Maps and Tables

by Alphonse Eylenburg
eylenburg.github.io

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Comparison of Instant Messengers

There are probably a hundred or more different instant messengers out there. But which one respects your privacy, is resistant to censorship attempts by governments and Big Tech, and is easy to use for normies?
I have limited this comparison to only ten messengers:

Some messengers that are relevant but did not make it on the list:

Comparison of Instant Messengers

Source: eylenburg.github.io

Last updated: October 2021

Federated & FOSS Centralized & FOSS Proprietary Market Leaders
Conversations
(XMPP)
Delta Chat Element
(Matrix)
Signal Telegram Threema Facebook Messenger Line Viber WhatsApp

General information
Year introduced 2014 (XMPP: 1999) 2017 2016 (Matrix: 2014) 2014 2013 2012 2011 2011 2010 2009
Developer mainly Daniel Gultsch various developers The Matrix.org Foundation CIC Signal Technology Foundation Telegram FZ LLC Threema GmbH Facebook, Inc. LINE Corporation Rakuten Group, Inc. Facebook, Inc.
Domicile of developer Germany n/a UK USA UAE Switzerland USA Japan Japan USA
Monthly active users n/a cannot be determined due to server federation n/a cannot be determined due to server federation n/a cannot be determined due to server federation 40 million 550 million 10 million 1.3 billion 250 million 825 million 2.0 billion
Play Store number of installs 100,000+ 100,000+ 100,000+ 50,000,000+ 500,000,000+ 1,000,000+ 5,000,000,000+ 500,000,000+ 1,000,000,000+ 5,000,000,000+
Protocol used XMPP + OMEMO IMAP/SMTP + OpenPGP Matrix + Olm/Megolm Signal MTProto NaCl MQTT + Signal MQTT + Letter Sealing Viber XMPP + Signal
Price freeon F-Droid (Play Store: €2.99) free free free free €3.99 free free free free

Sustainability
License of client/server GPL GPL Apache GPL GPL/Proprietary AGPL/Proprietary Proprietary Proprietary Proprietary Proprietary
Server architecture Federated Federated Federated Centralized Centralized Centralized Centralized Centralized Centralized Centralized
Ability to self-host server Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No No
Compatibility with other messengers Yes, if supported by server "Transports" to various other protocols and messengers, e.g. IRC, SMS, Email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Skype, Discord Normal Email if recipient does not use Delta Chat Yes, if supported by server "bridges" to various other protocols and messengers, e.g. IRC, SMS, Email, XMPP, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple iMessage, Telegram, Signal, Skype, Discord, WeChat Android app can send/receive SMS No No Instagram; Android app can send/receive SMS No No No

Compatibility
Smartphones:
Android Yes (APK available) Yes (APK available) Yes (APK available) Yes (APK available) Yes (APK available) Yes (APK available) Yes (no APK available) Yes (APK available) Yes (no APK available) Yes (APK available)
iOS Other XMPP client(s) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
KaiOS No No Other Matrix client(s) No Other Telegram client(s) No Through "Facebook" app No No Yes
Sailfish OS Other XMPP client(s) Can run Android versionusing Sailfish X Android App support Other Matrix client(s) Other Signal client(s) Other Telegram client(s) Can run Android versionusing Sailfish X Android App support Can run Android versionusing Sailfish X Android App support Can run Android versionusing Sailfish X Android App support Can run Android versionusing Sailfish X Android App support Can run Android versionusing Sailfish X Android App support
Ubuntu Touch Other XMPP client(s) Can run Android versionusing Anbox Other Matrix client(s) Other Signal client(s) Other Telegram client(s) Can run Android versionusing Anbox Messenger.com web app Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox
postmarketOS Other XMPP client(s) Other Delta Chat client(s) Other Matrix client(s) Other Signal client(s) YesDesktop Linux version of the official Telegram app works well with few adjustments needed Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox
Desktops:
Windows Other XMPP client(s) Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
macOS Other XMPP client(s) Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
GNU/Linux Desktop distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSUSE, Fedora etc. Other XMPP client(s) Yes Yes Yes Yes Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox Can run Android versionusing Anbox Yes Can run Android versionusing Anbox
*BSD FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD; DragonFlyBSD can run most FreeBSD applications Other XMPP client(s) No Other Matrix client(s) No Yes FreeBSD has a port of the standard Telegram app / other client(s)Only option for NetBSD and OpenSBD No No No No No
Illumos specifically OpenIndiana (Illumos distribution for PCs); should also run on Solaris Unclearnot supported by any of the client(s) listed on xmpp.org/software/clients/ but it might be possible to compile a Linux/BSD app No Other Matrix client(s) No Unclearnot supported by any of the client(s) listed on telegram.org/clients/ but it might be possible to compile a Linux/BSD app No No No No No
Haiku Other XMPP client(s) No Other Matrix client(s) No YesInofficial port of the standard Telegram app No No No No No
Web client Other XMPP client(s) No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Chrome extension Yes Yes

