How to Start Using WhatsApp
In the past, texting plans were expensive, and going over your permitted quantity of texts might quickly result in significant charges. And forget about chatting with folks from different countries or participating in group discussions. Over-the-top messaging apps, like WhatsApp, were the answer since they allowed you to send texts while using your internet connection. It has since been acquired by Meta (previously and, let’s be honest, always Facebook), had its security updated, and has since remained in a protracted state of mild stagnation. It’s still a great free service, the leader in encrypted messaging, and it has a strong technological foundation and a sizable built-in audience. Even so, its future is far from certainâ€”especially given how frequently law enforcement targets its security.
WhatsApp: Can You Trust It?
Any secure messaging software is built on trust, and WhatsApp goes above and beyond to gain your trust. It is based on the tried-and-true Signal Protocol, which enables end-to-end encryption (E2EE) of messages from beginning to finish. As a result, messages can only be read by the sender and the intended recipient. Even WhatsApp employees (and, by extension, Meta) are unable to see your messages. E2EE is only available as an option and in certain situations in other messengers, like Facebook Messenger and Telegram, whereas it is the default in WhatsApp and Signal.
Three photos demonstrating how to encrypt Android backups.
Your backups are safe against theft and analysis if they are encrypted. WhatsApp advises disabling iCloud backups for the service.
It’s challenging to completely support WhatsApp because of the fact that Meta (again, a Facebook company) owns it. The amount of information that Meta collects about its users has continued to be the subject of scandals. Most recently, it was discovered that Meta has no control over how your data is used by its corporate partners. Currently, it appears that there is a strong barrier separating WhatsApp from its corporate masters, but this could alter in the future.
Ex-partners, past OKCupid dates, former managers and coworkers, as well as a long list of other people I never intended to interact with again, were all on WhatsApp.
dedicated section of the FAQs. WhatsApp claims that while Meta cannot view your contacts or messages, it can see your phone number, IP address, and any communications you have had with businesses. That many identifying details are overwhelming.
The ongoing attacks on encryption technologies by governments and law enforcement pose another difficulty for any secure messenger. Prior to the release of a helpful document from the FBI, discussing the extent to which law enforcement or the FBI may monitor your messaging was quite challenging. According to this list, if the target is using an iPhone with iCloud backup enabled, the FBI may be able to get communication content. The software will push you to encrypt your WhatsApp backups, which should protect your messages, leaving aside the fact that Apple should encrypt device backups. However, no other messaging platform includes this warning. Remember that this paper does not include the information that law enforcement could obtain by utilizing forensic analysis methods intended to get around security measures.
How to Start Using WhatsApp
Most mobile and desktop devices support the installation of WhatsApp apps, and a web gateway is also available for access. Thankfully, using connected WhatsApp apps no longer requires you to be close by and connected to the internet. However, in order to create an account with WhatsApp, just like with Signal and Telegram, you must have a working phone number. While Editors’ Choice winner Signal is developing an account structure that is at least partially independent from phone numbers, none of these apps are focused on anonymous messaging; instead, they are all about protecting your communications.
WhatsApp will badger you for access to your Contacts list, much like other messengers do. Without doing so, you can still read and respond to messages but cannot start new Chats or Group Chats. With certain limitations, Telegram is usable, while Signal allows you to manually type a number to communicate someone. To its credit, WhatsApp uses cryptographic hashes rather than keeping phone numbers on its servers to safeguard the privacy of your contacts list, which appears to be something it does quite well. After being stuck in a loop by the nag screen, which made the app unusable, I eventually gave up and allowed the app access to my Contacts.
With WhatsApp’s block controls, the popup nagging for your contacts list, the home screen, and a spam image
Them’s really challenging to use WhatsApp without giving it access to your contracts. Thankfully, you can restrict users.
You’ll probably find that every person you’ve ever dealt with uses WhatsApp if, like me, you’ve had the same phone number for 15 years. Considering my experiences with Telegram and Signal, it was shocking. Although both of those applications have seen tremendous growth in recent years, WhatsApp still reigns supreme.
I will admit that I was happy. But as I soon realized that WhatsApp was also home to ex-partners, previous OKCupid dates, former supervisors and coworkers, as well as a litany of other individuals I’d never planned on speaking with again, my excitement swiftly changed to uneasiness. Thankfully, WhatsApp lets you block anyone who messages you (and report spam bots, which are common). You can also block someone in advance by going to Settings > Privacy > Blocked Contacts.
Even seasoned users of WhatsApp would benefit from returning to the Settings, since the service has implemented some significant behind-the-scenes modifications. For instance, from the Accounts section, you can change the phone number associated with your account or enable multi-factor authentication. Although you can safeguard your backups using E2EE in the Chat Backup section of the Talks settings, WhatsApp nevertheless urges users to avoid backing up their chats to iCloud.
WhatsApp Groups and Chats
WhatsApp arranges discussions in cartoon speech bubbles, with your posts on the right and recipients on the left, similar to most messaging services. From the Settings page, you can choose whether to receive read receipts and modify the Chat background.
Three images: a back-and-forth WhatsApp conversation in the first, a dog and cat photo in the middle with the option to only display it once, and a menu of potential message attachments in the third.
WhatsApp chats are a common occurrence.
It’s simple to add images, videos, and brief audio snippets to your chat using the buttons next to the bottom text box. Additionally, you can share contacts, send files (up to 2GB), and add a GPS location to your message. The three-dot menu provides a list of all the shared material you have in a given Chat.
