So long, Signal

Thanks for making encrypted messaging more popular

Brett Weir Jan 26, 2023 3 min read

A few months ago, I saw this very eloquent blog post from Signal announcing the impending end of SMS support in the Signal Android app.

I remember being dismayed, but hadn't thought about it until today, when Signal politely offered to dump all of my text messages from the app. How nice of them.

Memories of Signal

Years ago, I adopted Signal over the plethora of other messaging apps at the time, partly because it offered me end-to-end encryption, but also because it had Dark Mode and allowed me to grandfather my existing network of SMS contacts into a cool new UI.

Finally, here was a messaging app that wasn't going to force me to move my whole network over to another chat app. Prior to Signal, I had been frustrated with others like Viber and QQ because I was limited to chatting with only those who had these apps. Everyone with a phone had SMS though, so Signal still allowed me to stay connected with those who hadn't joined Signal.

For those who did have it, I could benefit from improved privacy over default SMS. Signal was like a secret handshake, as you quickly found out who "had it" and who did not whenever the Signal app announced "so and so just joined Signal" or you saw the little feel-good padlock next to every message you sent to this person.

Bye bye, Signal

With Signal's decision to end SMS support, Signal is no longer an SMS messaging app that sometimes offers encryption; it's now just an encrypted messaging app. This means I'm now part of a different network of people. I also now get to juggle three chat apps (SMS + Signal + Messenger) instead of two (Signal + Messenger) (everyone's family is on Messenger).

If I'm gonna be That Guy who uses a different chat app from everyone else, I might as well get started on that Mastadon server I've been thinking about...

Hello, other messaging apps

In the time I had Signal, I didn't have a reason to research alternatives. Now that the situation has changed, I've discovered that the messaging landscape has changed, and competing apps have started catching up.

In the time I've been away from Google Messages, it seems that Google has added support for end-to-end encryption. I would not have known this had I not been forced back into the Messages app. In doing so, Signal has shown me that perhaps I don't benefit as much from Signal as I once did. Maybe not everyone is using Google Messages, but I imagine a ton of people with Android phones are.

Facebook Messenger has also introduced end-to-end encryption, and since everyone in my network still uses Messenger for everything, there is a certain amount of gravitational pull to just adopting Messenger and using it for SMS as well.

All in all, I can imagine a lot of people jumping ship from Signal now that they're dropping SMS support. I understand that some people have more important reasons to be using Signal than myself. I also recognize that Signal probably has the critical mass to navigate this transition successfully. For myself, having fewer messaging UIs is its own feature, and I'll need to look elsewhere to find that.

Oh, well.