Since Facebook Owns WhatsApp, Here Are 5 Alternative Messaging Services

You shouldn’t feel forced to relinquish your messaging data to Facebook.


Facebook stunned the tech world last week when it scooped up the messaging application WhatsApp for $19 billion.

The deal was largely heralded as a win for both sides: Facebook gained a much-needed service it hasn’t yet delivered on, and the small startup cashed in big time. But the downside of the acquisition fell heavily on the shoulders of users—those 450 million people whose private data is now in the hands of Facebook.

If you’re a WhatsApp user who wants to break up with Facebook, or someone looking for a great new messaging application, we’ve put together a list of mobile messaging apps you should try.


Almost five million people signed up for Telegram after Facebook bought WhatsApp. As a messaging service, it is sleek and easy to use.

Telegram, which is built by a Berlin-based nonprofit, is cloud-based and heavily encrypted so users can use several devices to access their messages and documents including both mobile and desktop. Thecompany also claims Telegram is a free service that will remain so in the future, meaning no advertisements or subscription fees will ever be levied on customers.

Telegram is available on iOS and Android. Developers can access and implement the app’s API through Telegram’s open source code.


Snapchat’s sophisticated competitor Wickr brings government-strength security and encryption to your messages. Wickr lets you send self-destructing messages, documents, photos, videos and voice calls that disappear after a select amount of time.

Wickr is entirely anonymous, as the application doesn’t ask for any of your personal information. Wickr is also exceeds top secret and HIPAA compliance, so people in medical, law enforcement, and journalism fields can feel confident using Wickr for secure messaging knowing it can’t be traced or reproduced.

Wickr is available on iOS and Android.


Line is one of the most popular messaging services on the market for free voice and video calling.

The app is massively popular internationally, especially in Asia, and it finally entered the U.S. market earlier this year. Line is more than just a simple messaging application—it has branched out to offer in-app games and a variety of standalone apps like Line Camera and Line Tools. While the app is free, additional services like stickers and games provide revenue for the company. In the first quarter of 2013, Line made $17 million off sticker sales alone.

Line is available on iOSAndroid,Windows Phone, and Blackberry.


Kik is the world’s first messaging application with a built-in browser. The application boasts over 100 million users, a majority coming from North America and Western Europe.

Kik has over 30 HTML5 experiences built into the application for sharing pictures, videos and gaming, according to the company, and recently launched the in-app browser. Kik has also created open source tools to help developers build and optimize their websites for mobile.

Kik is available on iOSAndroidWindows Phone, and BlackBerry.


Tango, like Line, offers an all-inclusive social app with games, music, video, and voice and text messaging. The San Francisco-based company says the app has 150 million users.

Because of the additional features that extend beyond voice calling and messaging, users of more traditional messaging services like WhatsApp may find the interface a bit confusing, but users can personalize their profiles to find and make friends or discover people you may know nearby.

Tango is available on iOSAndroidand Windows Phone.

Breaking Up Is Hard

It’s inconvenient to switch to an entirely new messaging service, especially if all your friends are dedicated to one app. But you shouldn’t feel forced to turn over your data to Facebook either. All these applications provide messaging services that rival WhatsApp, without the commitment to Facebook services, meaning you’re not turning over your mobile phone book and payment information to the social network in exchange for an efficient messaging service.

Lead image by Susan NYC via Flickr. All other images via app stores. 

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Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft disclose new data about number of NSA requests received


FILE PHOTO  NSA Compiles Massive Database Of Private Phone Calls

FacebookLinkedInYahooGoogle, and Microsoft have all released new data about the national security requests they’ve received. Under new rules from the US government, each company is now allowed to provide how many requests for member data it’s received, the number of accounts impacted, and the percentage that they respond to.

With regards to Facebook, it says that within the last six months of 2012, only a “small fraction” of one percent of its users were the target of any government data requests, national security-related or otherwise. In the first half of 2013, the company again said that the total volume of requests was a small fraction of one percent.

