Telegram made its debut into the world of instant messaging back in 2013 and has gradually expanded over the years, now boasting over half a million monthly active users. The cross-platform messaging application is especially popular for its privacy and encryption features. Integrating awesome features like bots, custom themes, supergroups, secret chats, and an allowance of sending files up to 1.5 GB has enabled the app to cut through the noise.
However, the app has several flaws like lack of automatic encryption, among other vulnerabilities, which may have forced you and other users to search for a look-alike alternative. This alternative must offer similar or increased privacy, default end chat encryption, and support chats for huge groups.
My favorite three apps similar to Telegram include:
- Google Hangouts
WhatsApp from Facebook now Meta is the most popular instant messaging app globally, and chances are you are among the 1.5 billion global users or a friend, relative, or someone you know is on the app. The American cross-platform was launched 13 years ago and is available on iOS Android, although there is a web version which you must link with the phone app.
The best part about the app is that it is free, so you don’t have to deal with annoying ads. You just need a stable internet connection and a profile, and you’re good to go. Users can chat one-on-one with people in their contact list or join groups with an allowance of up to 256 members.
User privacy is guaranteed with end-to-end encryption of every chat, although the technology is not foolproof and was hacked in 2019. WhatsApp allows multimedia sharing and text formatting, although vulnerable to malicious third-party GIF mounted spyware.
The free video and voice calls enable users to connect with friends and family securely, and lastly, users can back up their data on iCloud and Google Drive, which they can retrieve and restore when they lose their phones. Download WhatsApp on iOS, macOS, Android, Linux, and Android.
Viber is another free messaging platform similar to WhatsApp, with 260 million monthly active users globally. Viber gives its users the freedom to chat in text, groups, and over voice and video calls one-on-one. “Vibers” can share:
Chats are end-to-end encrypted, and there are hidden and public chats, and all of this comes at no cost to the users. However, the group chat members are limited to 250, and the video call option can only support five people, which can be pretty limiting if you have a large staff.
Rakuten Viber is owned by a Japanese multinational company that purchased the cross-platform voice-over IP for $900m in 2014. The app is especially popular with young users due to group chats, pictures, and video sharing.
Viber also provides the option to make outbound calls to non-Viber users, albeit for a fee, of course. Recent versions support group video calls for up to five users and group chats for up to 250 participants.
The best part about Viber is that you can make calls to anybody anywhere, even if they don’t have a Viber account, as long as they have a registered phone number. Of course, they charge a fee for cross-platform calls whose rate is thankfully lower than the one charged by traditional telephone providers.
The only downside is annoying ads and quality issues over 3G and WiFi.
3. Brosix Instant Messenger
Brosix is an instant messaging platform designed for team communication and collaboration. One of the more secure Telegram alternatives out there, Brosix is an all-in-one team communication and collaboration solution. Communicate with colleagues and clients in real-time through permanent and temporary chat rooms.
Brosix supports end-to-end encryption, peer-to-peer channels, and a private team network in terms of privacy. The integration of anti-virus and malware protection automatically protects team communications while the Administrators sensor the participants in the private network and the features available to them.
The easy-to-use platform features an array of enterprise tools such as chat history archives, data security specification levels, chat room controls, and the setting of several administrators to provide effective user management, collaboration, and communication.
With Brosix, users communicate in real-time through text chats or chat rooms if they need to hold a staff meeting. The voice and video call options are available if you need more privacy than the text chats and chat rooms can offer.
Other IM features on the platform include:
- Unlimited file size transfer in contrast to telegrams 1.5 GB limit
- Native whiteboard solution
- Screen sharing
The free version offers a whiteboard, text chat, and other limited enterprise features. Business tier users pay a monthly fee of $4 per user, and the Premium users part with a monthly fee of $6.00 per user to enjoy all the extras. Brosix is available for Android, iOS, macOS, Windows Web, and Linux.
Messenger is inseparable from its parent giant company Facebook, which has owned WhatsApp since 2014. Like its sister social media giants, the app boasts approximately 1.3 billion users worldwide, which is no mean feat. The app comes in two forms one is on the app store and play store, and the other form is integrated into the Facebook app, which is accessible when you tap the third button on top of the user screen.
Like all the aforementioned Telegram alternatives, the app supports real-time communication via text, voice, and video as well as a group basis. Furthermore, the users can access in-app games share location, GIFs, pictures, and videos. Interestingly, you can access other apps like Apple Music, Facebook, Pinterest, Kayak, and many more through the platform.
Did you know that you can send and receive cash through Messenger? You and your partner should link your debit cards to the app and send money easily as if you are chatting free of any transaction fees.
However, there are several shortcomings to this great cross-platform messaging app. One is that chat to chat encryption isn’t automatic, and users must activate the secret chats option for increased privacy.
