Internet Messaging done right
Technology did a fantastic job with facilitating communication between distant people over the internet. Unfortunately, this also came at a price: privacy concerns, hardware and software requirements, walled gardens and censorship to name a bit.
These are some of the things I use (or used) to communicate with my close friends and family in the age of surveillance:
It isn't really that bad when you add two things to it:
- Encryption via GnuPG.
- Decent software that manages email in a sane way.
If you can convince your concerned parties to communicate via encrypted email (and they understand how it works) awesome. Next, make sure you use a proper lightweight email client and that it supports PGP.
mutt is a must on the command-line, otherwise
claws-mail is pretty nice.
There's even an app that uses email as IM, plus enabling opportunistic PGP-like encryption when possible. Check out Delta Chat
Say what you want, I still vote for XMPP.
Yes, classically it was naked without encryption, kind of verbose and standards are slow to move. But as of 2020, this reality has changed dramatically.
OMEMO, a modern multi-device encryption standard has matured and has been adopted into clients of many different platforms (no longer Conversations-only!), and for single sessions like a desktop, there's the classic option of OTR.
Video and audio
Hard to beat Jitsi Meet for this one, although I wish more implementations of the service were available (are there?)
Some XMPP clients may do audio-only calls in a P2P fashion through the Jingle Protocol)
It's worth looking into Tox if you have a single device and would like to add a one-stop-shop solution for IM, Video and Audio chats.
Tox has many implementations with varying amounts of features, ranging all the way from the barebones command-line client (
toxic) all the way to full-fledged all-inclusive graphical clients for desktop (
There's also an app (Antox) for Android, but be aware that it consumes quite a lot of bandwidth and battery life.
Things to avoid
- Anything Facebook-owned including WhatsApp.
- Walled gardens, including DMs in social media like Twitter, Instagram.
- Apps that are not open source.
- Signal or Telegram (seriously, just use XMPP on your phone)
- Slack, IRC (again, why not just use XMPP...)
Last updated on 09/22/20