Unknown 1 730x105 Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft disclose new data about number of NSA requests received

In LinkedIn’s case, it has updated its transparency report to indicate that for the first six months of 2013, the professional social network company received “between 0 and 249″ national security-related requests.

Microsoft says that during the same time period, it received “fewer than 1,000″ FISA orders that sought the disclosure of customer content, which related to between 15,000 and 15,999 accounts. It stresses that this doesn’t necessarily mean more than 15,000 accounts were covered by the government requests though. Additionally, the company received fewer than 1,000 FISA orders for non-content data only, requesting information relating to fewer than 1,000 accounts. Lastly, Microsoft states it has received fewer than 1,000 National Security Letters covering fewer than 1,000 accounts.

Yahoo has also updated the global transparency report it launched back in 2013, showing that the number of accounts requested by governments amounted to less than “one one-hundredth of one percent” of its worldwide user base for the reporting period.

Screen Shot 2014 02 03 at 10.44.56 AM Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft disclose new data about number of NSA requests received

Not to be outdone, Google has also released its own data that shows that it has received less than 1,000 requests for national security or content from governments from January 2009 to June 2013. It has published the complete table below showing a breakdown of requests and the number of users and accounts affected.

Screen Shot 2014 02 03 at 9.59.12 AM 730x700 Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft disclose new data about number of NSA requests received

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs, says that the US government has agreed to allow companies to share this information, but only that it can be reported “in bands of a thousand”. What’s more, while the aggregate FISA data covers a six month period, it can only be published six months after the reporting period.

Last year, after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden published details about the US agency’s surveillance program “Prism”, tech companies immediatelywent on the defensive to deny accusations that they had provided server access to the government. Some went to court to get the government’s permission to help release some data to help them become more transparent, but were denied.

However, last week, President Obama’s administration decided to relax some rules as it seeks to reform the way it conducts surveillance around the world. Naturally, because of this action, lawsuits from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook have been dropped, but comes with a stipulation: tech companies are prohibited from revealing information about government requests for two years.

US Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at the time: “Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data addresses an important area of concern to communications providers and the public.” However, not everyone shares in the sentiment — the New York Times saysprivacy advocates fear this new rule will prevent the public from knowing if their government is spying on an email platform or chat service.

Since revelations about Prism were made public, tech companies like Google andMicrosoft have added new features and protocols to better protect user data from the NSA.

All of the companies have said they will be updating their transparency reports every six months so the public is aware of any government activity on its servers, but that it will also comply with the NSA rules that restrict when specific data can be revealed.

Photo credit: NSA via Getty Images

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A Tale Of Two ‘Papers’

by  (@jordanrcrook)

A Tale Of Two ‘Papers’

Here’s something that most people forget about the story of David and Goliath: both sides were at war. Facebook, our very own Goliath, and FiftyThree, the David-size company responsible for a design app called Paper, are well aware of this.

Until today, Paper by FiftyThree was the first app shown when you search for “Paper” in the iPad App Store. But Facebook’s new reader app, also named Paper, may usurp that spot very soon.

Facebook’s Paper app was announced last Thursday, but launched on the App Store just this morning. FiftyThree responded with their own blog post, explaining that after communicating with Facebook and asking that the name of the new app be changed, the social network refused.

“We reached out to Facebook about the confusion their app was creating, and they apologized for not contacting us sooner. But an earnest apology should come with a remedy,” reads the blog post, penned by CEO and co-founder Georg Petschnigg.

We reached out to Facebook as well, but the social network declined to comment.

Legally, the situation is complicated. As it stands now, no one lays claim to the term “Paper” on its own, as trademark lawyer Victor Cardona confirmed. So technically, Facebook hasn’t done anything wrong.

The trademark owned by FiftyThree is “Paper by FiftyThree,” which was filed for in May of 2012, and passed in December of the same year. Though FiftyThree declined to comment on legal matters with its trademark, Cardona (who is a partner at HRFM lawfirm) believes that the company chose to pair “Paper” with “by FiftyThree” so that it could slide a generic term like Paper through the process.

