WhatsApp’s new Disappearing Messages is still teething while it’s only normal to compare it to a similar feature offered by its arch-rival app – Telegram. Also, ephemeral or disappearing chats are one of the many reasons why Telegram became popular among users. So we compared WhatsApp’s Disappearing Messages feature with Telegram’s Secret Chat to figure which one makes more sense to you, especially if you’re looking for a more secure and private chat option.
WhatsApp’s comparison with Telegram continues even after its new feature. Your security and privacy are at stake here and something you type and send today can come back to haunt you tomorrow. You don’t want that and that is the purpose of using a secret or disappearing chat feature. It leaves you worry-free.
Let’s find out whether WhatsApp’s new Disappearing Messages feature is right for you or should you use Telegram’s Secret Chat.
Using The Feature
A clear distinction can be drawn by the way you get to use the feature. Both WhatsApp and Telegram let you create a new Secret Chat with your contact or a group by accessing the respective Contact or Group Page.
Here are the steps to use Disappearing Messages in WhatsApp.
Step 1: Open the app and tap on a group or single chat room where you want to activate the disappearing chat option. Tap on the name of the person/group
Step 2: Select Disappearing chats option and toggle it on.
You should now view a notification inside the chat saying that the feature is turned on.
Here is how Secret Chat works on Telegram.
Step 1: Open the chat (groups not allowed yet) and tap on the profile name of the person.
Step 2: Tap the three-dot menu icon and then select Start secret chat option.
You’ll notice that WhatsApp lets you convert the existing chat with the disappearing messages one. On the other hand, Telegram starts a new chat conversation window and displays the user or group name in green. A clear distinction is drawn there. Another major distinction between WhatsApp and Telegram is that you can’t take a screenshot inside Telegram’s secret chat room. WhatsApp doesn’t offer an option to prevent taking screenshots, but that might change in the future.
WhatsApp messages will disappear after one week, by default. In the meantime, users can take a screenshot, make a video, show the messages to someone else, and so on. There is no way to change this duration either. It is what it is but I think they will release an update to fix this sometime later.
Telegram, on the other hand, is very flexible. There is a self-destruct timer button at the top tapping which will reveal a pop-up. You can choose to keep it off or choose a number between 1-30 seconds, 1 minute, 1 hour, 1 day, and 1 week. You get the option for setting the timer while composing messages. That’s a very promising feature if you plan to regularly use secret chat and want to have more control over the conversation.
Privacy and Security Features
The Disappearing Messages feature on WhatsApp feels very premature and raw. Apart from lacking a timer for messages, it’s not as safe as you might think. Anyone can take screenshots of your conversation and also forward them to another chat. Selecting a message opens up a host of options to copy, forward, and bookmark the message. This is true for both text and media files like images and videos.
A clipboard app I use registered the copy action (check the second screenshot below) and that means third-party apps have access to the disappearing chat window too. This is a big red flag as majority of those data-hungry apps know what you are secretly up to. It is surprising and unsettling.
The worst thing comes with media shared through disappearing messages. When you had installed WhatsApp, the media auto-download is switched on by default. That means you have to turn it off manually. So whenever you send or receive a photo or picture while Disappearing Messages is switched on, that media will get saved on your Phone’s gallery app. After seven days, the trace of that message containing media will disappear from the relevant chat. However, the copy of the media file will continue to stay on your phone. In short, you’ll have to rely on the other person’s word to turn off auto-download from their side. But even if they turn it off, the person can always forward the media to other chat. So it’s the risk you take there.
Telegram handles the situation better but not perfectly. There is a message you will view when you enter the Secret Chat window. You can’t forward messages. No trace of the message will be left on their servers, which is very reassuring to know. Then there’s the timer and end-to-end encryption.
Unfortunately, I was still able to select and copy a text message in Telegram, and the clipboard app captured the data. Again, this means you can’t be lenient on Telegram’s secret chat either.
WhatsApp notes that messages forwarded to a chat window where a Disappearing message is not enabled will not delete the message after 7 days. Creating a backup of chats before the message ‘disappears’ will make a backup of that message. And finally, files shared in the disappearing chat window can be saved offline on the device.
Thankfully, if someone takes a backup of the chat carrying disappearing messages, those messages will be deleted when the person restores that backup. There are some legitimate concerns with WhatsApp’s disappearing messages. You should only use it with people you trust, and, if possible, only for fun.
The source code, API, and protocol of Telegram are open source, which means anyone can check how the app functions and what’s happening behind the scenes. The team claims that they have never disclosed any data to any government, thanks to their distributed infrastructure.
They are so confident of their security that they have a $300,000 contest running where hackers are welcome to crack and decipher messages encrypted on their platform. No one has won the prize money yet.
Those were the distinctions between WhatsApp’s Disappearing messages and Telegram’s Secret Chat. Again, we remind you to use either of them only with people you trust.
Facebook has often made the headlines for a variety of reasons, and out of them, security, as well as privacy, remained the primary concerns. The Disappearing Messages feature has a fair share of shortcomings. Telegram has already established itself as a safe and secure app, yet it’s not devoid of shortcomings. The strongest promoter of internet privacy — Edward Snowden — recommends using another app called Signal for truly encrypted conversations.
For now, WhatsApp is good enough for regular chat messages because everyone you know is already on it. Telegram is a better option as it is both feature-rich and more secure and private.
Next up: Confused between Telegram and WhatsApp? Click on the link below to learn major differences between the two messaging apps and under key features.
Last updated on 02 February, 2022
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