On Android, tapping the smiling face symbol brings up a choice of emoji, reaction GIFs, andâ€”most importantlyâ€”unexpectedly WhatsApp’s large selection of static and animated stickers. You may look through the stickers you’ve stored, add new ones, and download applications that add new stickers. While Signal has created a much livelier community, competing apps are unable to guarantee the anonymity of their stickers. Additionally, WhatsApp lacks the live filters and augmented reality memoji seen in Apple Messages.
A contact list, a broadcast message sent to multiple recipients, and the WhatsApp sticker menu are all displayed in the next three images.
Similar to BCC communications are broadcasts. There are many wonderful stickers available on WhatsApp.
There are a few additional message types. Instagram Reels inspired Statuses, which enable you make quick films that disappear after 24 hours. Broadcasts, which you can access via the three-dot menu, are essentially blind carbon-copy communications that let you have one-on-one chats with many different people at once. It comes in helpful for things like Christmas messages and keeps strangers out of awkward reply-all discussions. Although they can be mistaken for Group Chats, broadcasts have a 256-person maximum and are easily reused because they are kept as lists.
Instead of embracing capabilities like Broadcasts and Statuses, Signal has chosen to concentrate on secure group and one-on-one phone, video, and text communications. While this is going on, Telegram has also launched a number of other features, including community groups, public and private blogs, and live broadcasting a la Twitch. The cost of Telegram’s expansion is that although it has been at the center of major world events, it has also served as a sanctuary for disinformation and fringe organizations. WhatsApp hinted at a future Communities feature in April 2022, which might make it a serious rival to Telegram’s hybrid social messaging platform.
In WhatsApp, creating groups is simple. You choose the individuals from your contacts, give the group a name, and you’re all set to begin messaging. The group’s administrator is always the person who created it, but they can always designate other group members as administrators. Administrators can export a QR code or a shareable link that other invitees can use to join the group, or they can manually add new members after the fact. I like that you can also set a timer for the duration of each group’s messages. Similar in scope to Signal, WhatsApp also includes several additional useful settings, such as the ability to restrict posts to specific members. Although Telegram does not use E2EE for any of its group communications, it does provide you far more precise control over group permissions.
group creation, a group call, and a group chat with an active group call notification are all displayed in three different graphics.
You may communicate with a group of pals via text, voice, and video chat using groups.
WhatsApp may be used for buying and corresponding with brands and businesses in addition to conversing with friends. I didn’t test these services, but one of our employees at Soft360 who travels a lot said that in some places, communicating with businesses using WhatsApp is rather frequent. Instead of using email, businesses frequently utilize WhatsApp to stay in touch with their clients, sending them promotions or just corresponding with them during orders and deliveries.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that talks with brands do not utilise E2EE, which means that Meta or other people may be listening in and picking up information. In the US, WhatsApp also accepts cryptocurrency payments, but you first need to register for an account with a particular cryptocurrency service. Though I did not test them, Signal and Telegram have capabilities that are comparable.
I was astonished by how little WhatsApp has changed since I last used it while writing this review. Even WhatsApp’s website has outdated phone models, including ones from the now-defunct Windows Phone operating system. The competition hasn’t sat back and relaxed. The social media components of Telegram’s offering have been considerably enlarged, transforming its chat platform into a sort of community space. While this is going on, Signal has experienced a number of substantial quality-of-life enhancements as well as significantly improved group chat and video call experiences. After the COVID-19 pandemic, platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Discord, and others have become the standard for video chat competition.
Given its popularity outside of the US and potential “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, WhatsApp might feel no need to adapt to US-centric demands. However, it has the appearance and feel of an outdated program.
Voice and video chat on WhatsApp
A new voice or video call can be made from any Chat or Group Chat. After that, your calls are recorded for later access in the Calls area of the main screen. The documentation for WhatsApp states that video calls can accommodate up to 32 participants.
Three images: a call alert, a two-person call in progress, and a minimized call window atop the chat window.
I called Michael Muchmore, a colleague, during my testing, and he responded from his computer. Although I have a strong suspicion that the results may vary depending on your network setup and hardware, the sound and visual quality were astonishingly good.
In that all Group members can see when a call has begun and can then join and leave at their discretion, group calls are comparable to Discord. Discord’s strategy, which has specific channels for video conversations, is still my preference.
Including an asterisk
WhatsApp is a dependable messaging service that encrypts all Chats and Group Chats end-to-end by default. It provides individuals and organizations with a fantastic opportunity to stay in touch with just about everyone. However, it hasn’t kept up with the advances that Telegram, Discord, Twitch, and other social media platforms have made to the social web.
WhatsApp is a little tricky in terms of security and privacy. Your message logs may be subject to monitoring if your backups are improperly configured. Additionally, all of your interactions with actual people use E2EE, but not with businesses.
So what does the asterisk mean? We have concerns and questions about the future of the app’s privacy and security because WhatsApp is owned by Meta. Even while not all of its messaging platforms employ E2EE as readily as WhatsApp, Meta already obtains a significant amount of personal information about every user of the service. Furthermore, it’s difficult to believe Meta would give up on the sizable WhatsApp user base given how eager the firm has always been to gather customer data for ad targeting.
WhatsApp is positioned in the center of the list of the most widely used encrypted messaging services. Use Editors’ Choice winner Signal if you want to encrypt your discussions. It has an unrivaled history as a secure messenger. Even if WhatsApp has drawbacks, you probably won’t need to persuade anyone to use it.