Cardona also added that in certain situations, trademarks are use-based. This means that “just by using a mark in a particular field, you’ve got rights,” said Cardona. “Some are state-based and some are federal-based, but if I start using a mark before you in the same area of goods or services, I’ve got rights to the mark over you.”

When asked if FiftyThree would move forward legally, Petschnigg simply said that FiftyThree is “keeping options open.” However, he did express that trademarks are use-based, and that Paper is recognizable as a FiftyThree brand, which hints that the company is certainly considering taking this one to court.

If such a scenario arises, Cardona believes that FiftyThree “has a good shot.”

According to Petschnigg, Fifty-Three filed an application to trademark the term “Paper” on its own, but would not disclose the timeline. USPTO applications show up in search almost immediately, and neither Cardona nor I could find FiftyThree’s application for just “Paper”. In other words, it’s entirely possible that Fifty-Three filed for the term “Paper” in the past five days, after hearing about Facebook’s new app name.

Trademark lawyer and expert, Roberto Ledesma, also believes that FiftyThree has a valid infringement case against Facebook.

“It really will come down to how many third-party Paper marks are out there in this industry, and whether or not FiftyThree’s mark has been made weaker by other third-party marks,” said Ledesma. “But Facebook should have been aware of FiftyThree’s prior trademark rights.”

But setting legalese aside, is Facebook right or wrong?

After all, Facebook has all the resources in the world, both financially and creatively, to come up with an original and simple name. Obviously, Paper by Facebook is an important app to the company — lately Facebook has been more focused on separating out services into stand-alone apps, and Reader just may be the one to replace Facebook altogether — so you’d think originality would be a top priority.

So why take a name from an app developer that claims to have strong ties to Facebook?

Here’s what the blog post said about it:

On a personal level we have many ties to Facebook. Many friends, former students and colleagues are doing good work at Facebook. One of Facebook’s board members is an investor in FiftyThree. We’re a Facebook developer, and Paper supports sharing to Facebook where close to 500,000 original pages have been shared. Connections run deep.

“At this point it’s about asking Facebook to do the right thing,” Petschnigg told TechCrunch. “We’re taking a stand for creativity and believe in having a level playing field when it comes to people building their brands and their companies.”

The apps don’t directly compete in terms of utility, so there’s certainly no hostility between the two companies. Which is why an explanation from Facebook seems even more warranted.

But is it?

Facebook has never been apologetic about the fact that its new products aren’t “original.” When Snapchat posed a threat, Facebook launched Poke, a shameless clone. Zuckerberg recentlyadmitted was a joke, but I bet Fifty-Three isn’t laughing today. And I bet Evan Spiegel didn’t laugh at Poke.

When Instagram started consuming the minds and thumbs of social media addicts, Zuck bought it.For $1 billion. Most recently, Zuck was reported to offer Snapchat a $3B acquisition after seeing the photo-sharing app’s rapid growth over the past two years.

Even the Paper app isn’t original. It’s just a rip-off of Flipboard and Pulse and other content curation services.

Ten years after the social network revolutionized the way we communicate and connect on the internet, Facebook is anything but original. And that’s not really a problem.

Some of the most successful companies in the world have piggy-backed off of the innovations of others, elevating an already-discovered technology to a more user-friendly place. Just look at Apple.

Does this make Facebook more lovable? No. Does it grow our respect for the social network as an innovator and world-changer? Certainly not. But that’s what happens when you grow up.

Facebook is no longer the mom-and-pop bakery where you get your morning coffee, nor is it the super private social network we used to connect with our college friends. Facebook is Wal-Mart. Facebook is Exxon. Facebook is a business, and a great one at that.

And no matter how much it sucks for Fifty-Three, who will forevermore deal with confusion over the name of their first-born product, Facebook really doesn’t care if their new app disrupts some startup’s business.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this story either.

Like the last times, we’ll make a big fuss and then forget. Zuck will save the internet, or crush it with mobile ad revenues, or do something else awesomely Zuck-like, and it won’t matter who was crushed along the way.

