While I understand the desire not to cross the streams, I think this change is going to lose Signal a lot of potential users and I’ll probably be one of them because I have no reason to keep it if it’s not in my critical path for day-to-day messaging.
When I first installed Signal, I was by no means an early adopter but there was only one other person in my contact list who used it. I just checked, and that number’s up to 20 or so, which is great! But out of those 20 or so people, the few I talk to regularly? I talk to them on WhatsApp, or Telegram, because that’s where the conversations are already.
I would suggest that the messaging app space is sufficiently saturated - and suffers enough from network effects - that you’re unlikely to regularly use Signal unless you specifically want its specific set of privacy guarantees for your conversations.
There are all sorts of technical and practical reasons why that arguably shouldn’t be the case, but it doesn’t change the way people use their apps.
Unfortunately, I think this a case where there’s a strong technical justification for the change, but the result will still be a significant net loss for Signal and for secure messaging. I hope they can change course.
For me, it’s been easy to get people (on Android) to use Signal, because it was a drop-in replacement for their SMS app. They could just text as usual, without worrying about using a different messenger for different people, and I’d get Signal messages from them rather than SMS. In contrast, every iOS user I’ve ever convinced to install Signal has uninstalled it.
I’m afraid Signal is going to lose a lot of casual users, which in turn is going to reduce its value to all users. With new contacts, I’d honestly rather use Matrix, since Signal onboarding isn’t really much easier now.
I’m curious why you chose to use it as your default SMS application. That seems to have benefits only if you want to send encrypted SMS messages to other people, but if both of you have Signal installed (which is required for them to be able to decrypt these text messages) then why would you send an SMS and not a Signal message?
If you have Signal installed as your default SMS application, then you don’t have to know in advance if the person you’re trying to message has Signal. You just go to send them an SMS, and the compose box will make it clear whether they are on Signal or not. You can then go ahead with an unencrypted SMS if they’re not and if you decide you don’t need to care about encryption for that conversation. There’s no “encrypted SMS” in Signal - it either sends unencrypted SMS or Signal messages, and lets you know which messages are which.
I do this too. Signal will lose a lot of people I’ve convinced to switch, when they make this change.
Interesting, thanks. I guess I’m in a minority, since I basically never send SMS. If someone is on Signal, I’ll use that, otherwise they get an email. SMS is, to me, basically a unidirectional notification protocol, not a communications channel. Anything that expects me to reply to an SMS annoys me enormously.
Part of this attitude comes from the fact that UK mobile operators have historically price gouged for SMS to an insane degree. I remember working out that SMS cost about £500/MB to send - they were more expensive than a POTS fax to antarctica per word. They still charge per SMS for pre-pay customers, though people on contracts often have an unlimited number of them. I’m not sure what I am paying now, but until recently I paid the same amount for one SMS as for 2 MB of data. You need a huge amount of protocol overhead for anything else to be more expensive than SMS on the phone at that price.
Yeah, the US is different. Everyone uses SMS here, as the lowest common denominator of messengers. It’s the only one you can be sure someone has, outside of friend groups or social circles that have settled on something else.
This is the case in Sweden too, from what I can see.
The interesting thing here for me is the explanation of why this option existed at all. It always seemed weird to me that I could use Signal as my SMS app and I had no desire to do so. The history of the app’s evolution from TextSecure puts it in a context that makes sense. I’ve used QKSMS as my SMS app since my first Android phone. There are enough other options that it isn’t a loss to not be able to use Signal.
Do you worry at all about QKSMS being unmaintained? Or does it seem basically ‘finished’ to you?
It’s been forked by the /e/ foundation as the default messenger for /e/ OS; I tried building their source and eventually got it to compile, but it crashed on startup.
I hadn’t noticed, to be honest. It had all of the features that I wanted some years ago. If there’s a maintained version then I’ll switch to that.
Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any official builds of the /e/ version.
https://github.com/signalapp/Signal-Android/issues/12517 Mega-issue thread where people try to argue for SMS.
There are good technical reasons, particularly the effort into supporting MMS and the difficulty with the coming RCS rollout, for dropping SMS messaging in Signal.
But it’s going to mean I talk to maybe 1 person on signal. Instead of a couple dozen E2EE streams, I’ll get down to 1. I’d even need to stand up a Zulip server or something to talk to other people, they’ll just stop using Signal entirely!
This post on the forum (linked from the above mega-issue thread) discusses the technical reasons (which all make a whole lot of sense) https://community.signalusers.org/t/signal-blog-removing-sms-support-from-signal-android-soon/47954/56
I never cared for this feature. The last SMS I have sent was maybe 3 or 4 years ago when my plane was late and I had no data connectivity while abroad and had to contact my wife.
Is SMS really still so popular in the US? Here it is WhatsApp and some signal, but no one uses SMS any more
It is frustratingly common, still. I switched a neighbor group over to Signal just last month after almost a year of saying “We’d know who people are on these text threads if we used something better than SMS, like Signal.”
One of my best friends will have SMS yanked from his cold, dead hands. Granted, we’re both using Google Messages so it’s actually going over RCS now. He’s literally the one technically-inclined person I still use SMS-like to contact. He’s got his reasons, mostly linked devices and other lower-tech integrations with SMS (notably, his car’s infotainment system, which doesn’t work with anything but SMS).
Most of my text communication with friends is through Facebook Messenger, unfortunately.
current: E2EE Signal + plaintext SMS in one app
Future: E2EE Signal, and then E2EE RCS in a separate app.
Its a pain that this “needs” to be done as google are holding the RCS reins very tightly instead of opening it up to other apps, but until that happens, Signal dropping SMS support will increase security overall.
Their goal is that you wouldn’t use Signal for SMS regardless!
I hope this also means they remove the SMS/phone# requirement to sign up, thereby nullifying much of the anonymity of using the service.