With purchase after purchase, milestone surpassed after milestone surpassed, Facebook continues its slow suffocation of the internet. You, a thinking person who values your privacy and sees the Mark Zuckerberg-helmed behemoth as complicit in an array of real-world suffering, want out.
But with Facebook operating the world’s largest messaging apps — the company owns both Instagram and WhatsApp in addition to the familiar, now ominous shade of blue that accompanies Messenger — many messaging options of the digital age correctly feel tainted. Thankfully, there are plenty of non-Facebook-owned ways to communicate with friends and family that are easy, secure, private, and reliable.
Going Facebook-free has never been easier. Here are some non-Facebook-owned messaging options to get you started.
The best messaging apps
Signal is great in all the ways Facebook isn’t, and then some.
The free messaging app works on Android and iOS, and on both Macs and PCs. You can send written messages, make voice and video calls, send voice memos, and have massive group chats — just like you would on Apple’s iMessage.
Signal is an independent nonprofit, and it’s recommended by experts. It stores virtually no information about its users, and all your communication sent via the app is end-to-end encrypted. Even when law enforcement does come knocking, Signal claims it has practically nothing on its users to turn over.
“We can’t read your messages or listen to your calls, and no one else can either,” Signal explains on its website. “There are no ads, no affiliate marketers, and no creepy tracking in Signal.”
Using the app is intuitive. If you can use WhatsApp or Messenger, you’ll have no trouble using Signal. So give it a try, and relegate Facebook to its rightful place — that of the bad taste in your mouth that you’re currently in the process of washing out.
Apple’s iMessage is the greatest messaging app you never realized you were already using.
The app, native to Mac devices, lets you send text-based messages, videos, GIFs, and voice memos. If you’re communicating with another Mac user, and you see that blue bubble (as opposed to a green bubble), your messages are default end-to-end encrypted — putting Facebook’s Messenger to shame.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to iMessage. For starters, unlike Signal, it requires an Apple device. What’s more, even if you do have an iPhone or iPad, messages sent to Android-sporting friends and family via iMessage are traditional SMS text messages — this means they’re not encrypted.
Overall, it’s a great app. It’s just a bummer that it’s limited to Mac.
The likely better than Facebook
When looking for an alternative to Facebook, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re trying to rid yourself of that particular scourge. If your privacy is the driving factor (or any factor, really), then you’re best sticking with the options listed above. However, if your concern lies not with matters of privacy, but is instead, say, a reaction to Facebook’s disastrous effect on civil rights, these are some options you might want to consider.
3. Google Duo
Google may not be the most privacy-friendly company, but it does make products that work. Google Duo is one such app, available on both iOS and Android, that lets you make video calls with multiple participants.
Like Signal video calls, Duo calls are end-to-end encrypted by default, which means the content of the calls is protected from prying eyes and ears. Unlike Signal, however, the app likely collects a ton of metadata on its users. The Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit working to keep the internet “open and accessible to all,” notes in its Privacy Not Included guide that “Google collects information on users that includes name, birthday, gender, phone number, email, location, contacts you add, and apps you use.”
In the end, you might as well use Signal. However, Duo is still a better option than Facebook.
Yes, Zoom. Sure, the video-call app has its share of problems. However, the company behind the app promises it’s working to solve them.
Available on desktop and both iOS and Android, the conferencing app skyrocketed to popularity as the coronavirus pandemic forced people to stay inside for months on end. While the app initially presented serious privacy concerns, Zoom has taken real and serious steps to address them.
Specifically, Zoom will offer all users end-to-end encryption. However, like with Facebook Messenger, the feature is not enabled by default. Also, while there is free version of the app, to get the full benefits you have to pay up — $14.99 a month for the “pro” version. However, at least with Zoom the exchange is clear: You give the company money, and it gives you a service.
So delete your Facebook account, delete your Instagram account, delete your WhatsApp account, and start living that Facebook-free life. There are other options out there, all you have to do is use them.