In the wake of last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol that left several people dead and has prompted outrage across the nation, the messaging app Signal has surged in popularity as users look for alternatives to social networks.
Built by Swedish-based developer Signal Messenger LLC, Signal has surged to the top of the Apple App Store and near the top of the Google Play Store, but it is unlike Twitter or Facebook. Instead, it is a secure messaging app, similar to WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage.
Signal allows users to send texts, videos, audio or picture messages with end-to-end encryption, just as they would via a normal text message. “Signal’s advanced privacy-preserving technology is always enabled, so you can focus on sharing the moments that matter with the people who matter to you,” the app writes in its description.
Signal app displayed on iPhone (Credit: Signal.org blog)
Effectively, the message is scrambled right after it is sent, so neither Signal nor anyone else can read the message. Only the recipient can see the unscrambled message.
In addition, Signal, which does not store user data, according to its website, also offers a host of other privacy features, including face-blurring, blank notification pop-ups and ephemeral messages. All message history is stored locally on the device, Signal added.
However, there is a limitation to using Signal to send encrypted messages. The end-to-end encryption may be limited if one of the parties is not using Signal, so broader adoption has been one of the app’s largest issues.
It has benefited in popularity after people like Edward Snowden tweeted about it in 2015, with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently telling his followers to use the service, while simultaneously taking a shot at Facebook.
Musk also noted that he had previously donated money to Signal and would be donating more in the future.
Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have famously sparred about a number of topics over the years, including artificial intelligence. In 2018, Musk pulled SpaceX and Tesla’s Facebook pages following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
On Sunday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a heart emoji that Signal had risen to the top of the App Store, which sparked criticism from Parler CEO John Matze.
“Yeah, we were number one until the fake news rage mob at Twitter and your anti-competitive friends went after us,” Matze wrote on his social network. Parler has since been pulled from both the App Store and Play Store and has lost a number of business partners, including Amazon Web Services, which hosted the app, its lawyers, among others.
As Signal continues to surge in popularity, it has had some hiccups in verifying new users. Late last week, the messaging app tweeted that verification codes were delayed “because so many people are trying to join Signal right now.”
By Saturday, the problem had been fixed.
On Sunday, Signal tweeted that it was shattering traffic records, citing people disliking Facebook’s new terms.
Signal had been downloaded more than 32 million times as of June 2020, but the recent surge has no doubt propelled that number to new heights.
Fox News has reached out to Signal with a request for comment.