Signal has risen to become the top free app on the Google and Apple stores as more people look towards the secure messaging platform.
This followed users’ increasing discontentment with Facebook-owned WhatsApp due to a change in their policy which has raised privacy concerns.
WhatsApp, which uses Signal’s encryption technology, laid out fresh terms on Wednesday, asking users to agree to let owner Facebook Inc and its subsidiaries collect user data, including their phone number and location, although there are reports it had been secretly doing this for years.
A day after, world’s richest person, Elon Musk advised people to jettison WhatsApp and Facebook and opt for Signal, known for its end-to-end encryption and independent structure as a non-profit organisation run by a foundation — not a big tech company.
The tweet was in response to queries by his Twitter followers on more secure alternatives to WhatsApp.
Signal has recently gone mainstream but had previously been the communication method of choice for activists, people in the hacker community, and others concerned about privacy.
Mashable reported that so popular has Signal become since Musk’s simple tweet that its two-factor authentication onboarding system even got briefly delayed Thursday because so many people were trying to sign up.
A similar app, Telegram, has also seen a sudden rise in users.
One of the reasons Signal is so unique is that beside the fact that the content of your messages is encrypted, you can set messages to disappear after certain customisable time frames.
The app also collects virtually no user data; the only information a user gives the app is their phone number, and the company is even working on a way to decouple that from using Signal by making encrypted contact servers.
As a non-profit organisation, it has no advertising, so no incentive to track users.
Three years ago, WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton provided $50 million loan to then newly-created Signal Foundation, as the app was then barely getting by on a “shoestring budget“.
He later added $55 million, to take his total stake to $105 million, repayable in 2068 at zero per cent interest.