Capability
Offline messages (if recipient is offline) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Group chats Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Voice messages Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Voice and video calls Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Send photos, video and other files Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Screensharing No No Yes (not on mobile) No Yes No Yes (not on mobile) Yes (not on mobile) Yes (not on mobile) No
Public/searchable groups Yes No Yes No Yes No No No Yes No
Self-destructing messages No No No Yes Only in "secret chats" No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Delete messages on device of recipients No No No Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes

Usability
Find contacts from phone address book No No Phone number & Email Phone number Phone number Phone number & Email Phone number & EmailCan upload address book to Facebook to check if contacts have a Facebook account Phone number Phone number Phone number
Automatic backups of chat history Chat history is saved on the XMPP server, but useless without decryption keys, which need to be manually backed up to local device Local backups of chat history are possible but not automatic. Chat history is saved on the Email server, but useless without decryption keys, which need to be manually backed up to local device. Chat history is saved on the Matrix server, but useless without decryption keys, which can be automatically backed up to local device or Matrix homeserver Backup on local device only (no cloud backup which would protect against loss of device) All data is saved on Telegram servers, except for "secret chats" No All data is saved on Facebook servers, except for "secret chats" Backup to cloud only (Google Drive/iCloud), and text messages only Backup to cloud only (Google Drive/iCloud) Yes (local device or Google Drive/iCloud)
Data can be transferred to new device Yes (at least to new installation of Conversations) Yes Yes Yes, but only Android ↔ Android or iOS ↔ iOS, not supported on Desktop Yes, except for secret chats Yes Yes Text messages only, and only Android ↔ Android or iOS ↔ iOS, not supported on Desktop Yes, but only Android ↔ Android or iOS ↔ iOS, not supported on Desktop Yes, but only Android ↔ Android or iOS ↔ iOS, as well as one way iPhone → Samsung phones
Use on multiple devices Yes Yes Yes Yes, but only one Android/iOS device Yes, except for "secret chats" No Yes, but "secret chats" are unavailable on desktop/web Yes, but only one Android/iOS device Yes, but only one Android/iOS device Yes, but only one Android/iOS device
Import chat history from other apps No (from other XMPP clients only) No No (from other Matrix clients only) No (SMS import possible in earlier versions) Yes (KakaoTalk, Line, WhatsApp) No Yes (SMS import on Android) No No No

Privacy
User ID XMPP address (user@server.tld) Email address (user@server.tld) Matrix ID (@user:server.tld) Phone number Phone number Threema ID (8-digit ID) Email address of Facebook account Phone number Phone number Phone number
Anonymous sign-up possible Yes Yes Yes Phone number requiredCould use a "burner SIM" for anonymous sign-up, but in many countries it is not legal to sell/buy SIM cards anonymously Phone number requiredCould use a "burner SIM" for anonymous sign-up, but in many countries it is not legal to sell/buy SIM cards anonymously Yes if purchased anonymously Android license can be purchased from Threema directly using Bitcoin, while the iOS app can only be bought in the App Store (hence the latter is only anonymous if the Apple ID itself is anonymous, i.e. anonymous email address used to sign up and no phone number given) Theoretically yes, but again Facebook's TOS Phone number requiredCould use a "burner SIM" for anonymous sign-up, but in many countries it is not legal to sell/buy SIM cards anonymously Phone number requiredCould use a "burner SIM" for anonymous sign-up, but in many countries it is not legal to sell/buy SIM cards anonymously Phone number requiredCould use a "burner SIM" for anonymous sign-up, but in many countries it is not legal to sell/buy SIM cards anonymously
E2Eend-to-end encryption of 1:1 text messages Yesif supported by recipient's client app Yesif recipient is also using Delta Chat, other will be sent as unencrypted email Yesif supported by recipient's client app Yes Only in "secret chats" Yes Only in "secret chats"Impossible to verify as app is closed source Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source
E2Eend-to-end encryption of group chats Yesif supported by recipient's client app Yesif recipient is also using Delta Chat, other will be sent as unencrypted email Yesif supported by recipient's client app Yes No Yes Planned Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source
E2Eend-to-end encryption of voice and video calls Yesif supported by recipient's client app n/a Yesif supported by recipient's client app Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source
E2Eend-to-end encryption of chat backups Yes Local backups: no,
on email server: yes
Yes Yes No ("secret chats" not backed up) Yes No ("secret chats" not backed up) ? No Yes (claimed)Impossible to verify as app is closed source
Minimal metadata No No No Yes No Yes No No No No

Security
Encryption: Authentification of contacts Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Encryption: Forward secrecy Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Encryption: Plausible deniability Yes No Yes Yes ? No Yes ? Yes Yes
Lock app with password/biometrics No No No Mobile apps only Yes Yes No No Desktop app only Yes

So, what's the conclusion?