So, all your friends are on it. Unfortunately, nobody is asking the crucial question: Is WhatsApp actually good? Despite its accessibility and market domination, I think WhatsApp is bad. And I can name you eight reasons that competitors or other methods can do it better.
1. WhatsApp only identifies you via your number
With its password-less 1-factor log-in, WhatsApp drags a big mess of disadvantages along with it. In my opinion, the biggest problem is that it exclusively uses a guaranteed non-anonymous means of identification. To confirm an identity, the sister company Facebook bails them out in many cases.
In addition, non-group contacts won’t notice if you change your mobile number. They will then start sending messages to your old number. You won’t be informed about the messages and the senders will be surprised when you don’t write back. Even worse, your WhatsApp file becomes filled with deserted, duplicate and triple contact entries and you lose track of which version of a contact is up-to-date. People sometimes change their mobile number or pass it on to someone else, and when this happens WhatsApp couldn’t be worse prepared.
Alternative: Username and password
Whatever happened to the good old combination of a username and password? Why do you have to be identified via a mobile number? Of course, you can find your contacts faster using an identifier that is already stored on your smartphone in the form of a mobile number. Similar to Threema, however, the additional identification via a mobile number or email address could be made optional rather than obligatory. ICQ, Threema and Surespot all have a unique user ID (UUID)! This form of identification can handle change, abuse to the mobile number or if the number has a new owner.
2. You can only use WhatsApp on one device at a time
You want to run WhatsApp on a tablet? Or log in to a PC in the browser and stay logged in? This would be ideal if you log in at work and at home and simply remain logged in so you won't have to do it several times a day. WhatsApp is unfortunately the wrong app for you.
You can activate WhatsApp only on one device. A second smartphone, tablet or several PCs in parallel operation won’t work. WhatsApp Web is the biggest joke in the messaging industry, but more on that later.
Alternative: Server-side synchronization
Telegram, Facebook and Hangouts show how sensible it is. Those messengers can be used independently of a smartphone on other devices; they can also be used in parallel to one another. In the case of Telegram, you also have to type in your mobile number when logging in. You won’t, however, confirm the log-in via a SMS or QR code, but instead with a code that is sent via Telegram to all your other logged-in devices. Once logged in, all chats and even the draft of your next message will be perfectly synchronized everywhere.
3. WhatsApp Web is an incredibly bad joke
Whereas other vendors offer only one QR code authentication and then let you chat without a smartphone, WhatsApp Web bothers you wherever it can. WhatsApp Web is not an app in itself, but basically just a remote control that operates WhatsApp on your smartphone. If your smartphone is connected to mobile data, it will continue to be charged. If your smartphone is short on battery, or even turns off, WhatsApp Web is disabled. The same is true if power saving features place WhatsApp Web in the background during sleep mode. If you drive home and you want to use WhatsApp Web there, you have to completely re-authenticate yourself and cut the connection to your work computer.
See above for an alternative.
4. Data is stored insecurely
Easily accessible or not, WhatsApp for Android stores its data where it does not belong. Instead of partitioning data, it is stored in the /sdcard partition that is visible to all apps with file access. They certainly don’t belong there if the pictures are meant to remain a secret. Then the end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp promises to everyone is useless for all your beautiful photos. Oh and that takes us to our next point.
Alternative: Hide photos or save them somewhere else
Except for Hangouts, all of the WhatsApp alternatives are smarter, at least in some ways. Telegram saves the pictures from non-secret chats in the shared memory. Threema, on the other hand, hides the images neatly in the data partition, which is not publicly accessible.
5. The backup system is bad, inconvenient and doesn’t allow you to switch platforms
You previously had an iPhone or want one now? Then say goodbye to the records of your conversations. They can’t be transferred from one platform to another. WhatsApp uses iCloud for iPhone and Google Drive for Android phones. Google Drive is in theory accessible from an iPhone, but is not usually used for this purpose: so you won’t get your WhatsApp backup in your new iPhone.
There are several way WhatsApp could improve this. One would be to integrate other cloud services that can be accessed from both platforms. There’s still Dropbox, OneDrive and NAS. Another option would be for WhatsApp, like Telegram, to simply keep the messages on the server and then you would only have to backup the keychain for end-to-end encryption.
6. WhatsApp knows enough about you despite end-to-end encryption
WhatsApp can’t look into your conversation logs, see your pictures or listen to your audio recordings. But it knows when you spoke to whom. WhatsApp also has access to your address book and can read your shared memory. WhatsApp can synchronize its data with its parent company Facebook and hone in on your profile.
Alternative: Anonymous account and metadata encryption
In order to actually be anonymous, an app can’t ask for data that is personally attributable to you. WhatsApp doesn’t protect your phone from other users or customers. You might as well stand at the bus stop and hand out your data and passwords to everyone who passes by.
With respect to the first point, WhatsApp shouldn’t know who you’re talking to and when: this metadata alone can be used to derive unpleasant assumptions about you, if for example one of your contacts is associated in a crime.
7. You can’t change sent messages
Just recently, WhatsApp has finally added the option that sent messages can be deleted so that they disappear for the recipient as well. But if you just want to eliminate a misleading mistake that creeps in from Autocorrect, you can’t edit it. You have to copy the entire message, delete it, reinsert it, rewrite it and send it again. This isn’t just inconvenient, it’s also complete nonsense. Numerous competitors such as Telegram and even Skype now allow messages to be edited later.
Alternative: Telegram or Skype
8. Group management is horrible
WhatsApp groups are created at every opportunity. WhatsApp’s group chat feature is one of the worst on the market. If you look at the functionality of other group chats, WhatsApp’s is a shame.
- There are no channels to sign up for.
- Instead there are only stupid groups, where all group members can see your mobile number.
- Groups can’t be closed until all of the members (up to 256) leave or are manually and individually removed by admins.
- Later on you can’t see the groups you were a part of.
- Anyone can add you to their group and pass on your number without your permission.
- If you change your mobile number in WhatsApp, members in those groups will be notified of your new number.
All the disadvantages and shortcomings of WhatsApp culminate in the group chat feature. The function is nevertheless as successful and deficient as WhatsApp itself. The group chat features are not only deficient, the flaws are also an affront to your privacy.
Slack is a reasonable solution for group chats with complex requirements. Its multiple layers of channels, efficient messaging system and professional administration give it significantly less improvised functioning than WhatsApp and many other messengers.
WhatsApp proves that quantity can beat quality. Once a product is so popular, its creators don’t have to offer much more. Even if the perfect competitor was created, it wouldn’t be able to really compete. WhatsApp is somehow immune to criticism of any kind.
The app is carelessly made, ignores your privacy on all sides and follows completely outdated standards. But WhatsApp is a part of mainstream culture and will remain successful simply because a billion users of all ages are too lazy to consider the alternatives.
What do you think? Do you wish a better messaging service was more popular than WhatsApp?