It’s just good business.

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Report: Teens love Instagram, but aren’t abandoning Facebook


social media

photo: Shutterstock / noporn

SUMMARY: Analysis of social media activity between Q2 and Q4 of 2013 show that Instagram and mobile are growing rapidly, but Facebook rules the roost — and teens aren’t really leaving it quite yet. Social media diversity, it seems, is key.

Throughout the bulk of 2013, a few key speculation narratives about the growth of social media kept popping up on every tech news website: Instagram’s big boom, mobile’s rise in social, and Facebook’s “teen problem.” According to GlobalWebIndex’s Social Report, released on Tuesday to the public by way of TechCrunch, most of those trends are accurate: Mobile and Instagram are both seeing major growth, but Facebook’s issues with teen adoption remain unsubstantiated.

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter spent a lot of time (and continue to work on) optimizing their platforms for mobile, and it appears to be paying off. According to GWI, mobile access to social media sites actually overtook traditional PC access in Q4 of 2013, as 66 percent of users accessed their social networks by mobile compared to 64 percent by computer. However, microblogging sites — which include Twitter and Tumblr — are apparently best reserved for the tablet, dominating over both traditional computers and mobile for usage.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 08.31.17

No matter what the device, Facebook remains top dog across the board overall – account ownership, active usage and visit frequency, across all regions — although it has seen minor decline as other social networks gain mindshare. The key winner in this year’s new class of social networks is Instagram: A nearly 25% rise in active users betwen Q2 and Q4 of 2013 bring the estimated total of active users on the website to more than 90 million. It’s also popular for the kids, too, as teens represent the dominant demographic on the site, with a 39 percent share of active users. According to GWI, the only other social networks that can boast teens as their dominant users are Youtube and Tumblr.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 08.02.22

That said, Facebook isn’t bereft of teens the way that many media outlets have purported over the last year. Teens are increasingly frequenting newer and less popular websites, including but not limited to Instagram, Quora and Pinterest, and, as a result, more popular networks like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have all seen slight declines in their teen demographic. But GWI’s data only indicates that Facebook’s teens shrank two percentage points, leaving a rough user estimate of 34.19 million — hardly the apocalyptic numbers released last week by iStrategyLabs.

Overall, the main theme here is diversity. Users are accessing more social networks across more platforms than ever before, leading to a wider variety of social interactions happening daily. Perhaps the most telling piece of GWI’s data is that users, by and large, like to be social multitaskers — we are transitioning from commitment to just one platform to a diet of many different kinds of social media depending on our mood. The idea that wholesale abandonment will occur with no warning isn’t holding water as well as it used to, and our perspectives should adjust accordingly.

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Facebook Is Still Copying Twitter—This Time With Its ‘Trending’ Feature

Maybe a character-length limit is next.


Today Facebook announced “Trending,” a new feature that puts a list of trending topics in the top right corner of the News Feed. The company began testing this featurelast fall, and is now rolling it out to a larger audience.

Users in the U.S., UK, India and Australia will begin to see the list of trending topics accompanied by a brief explanation of why they are trending. You can then select any headline to see on-topic posts from people or pages, and those you are connected with will rank higher in the feed.

You may already be familiar with the trending topic feature on Twitter. Trending topics appear as links to the left of Twitter timelines on desktop and under the “Discover” tab on mobile, and when clicked, users can view a timeline of tweets containing the trending word or phrase.

Similar to Twitter, Facebook’s trends are reflective of what’s being talked about on the service and are constantly updating. “Trending” is only available on desktop for now.

This update is the latest in a slew of Twitter features Facebook has implemented in the past. The social network also recently introduced hashtags and embeddable posts, two favored features on Twitter.

Facebook Backdoor Gives Clues To Private Email Addresses

by Adam Tanner, Contributor

If you forget your Facebook profile name, you can enter your name, email or phone number into a page called Find Your Account to find your Facebook profile and some alternative email addresses, which are partially obscured such as j*******

The same technique works if you type in other people’s details. Then Facebook can act as a Caller ID and produce a photo, name or clues about a private email. That could help if someone telephones but does not leave a message, or if you want to find a private email address from a company email.

