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WhatsApp owned by Facebook, the world’s most popular instant messaging platform, went dark along with Instagram and Messenger on Monday, locking out billions of users and highlighting the need for other options.
The app, which has around two billion monthly active users, was down for more than seven hours, a record Facebook engineers put down to a problem with their domain name server. A DNS is the first step in reaching any site on the Internet.
“At least the unprecedented length of the outage should be taken as an indication that the problem was beyond a simple failure of the DNS service,” said Angelique Medina, director of product marketing at Cisco’s own research firm ThousandEyes, in her analysis of the problem.
“Something significant happened that not only disabled their internal DNS service, but also prevented a sophisticated network operations team supporting the busiest website on the Internet from resolving the problem in a short amount of time.”
WhatsApp has grown enormously in popularity since its inception in 2009 by former Yahoo employees Jan Koum and Brian Acton thanks to its easy-to-use user interface and ad-free service. Facebook bought the messaging app for $ 19 billion in 2014.
WhatsApp sends around 100 billion messages every day, and the platform has proven useful during the pandemic, allowing users to communicate with friends and family during movement restrictions. In the Middle East alone, the user base has grown from under 20 million a decade ago to over 200 million today.
With its large size and range, any interruption to WhatsApp will always cause problems. But it’s not the only app that offers group chats and encrypted messages.
WeChat, also known as Weixin and owned by China’s Tencent Holdings, is the third most popular instant messaging app with approximately 1.24 billion users, according to Statista. The most notable feature is Shake, which asks you to do just that: shake your phone and when someone else shakes theirs too, you’ll get a notification and start chatting. Tencent also promotes the security of WeChat, and users can make group calls with up to nine people.
Microsoft-owned Skype has been in the game for 18 years and was the first choice until the explosion of social media apps, including Zoom and Microsoft’s own sister platform Teams. Nonetheless, Skype remains popular with around 300 million users of its free video calls around the world.
Snapchat is known for its message disappearing feature that was eventually copied by other platforms including Facebook. Its snappy way of sharing content has become a staple along with its Lenses feature that integrates augmented reality into the experience. Users can also play games and use the map feature to find out what’s happening elsewhere in the world.
Viber, owned by the Japanese company Rakuten, is the second most popular messaging app in Russia. It reported a 400 percent increase in user numbers in the Asia-Pacific region last year; worldwide there are almost 1.2 billion. It offers group video calls for up to 20 participants, group chats for up to 250 people, and free international calls. Users can also join international public communities.
Keybase, owned by Zoom Technologies, uses public key cryptography on its platform – a process that uses two keys to keep data encryption and decryption secure. Keybase enables users to connect with communities from other platforms, including Twitter and Reddit. For sensitive messages or “secrets” as Keybase calls them, you can set a timer so that they not only disappear, but explode.
What’s better than not being able to send messages because a service is down? Send messages even when you are offline. That’s the suggestion that Bridgefy from Mexico puts on the table – all you need is a bluetooth connection. You can text messages to people within 100 meters and the messages will be encrypted, but only with other Bridgefy users.
Canadian-owned Kik is one of the simpler messaging apps out there. What sets it apart are its bots: chat with them for everything from news and fashion tips to quizzes. You can even invite one of his bots to join a group to play games with friends.
“Speak freely, say hello to privacy and share without uncertainty” is the motto of the American non-profit Signal Technology Foundation, which attracted the attention of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and former CIA employee Edward Snowden. Signal does not allow advertising, affiliate marketing, or ad tracking. It’s not tied to any big tech company, and its developer relies on donations to keep the service up and running.
Ranked third on CNBC’s Disrupter 50 list in 2021, Discord encourages users to join communities devoted to gaming or the arts, for example. It’s one of the more colorful platforms in the world of messaging apps, and it allows users to easily organize their own communities. In March, Microsoft offered $ 10 billion to purchase the app, among “many offers” the company received, Discord CEO Jason Citron said at the time.
No list of communication platforms would be complete without Zoom. The California-based company became famous during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when millions of people around the world began to work from home. Daily active users of the platform rose 335 percent by mid-2020, according to the company, and achieved its first revenue of $ 1 billion in the second quarter of this year.
Updated: October 6, 2021, 1:30 p.m.