Signal Begins Testing Username Feature on Messaging Platforms

Signal Begins Testing Username Feature on Messaging Platforms
Signal tests a new username feature to enhance user privacy, allowing communication without sharing phone numbers, aiming for a public release in early 2024.

Signal, the encrypted messaging app known for its robust privacy features, is now testing a new username feature that will allow users to communicate without having to reveal their phone numbers. This development, currently in the pre-beta stage, represents a significant shift from Signal’s traditional reliance on phone numbers as the primary means of user identification.

The username feature aims to enhance user privacy by allowing individuals to share a username instead of their phone number. While the setup process will still require a phone number, the option to use a username for day-to-day communication could make it harder for unwanted parties to access personal contact details. This move is seen as a direct response to user demands for increased anonymity and security in digital communications.

The testing phase for this feature is taking place across multiple platforms, including Android, Desktop, and iOS. Signal’s VP of Engineering, Jim O’Leary, has outlined that this phase involves a separate app build, where users can experiment with the new feature but must be aware of potential issues such as downtime and unreliable notifications during this early stage. The company has stressed that the testing environment is designed for experimental use and not for regular communication, which could be subject to privacy risks due to the app’s developmental nature.

Signal’s president, Meredith Whittaker, has indicated that the official launch of the username feature is slated for early 2024. The initiative reflects Signal’s commitment to user privacy, distinguishing it from other messaging services that still rely on phone numbers for user identification.

The introduction of usernames is seen as a strategic move to align Signal with competing services like WhatsApp and Telegram, which either have similar features or are in the process of developing them. Despite the competitive landscape, Signal’s focus remains steadfast on enhancing user privacy and security, distinguishing it from its counterparts by not using user data for commercial purposes.

Despite the introduction of usernames, Signal will continue to require a phone number for registration, which will still serve as a unique identifier for anti-spam measures. The public release of the username feature is tentatively scheduled for early 2024, contingent on the outcomes of these tests.

Signal’s introduction of usernames is part of a broader trend among messaging services, including its rival WhatsApp, to enhance user privacy and security by allowing more control over the information users must share publicly.

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