As a test I looked up Gary King, one of two dozen who hold Harvard’s prestigious title of University Professor. His email address is listed on his public webpage. A search of Find Your Account leads to his Facebook profile photo and revealing clues to his alternative email addresses.

I repeated the process for several other people. It did not find everyone– perhaps the telephone numbers or email addresses were not linked with Facebook — but in many cases it did, including for a well-known private detective in Las Vegas whose photo I was able to see.

“This is an interesting case where a feature aimed at giving users a better service actually exposes their private data,” said Michael Bar-Sinai, a software engineer at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science where King serves as director.

He pointed out his privacy settings allowed only friends of friends – not everyone – to look him up with his email address or his phone number. Yet a search finds his photo, name and partial email addresses.

In many cases, “Find Your Address” would not reveal any startling information. However, often a little bit of personal information here and there allows outsiders to gain a far 


more intimate portrait of us than we imagine. One chapter in my upcoming book tries to find a woman whose thumbnail-size image is posted on a Yelppage. Tiny clues in obscure places help reveal her double life on the steamier side of the Internet.

Asked about the information shown by Find Your Account, a Facebook spokesman who did not want to be named said: “Certain information on Facebook—such as your name, profile photo, and networks (if you choose to add any)—is treated as public because it plays a crucial role in helping your friends and family connect with you. In this case, showing a profile photo helps people avoid accidentally initiating a password reset for the wrong account.”

This page describes what Facebook considers public information. Users can adjust their privacy settings with details given here to mask the name and photo from being visible in the password recovery process.

“If you use the password recovery feature to search for someone who has modified these settings such that you can’t look them up using this information, you will see only ‘Facebook User’ and will not be able to view their name, profile photo, or networks,” the spokesman said.

Still, the partial email address remains visible. So using his phone number, I looked up the spokesman via Find Your Account. His name and photo were not given, but I could easily guess what his private Gmail address is from the partially masked information. It showed the first letter of his first name, stars, and the last letter of his uncommon surname followed by

“We show obscured email addresses in the password reset flow because our experience with helping many people recover their accounts over the years suggests that this information is important for helping people find the account recovery message we send,” he said. “Many people have multiple email addresses and don’t always remember which one is registered with Facebook.”

In the case of Professor King, his photo is available elsewhere and he posts his university email on his web page. His private email addresses – for which Facebook provided some clues — would be harder to locate. But he is relaxed about this information being visible.

King cited outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as someone who has made his email address public and referred to that fact in interviews. Ballmer “said he does the same and has no problems.  I get a lot of email, but just like he said, people tend to be respectful,” King said. “I sign out of every automated mailing, which cuts things down some.”

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Facebook Paper expected to soon deliver news on mobile

The social network is reportedly weeks away from releasing a standalone social news reader for members on mobile devices.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to deliver your news. (Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Facebook is getting ready to launch a digital newspaper of sorts, and it’s appropriately named “Paper,” according to Recode. Paper could be delivered before the end of January, the blog reported.

The application is said to be for mobile devices and is similar in nature to the popular social news reader Flipboard, meaning it will aggregate content from a variety of sources including status updates from Facebook and articles from partner media companies.

“We do not comment on rumors and speculation,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNET.

The social network’s ambitions to become a daily destination for your news-reading attention have been made plain to the world for some time. In 2013, the company made a number of changes to stress its connection to what’s happening in the world right now. And, most recently, Facebook made a semi-controversial alteration to the formula behind News Feed to emphasize news articles over memes.

If real, Paper will need to offer the social network’s members something more compelling than Flipboard and other incumbents in the digital news reading space, as well as an experience superior to the Facebook social readers of yore, which were delivered by third-party publishers, such as The Washington Post. Facebook has also proved itself a poor copycat, particularly evidenced by the failure of its Snapchat clone, Poke.

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