal Protocol under the hood. That does not make the two equivalent from a security perspective; Signal goes through a lot of extra trouble to protect metadata (note, for instance, how it didn't even really have user profiles until relatively recently).
Interestingly, WhatsApp uses the same e2e encryption protocol under the hood... or at least it used to I know Facebook is trying to merge it with messenger which certainly means removing the e2e encryption.
Good news is this means Signal could probably be on parity with WhatsApp with a little government grant money love.
This makes it sound like DARPA wants to take some commercially developed tech and adapt it to the military, but just for the record that grossly misstates the relationship and the general history of Silicon Valley.
Ever wonder how Siri got her name? From SRI International, a research org largely funded by the DoD. DARPA is the origin of much of the tech, including secure Internet tech. Just one recent example: Tor. It's developed at taxpayer expense and either given away to private industry or "transferred" for a pittance.
I don't think there's an official origin for Siri's name. Someone said it was named after a child. I suspect (without evidence) it was named after the female robot in the pilot episode of the Logan's Run who ran Mountain City, a paradise city.
"Siri, the first virtual personal assistant, arose from decades of SRI research in artificial intelligence (AI). The technology was developed through the SRI-led Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes (CALO) project within DARPA's Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) program, the largest-known AI project in U.S. History, and joint work with EPFL, the Swiss institute of technology.
SRI spun off Siri, Inc. in 2007 to bring the technology to consumers, raising $24 million in two rounds of financing.
In April 2010, Apple acquired Siri, and in October 2011, Siri was unveiled as an integrated feature of the Apple iPhone 4S."
I'm not verifying that - I just found it via google search "sri Siri"
I like the link to Logan's Run :-), it could be also true.
It's mildly entertaining that we have calls for a more secure and trust-able version of an encrypted chat service, but other agencies in the executive branch are calling for loopholes and vulnerabilities for the same encrypted channels.
From the description, it seems like it's less about the chat app itself and more about developing and designing a new secure protocol and infrastructure that will influence future products by commercial or other entities. They want people to take the tech they develop and make their own stuff more secure, which sounds awesome.
I bet this requirements implies working seemlessly between online and offline networks. In which case this project is not just building another XMPP/WhatApps/Signal/etc. They are building another Cabal (https://cabal-club.github.io/) :-)
(As an aside, it is always a bit unsettling when a federal function is represented by something that looks like a link farm. I mean, I know you elected Trump and all, but "FedBizOpps" probably predates him by a decade)
They should invest in the BEAM virtual machine. IIRC, Whatapps is built on Erlang and its VM.
There are many benefits in helping an existing project with active developers. If dealing with the politics of managing existing project is annoying, just fork it and make their own branch. The original owner can deal with the merging if they want the contribution.