The best messenger for me isn’t necessarily the one that is best for a non-techie, and I’m struggling to decide on one to convert my family to. I expect this post to sound a little rambly because there’s a lot going on in my brain about this.
Right now my wife and I use XMPP together. However, she’s on iOS, and there’s still no great app for iOS. We both use macOS as well, and the desktop apps are so bad that I don’t even bother trying to use it on desktop anymore. I stick to using it on my phone.
I use Telegram with the rest of my family. It’s not encrypted as we use it, but it’s very user friendly. I need that level of user-friendliness in a privacy-friendly messenger
Another aspect to consider is the lifetime of data stored. I want my kids to have access to all of the messages from their grandparents, forever. Will Telegram still be around in 30 years? Are they more likely to lose messages because of the closure of Telegram or because of improper XMPP backups? I’m not sure.
Signal is probably the most user-friendly of the privacy-friendly messengers, but it requires a phone number, and it nags the user about verifying a pin. It isn’t even clear what the pin is for. I can imagine this being frustrating and confusing to non-techies. Can you even back up and restore on iOS? I don’t think so.
Matrix doesn’t require a phone number, but the clients don’t feel as polished as Signal or Telegram, and not being able to set local nicknames for users is annoying to me.
DeltaChat sounds user-friendly in theory, but in practice, having to pay attention to the sending limits of your email host makes it less user-friendly than other options.
On top of this, I still need a public contact method – something I can publish online without sharing a phone number. If I choose Signal for my family, do I use XMPP for online friends? Matrix? Both? I don’t really want to have a ton of chat apps installed, but as it is, I already do. Checking my phone now, I have Telegram, monocles, Signal, FluffyChat, Element (for features FluffyChat doesn’t have), Viber, Mattermost, Slack, and Frost for Facebook. This is way too much, and if I can trim it down a bit, I’d like to.