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Signal is down after users flee WhatsApp — latest updates

The Signal Private Messenger App Store listing displayed on an iPhone's screen.
(Image credit: Ascannio/Shutterstock)

Signal, the secure messaging app, is down, following a huge spike in users joining the platform after leaving the Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

Allegations that WhatsApp would be forcing its users to share data with parent company Facebook prompted huge numbers of users to ditch the service in favor of something more secure. Signal, which has been endorsed by the likes of Elon Musk and whistleblower Edward Snowden, has been at the forefront of that migration.

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Signal itself acknowledged the issues on its Twitter account, saying there are technical issues its working hard to get fixed. Tom's Guide was able to confirm that Signal messages were not getting through.

A notification in the Signal Android app that the messaging service was "experiencing technical difficulties.'

(Image credit: Signal/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

The consensus on social media is that Signal is struggling under the weight of so many new users, and for everyone to be patient.

It's not the first time this influx of users has caused problems either. Last week, Signal announced that verification codes were being delayed thanks to the number of people trying to sign up.

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Likewise users have been reporting issues with setting up groups, delays in showing contacts, and other problems still caused by the app struggling to keep up with demand. It's estimated that since Elon Musk endorsed Signal last week, it's had an average of 3,900 new users every minute.

It sounds a lot like trying to buy a PS5, but without having to fight scalpers for stock.

Signal had an estimated 20 million users at the end of 2020, and an additional 40 million or so seem to have joined up over the past several days. So server issues are to be expected as they try and keep up.

What's happened with WhatsApp?

On Jan. 4, WhatsApp quietly changed its privacy policy to state that as of Feb. 8, users will no longer be able to opt out of sharing data with parent company Facebook. The internet noticed and reports that Facebook would soon be able to view your WhatsApp messages spread like wildfire.

While WhatsApp has denied this is true and insisted that it data sharing is exactly the same as it's been since 2016, the damage was done. 

Facebook's history of safeguarding user privacy is pretty poor, and the news hammered home that WhatsApp is still part of Facebook, no matter how useful it may be.

Signal uses the same end-to-end encryption protocol as WhatsApp and is easy to use, but it is owned and run by a non-profit foundation. The foundation's CEO co-created WhatsApp and sold it to Facebook, which he left a few years later after it started meddling with WhatsApp.

Signal isn't the only app that's seen a surge in users. Another messaging app, Telegram, has seen upwards of 25 million new users if estimates are correct. Telegram doesn't appear to be having any problems at the time of writing, though.

If you are trying to use Signal, you're just going to have to be patient and not let the issues put you off. Few development teams can handle an influx of tens of millions of people easily, and Signal will be working hard to get everything back up and running.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.