It was almost a tradition with us: We have tested the latest messengers every year since 2014. Our last test round from 2016 was five years ago – time to revive our testing tradition and start the big messenger test in 2021! In today’s post, you will find out which test candidates took part in the preliminary rounds, which messengers we are looking at for you this year, and which criteria we are testing.
Messenger test 2021: it’s time again
It was five years ago, our last messenger test round. Since then, a lot has happened: New espionage scandals and new legal guidelines such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have changed the requirements that users place on Messenger. Security and data protection has become even more important; the former success factor “usability,” i.e., user-friendliness, remains relevant but is the norm with modern messengers. That is why our focus in the Messenger test 2021 will be on security and data protection, but of course, we will not neglect usability either.
Before we talk about our Messenger test 2021, we would like to revive our old test series.
Messenger revival: test candidates of the preliminary rounds
WhatsApp and Facebook were decisive for our first big messenger test: It was 2014, and The social network had just bought Messenger. A storm of indignation spread: users wondered whether WhatsApp and Facebook would now share data. Seven years later, the explosive nature of the topic has not changed – the Facebook group is still trying to get WhatsApp data, users are still upset about it, and the willingness to switch to alternatives is still relatively small. However, what is new is the GDPR, which put a stop to this data exchange in Europe. But let’s start at the beginning – travel back a few years with us:
First messenger test: Threema wins, WhatsApp loses
With the first Messenger test in 2014, we already focused on security and data protection. So it’s no wonder that messengers like WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat ended up in last place. Three, Cryptocat and sure spot, on the other hand, were convincing in the area of security and were our recommendation for all those users who wanted to send messages securely. WhatsApp was not yet encrypting messages at the time, while data economy and encryption had convinced the three winners. The first test report in this series, including links to all individual test reports, can be found here. Our conclusion from 2014 included an overview so that you could easily find your favorite.
Messenger test 2015: Our second round of tests
With Threema, Telegram, Line, WeChat, MyEnigma, TextSecure (today Signal), and WhatsApp, we encountered some messengers from the first test round in the second test round from 2015. We supplemented these with the messengers SIMSme, Mailbox.org, and Secure. WhatsApp had blossomed a bit: End-to-end encryption was introduced, and data visibility could be restricted. However, that was not enough for a victory because users still had to accept numerous data protection risks.
The two test round winners were Swiss products: Threema also won the second test round and shared its podium with myENIGMA. With SIMSme, a German product was also able to convince, but the unsolicited access to the address book was a minus point. Some messengers we know, such as Telegram, improved on the previous year but ultimately did not convince as much as the Swiss Messenger. You found the entire evaluation, including a clear graphic with all ratings in our 2015 summary.
Messenger revival 2016: Threema unbeaten, Telegram is not convincing
In 2016 we met old friends again (WhatsApp, Threema, Telegram, Line, WeChat, MyENIGMA, TextSecure / Signal, SIMSme) and supplemented them with messengers (Wire, ChatSecure) that we had not tested so far. We found out that with myENIGMA, one of our previous year’s winners was no longer developed. In the meantime, TextSecure had become Signal and, with the fourth place, placed itself four locations ahead of WhatsApp.
We were pleased to see that Deutsche Post was able to improve SIMSme. The further fate of the excellent Messenger was less optimistic: In 2019, Deutsche Post AG parted with SIMSme and sold the Messenger to Babbler AG. This named the Messenger in June 2019 in order ginlo, but had at the end of 2019 insolvency login, so that even the Messenger a Z long since no longer existed. However, since February 2020, ginlo has been operated by the newly founded ginlo.net GmbH.
We were also impressed by the security of the Messenger ChatSecure – one of our newcomers in the test year 2016. However, the usability was less convincing: Less experienced users could reach their limits when setting up the Messenger not to use the secure sending of messages.
In 2016, the winner again, namely the Swiss Messenger Threema, had to share the winners’ podium: Mailbox.org – also a do-it-yourself messenger variant, but easier to set up than ChatSecure. With both – Threema and mailbox.org – the security was convincing. The legal texts were written understandably. Even if the list of features does not quite come close to that of the fun messengers like WhatsApp or WeChat, it was still sufficient for a messenger. In the conclusion of the Messenger Revival 2016, you can read everything in detail – including a clear graphic.
Messenger-Test 2021: Our selection this year
This year four test rounds with eight candidates will be started – again, we selected messengers that have already been tested and untested. Specifically, we try the following providers for you:
- WhatsApp and Threema: That should be exciting, as WhatsApp stands for the masses and Threema for Swiss security. – The WhatsApp vs. Threema test report is now online.
- Signal and Telegram: Signal has been able to attract a large number of users in recent years. But that also applies to Telegram – who will win the race? – The Telegram vs. Signal test report is now online.
- Wire and ginlo: ginlo is the successor to SMS. Can the Messenger be just as convincing? Wire ranked 5th in 2016 – what has happened since then?
- ICQ and WeChat: Older users know: ICQ was the first instant messaging service on the World Wide Web – and in fact, there are supposed to be users who still have their login data from 1996 when the service was launched. So we’re testing a pioneer in the field of messaging. At WeChat, the fun has always been more critical than security – and we are curious to see whether it has stayed that way.
Messenger test 2021: the rating
As already mentioned at the beginning, our focus in the Messenger test 2021 is again on security and data protection, but other points are also included in the evaluation. This evaluation is used to determine a winner and to achieve good comparability. Since this worked well in the past, let’s stick with the already tried and tested categories:
Getting started: How easy or difficult is it for users to use Messenger? To do this, we look at the costs, the compatibility, how contacts get into the Messenger, and the feature list.
Usability: How user-friendly are the various messengers? To find out, we award points for operation, reliability, and the authorizations that Messenger would like to have.
Security & data protection: Since our focus will be on this, we will go into depth with this test point: What protection mechanisms are the messengers equipped with? How and what is encrypted? Are the legal documents, i.e., the terms and conditions and data protection declaration, in understandable, transparent, and unambiguous language? What data do messenger providers save, for what reason, where, and how? And where are the servers?
As already known from our previous tests, we rate with a star system. Examples are the costs and authorizations of WhatsApp and Threema to understand: Threema is chargeable, so there can only be one star in this category. WhatsApp is free of charge, so WhatsApp receives total points (3 stars) here. While Threema requires fewer permissions and thus deserves three stars in this area, WhatsApp sometimes attacks the address book to only be one star. At the end of our tests, we will again put together a graphic to see the ratings of the individual parameters for each Messenger.
Messenger test 2021: I look forward to exciting comparisons!
Signal and Threema are the big winners of WhatsApp’s disastrous attempt to merge data from WhatsApp and Facebook. Our last Messenger test was five years ago – five years in which a lot has changed. All messengers have developed further: Threema finally has the source code after years of criticism. But a lot has also happened with WhatsApp itself: for example, self-deleting messages are supposed to increase security. You can read in our blog in the coming weeks whether that’s enough to convince our testers.