Two, the app is connected and owned by Facebook, now Meta, which has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons like scraping users’ voice and text messages, selling personal data to third parties, and even paying account owners to have their browsing activity and personal data. While it is a great Telegram alternative, its credibility is questionable.
Messenger runs on most operating systems except Linux.
Signal is a centralized encrypted, cross-platform messaging app developed by Signal Messenger LLC in conjunction with the non-profit company Signal Technology Foundation. Like Telegram, Signal uses typical cellular telephone numbers to identify and secure every communication between its users using end-to-end encryption technology. In fact, the client app features tools that users can use to verify the data channel integrity, and contact identity, independently.
The app is free like WhatsApp and is open-source, meaning users can poke around in the app and even customize some of its features up to a certain extent.
Like its predecessors, Signal supports:
- Voice and Video Calls
- Group chats
- Multimedia sharing
- Voice notes
Users’ privacy is enhanced through end-to-end encryption on shared data, all chats, and calls. You can chat with other users in real-time or choose group messaging for meetings or training with multiple participants.
Signal also supports self-deleting messages, location sharing, and sharing multimedia files like GIFs. Signal offers only the basics compared to Telegram leading to some calling it a bare bone chat app, but that is why everyone is secure on the program.
The official app, often installed on most Android devices, relies on Google Play Services, although it can run independently. Signal also runs on iOS and has a desktop version for macOS windows and Linux, which require an initial registration on a mobile phone.
Threema can also be classified as a bare-bone instant messaging app only equated to Telegram due to its secure nature. The app uses open-source coding and encrypts user information through the National and Cryptographic library.
Users don’t have to worry about privacy risks because the status messages, files, voice calls, and chats are properly encrypted. Please note that Threema doesn’t support sharing of location, multimedia files, and video calling. The app provides unique features to compensate for the downside, one of them being creating polls that facilitate quick decision-making.
Here is what makes Threema unique:
- Guaranteed privacy: Threema leaves little to no digital footprints on the servers by generating as little data as possible
- Open source: this guarantees full transparency because, with a bit of expertise, anyone can independently verify their security status on Threema
- Optional contact synchronization: you are not forced to provide access to the address book to use Threema
- Rich functionality: the app is flexible and filled with great features
- Total anonymity: You don’t have to provide personal information like an email address or phone number when using a Threema account
Unlike most competitors, Threema isn’t free, meaning you have to subscribe to their business plans. Downloading the app from the Play Store and Apple Store costs $2.99 and a yearly subscription of $2.00 per device.
Although the app is more secure than Telegram, it has very few users.
Mattermost is an open-source self-hosted alternative to Telegram, which markets itself as an alternative to the more popular Slack and Microsoft Teams. The app’s origin is proprietary because it was used as a chat tool in a game development studio known as SpinPunch before its release as open-source by Mattermost Inc.
The app is self-hosted, meaning Mattermost runs and maintains its websites through private servers instead of external servers, which may risk user data. You must deploy Mattermost on your server.
Reasons to trust Mattermost:
- Cross-platform- Mattermost is Slack’s biggest rival that supports integration with Slack’s inbound and outbound webhook integration. It enables Slack teams to import public channel history, import users and theme colors into Mattermost
- Supports mobile and web applications- you can access Mattermost from a web app on Mac, Windows, and Linux or Android and iOS phones and tablets
- Simple to install, manage and upgrade with a one-line Docker install
The app has enhanced levels of privacy compared to Telegram with hosts of customization features across its apps which include;
- Custom login page design and branding
- Customize your preferred language in the UI
- Add encryption on servers and communication levels
Mattermost mainly targets the enterprise sector, and communication occurs through direct messages. All replies appear in line with the previous conversation. You can add people to your public or private channel or invite them via a link.
The free version supports multiple languages and unlimited messaging history. Paid plans are suitable for team members because they require a minimum of 10 users for $39 per user annually.
8. Hangouts Chat
Hangouts is the newest way to chat for Google teams. It is a dedicated platform for team communication of G Suite for email users.
The ability to host 8000 people at a time gives Hangouts an edge over other competitors in the overcrowded field of instant messaging. The user interface is easy to use because you can reply to older ideas via threads while new ideas appear as a new conversation. Participants must be invited to join.
Sharing files has never been as easy as Hangouts Chat makes them be since it integrates Slides, Docs, and Sheets. Finding documents is also made easy through Hangouts Chats, a document search, and filter tool.
Hangouts completely serves the needs of contemporary G Suite users using a host of bots that incorporate third-party apps, which makes it the best Telegram alternative. You will pay $5 per month for every user since there is no freemium version. Available on macOS, Web, iOS, and Android.
