Encrypted chat services let you convey content without worries that anyone other than the intended recipient might access your messages. The best chat services maximize security not only by encrypting content, but also by minimizing information connected to a communication, such as any data that might identify the sender, time or type of a message.
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Both Signal and Wire offer stronger security measures than system default messaging solutions, such as Google Messages, Apple’s iMessage or Microsoft’s Skype. Google, Apple and Microsoft all retain the ability to access messages sent via their respective messaging platforms when asked by appropriate authorities. Messages sent within either Signal or Wire are not only encrypted on the device and in transit, but also by design cannot be read by either respective company.
The following sections examine key distinctions between Signal and Wire.
Communication capabilities of Signal and Wire
Both Signal and Wire provide end-to-end encrypted chat messaging when messaging with other users of the service. In other words, messages between two people, both of whom use Signal, will be encrypted. Likewise, messages between two people, both of whom use Wire, will be encrypted. The services both support encrypted video and audio calls, as well.
Beyond chat, additional messaging features may vary by platform. With Signal for iOS, for example, you may send standard chat messages, disappearing messages, images, audio messages, GIFs, files, payments (via MobileCoin), contact information and location. With Wire for Android, for example, you may send standard chat messages, self-deleting messages, images, audio messages, GIFs, files, location and a ping. Wire for Enterprise adds conference calling and team management features, such as single sign-on for integration with enterprise identity management systems.
Platform availability of Signal and Wire
To use Signal, you first create an account with the Signal app on an Android, iOS or iPadOS device. Once you have an active Signal account, you may install and access Signal desktop apps on Windows, macOS or Linux. You will need access to your mobile Android, iOS or iPadOS device in order to link your mobile Signal account to a Signal desktop app. There is no web browser-based version of Signal.
To use Wire, you may create an account from any supported platform, including Android, iOS, Windows, macOS or Linux, as well as the supported browsers of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera or Microsoft Edge.
If you want browser-based messaging, choose Wire. Otherwise, both Signal and Wire offer applications that work on all major operating systems.
Required data of Signal and Wire
Both services require at least one piece of personal data in order to create an account. Signal requires a phone number and relies on this number to identify contacts. Wire requires either an email address or a phone number for an account.
Account management of Signal and Wire
Signal is designed to serve individuals. You create and maintain your own Signal account. There is no enterprise level management of Signal accounts. To chat securely with other people who use Signal, you may either find them with their phone number (if they are already registered with Signal) or send your contact an invitation.
Wire offers a free version, but mostly focuses on efforts to serve the needs of secure chat in organizations. People may maintain separate Wire accounts for personal and team use, but an email address may only be associated with a single Wire account. Organizational accounts, such as those managed with Wire for Enterprise, rely on email identifiers.
Signal and Wire are open source
Both Signal and Wire maintain verified accounts at GitHub that provide access to open source code at https://github.com/signalapp and https://github.com/wireapp, respectively.
While not a guarantee of security, the availability of source code makes it possible for knowledgeable people to identify potential problems as well as propose patches. Proprietary and closed-source software solutions do not make code available for review. The lack of access to source code makes it difficult, if not impossible, to determine the security of these systems independently. From this perspective, therefore, both Signal and Wire should be considered more secure than solutions that do not make code available for review, such as Apple’s iMessage, Google Chat, Microsoft Teams, Skype and WhatsApp.
Governance of Signal and Wire
Signal is a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization based in the United States. The terms of service indicate that use of Signal is governed by the laws of California.
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Wire Swiss GmbH is headquartered in Germany, with offices in Switzerland and the United States. The terms of service indicate that use of Wire outside the United States is governed by the laws of Switzerland, while use of Wire in the United States is governed by the law of the United States and California.
Pricing of Signal and Wire
You may use Signal for free. If you choose, you may provide financial support to the project in either the Apple or Android app. The Signal mobile apps allow you to support the project with a one-time (i.e., a Signal Boost) or recurring (i.e. a Sustainer) contribution. As a U.S. based 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization, the organization also accepts donations.
Similarly, you may use Wire for free. However, certain features (e.g., conference calling, among others) are available only to Wire for Enterprise accounts. As of March 2022, Wire for Enterprise pricing starts at $7.65 per account per month. Wire also offers an on-premises option, as well as Wire for Government, which adds additional security and control over data and systems, although you’ll need to contact sales to discuss pricing.
Signal or Wire: Which should you choose?
Of the two, as of early 2022, Signal is much more widely adopted around the world, so some of your contacts may already use Signal. However, Wire can work in a web browser and an upgrade to the paid Wire for Enterprise edition provides organizational account management. In general, though, both Signal and Wire are excellent options for secure messaging.