Flock, founded by Bhavin Turakhia, is a team collaboration tool that features:
- Direct & channel messaging
- Video conferencing
- Screen & file sharing
- Unlimited chat history
Users can easily integrate it with other apps from Flock App Store and get updates and notifications directly in Flock.
The greatest Flock’s selling point is the ability of users to make fast decisions in-app without leaving the chat space. Apart from the traditional communication features like chat, voice, and video calls, you can share files from Google Drive directly into the chat. Your team leader can then initiate a built-in poll for team members to vote and decide on the best outcome.
Additional features include to-do lists, notes, and reminders for efficient record keeping.
The free version offers 10GB team storage, up to 50 integrated apps, 20 minutes of video conferencing with 4 participants, and 10,000 searchable messages. The paid plan will set you back $4.50 per seat with 10 GB storage per user, screen sharing, and unlimited messaging history.
10. Microsoft Teams
The tech giant invented the app to meet the needs of modern corporate office workers. It is part of the Office 365 package, whose biggest selling point is easy access to MS Office documents and tools. For instance, users can access, edit and share OneDrive or Office documents inside the Teams platform.
Like all other Telegram alternatives, expect to find traditional communication features like voice, video, and text messaging on Microsoft Teams. Chat organization depends on teams, and each chat displays a reply button that automatically transforms conversations to threads when users reply. A text editor comes in handy for longer messages transforming the chat screen into an email-style format with a subject line and level of importance.
The free plan offers limited integrations, chat, voice and video calls, file storage, and team collaboration in and outside the organization. Large enterprises and businesses can take advantage of the Essentials plan for $5 monthly per user or the Premium plan for $12.50 per user.
11. Element (formerly Riot)
Element is a free open source instant messaging software that supports sharing of files and communication between groups which is encrypted end to end.
Element’s top features include:
- Simple interface – easy to use even for the first time or inexperienced users
- Decentralized – it is an open-source network allowing the users with some experience to look around and verify the app security
- Cross-platform – easily integrates with other Telegram alternatives like Matrix
- Etherpad real-time document collaboration tool allows several teammates to edit and work on a document simultaneously
Discord has evolved from a gaming app to a social networking platform by integrating Reddit-like discussion boards with internet calling Skype features. Top-selling Discord features include:
- User friendly – Discord has a clean and attractive user interface design similar to Slack’s, another popular Telegram alternative
- Like Telegram, it is free for an unlimited number of users, which means no monthly or annual subscriptions
- Easily integrates with your browsers because you don’t need any installation to use the software, eliminating the typical barrier to entry that comes with many social communication apps. You can use the app anywhere, even without a sim card on your phone
Despite all the said benefits, the app has several downsides, which makes it less secure than Telegram. The parent company fully hosts the app, making it impossible to privately host Discord on your servers. Lastly, the developer who previously owned the app was sued for privacy violations, making users question Discord’s integrity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here is a guide to Telegram’s potential or first-time users.
How is Telegram different from WhatsApp?
Telegram is cloud-based and allows seamless sync allowing users to access the app from several devices simultaneously, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. You can only access WhatsApp from the smartphone or a desktop which must be actively linked to the smartphone. Furthermore, you can share as many multimedia files, videos, and photos as you want for up to 2 GB each.
Telegram is more secure and faster than WhatsApp, thanks to different data points and encryption. The app is open-source, meaning its API and code is available for developers to modify and create their own apps. A Bot API allows users to build and create customized tools, accept payments and integrate other services.
Does Telegram process third-party data requests like Facebook?
To this day, Telegram has kept all user data hidden from third parties, which includes governments making it more secure than most instant messaging apps out there thanks to the end-to-end encryption technology. The non-encrypted cloud chat data is stored in several structures worldwide, which are under different jurisdictions.
Encryption keys are never stored in similar areas with user data. All these security measures ensure no single person can access user data, and even the government will need several court orders from different governments. It would take a huge crime or public outcry to force Telegram to give up user data to legal authority.
Can I clear my messages?
Yes. You can delete messages you send or receive in any conversation with one individual. However, you can only delete your messages only in group chats, and contrary to WhatsApp, deleting a chat doesn’t leave a mark. If you think you disclosed private information, go ahead and clear all the chat history for both of you.
Forwarded messages can be secured through privacy settings making Telegram messaging similar to face-to-face communication because no chat data will accumulate on the phone over the years.
How does a channel differ from a group?
Telegram groups are usually suitable for sharing content between family and friends or enabling collaboration between a few team members. However, groups can support communities of 200,000 members, and you have the right to control whatever happens there. For example, you can appoint administrators with limited privileges, make any group public or enable persistent history.
On the other hand, a channel can support unlimited audiences and is more secure. For example, when you post something on a channel, the message bears the channel’s name and a photo different from your own. Every message gets a view counter, and the numbers add up every time a new user views the message, which also works for forwarded messages.