We can chat too

WhatsApp alternatives under the microscope: what can Delta Chat do?

Most of us use WhatsApp to communicate with friends, family and maybe colleagues on a day-to-day basis. But there are also safer and better messengers out there. We want to present these in more detail in a series. Today: Delta Chat.

Delta Chat is no ordinary messenger. Its structure is not based on its own contacts - i.e. the friendly users who also use the application.

Instead, the chat service, which has existed since the beginning of 2019, works on the basis of existing e-mail addresses and servers. So you don't need to reveal your phone number or contact list to use Messenger.

We can even chat with anyone whose email address we know - even if they don't have a Delta Chat profile. Has. A normal e-mail account is sufficient to communicate with each other.

Delta Chat solves a problem that normal messengers have: You are not limited to only communicating with friends who use the same messenger. This is of course a big advantage over WhatsApp and Co.

Delta Chat is an email messenger

In other words, Delta Chat is an email messenger with a chat interface. That's why we can also send voice messages, communicate in group chats and exchange files.

Only audio and video chats are not possible for technical reasons. There are other minus points for the missing functions, displaying an online status and sending self-destructive messages.

In terms of security, the app is at least as good as WhatsApp. Delta Chat has an automatically set end-to-end encryption. The messages only arrive at the desired conversation partner and cannot be intercepted or read by third parties.

In addition, the app's program code is open source. That means everyone can see it and develop it further. Delta Chat is available free of charge for mobile iOS and Android users as well as for Windows and Linux on the desktop.

So far, the messenger has also been ad-free because it was financed by EU grants, the non-profit organization Open Technology Fund and donations. We don't know whether the business model will change in the future.

This is how Delta Chat works

As mentioned earlier, Delta Chat only requires a standard email account. You can use this to log into the app and send messages via a chat window.

However, the first message is still sent unencrypted. The information for end-to-end encryption must first be exchanged between the two communication partners via a message.

From the second message onwards, the chat is then completely encrypted. Incidentally, this also applies to group chats.

If you, as a Delta Chat user, send a message to someone who is not using the app, it will be displayed in their normal e-mail inbox. Your chat partner can then answer directly from the mailbox. His email will in turn be displayed in the app.

However, you have to note that the communication between the app and the e-mail inbox is only transport-encrypted by default. That means: The corresponding e-mail service can view the messages.

The situation is different with end-to-end encrypted email apps. If a chat partner communicates with them, the emails are of course also completely encrypted.

Communicate on multiple devices in parallel

Unlike WhatsApp, Delta Chat can also be used in parallel on several devices at the same time. So if you work on a smartphone and tablet, for example, you can communicate on both devices.

The messages arrive in parallel on all end devices. Only if you send messages yourself can the synchronization on all devices be delayed a little.

No own server necessary

Another advantage over WhatsApp and Co. is that Delta Chat does not have to rely on its own server. After all, the messenger is based on the existing infrastructure of e-mail services.

The end-to-end encrypted messages are stored locally on the devices of the respective chat partner. Therefore, of course, you can only read it yourself.

Common messengers such as WhatsApp, on the other hand, rely on a central service provider. If this were to fail, users would no longer be able to send messages. Delta Chat is more independent in this regard.

Create a local backup

It is of course also possible to transfer chats and contacts to another smartphone or tablet. To do this, we have to create a local backup by storing all app data in a file folder on our own device.

Then we only need to transfer this folder to the new device via cable or Bluetooth. Attention: The backup files are not end-to-end encrypted. So if you transfer your files over a cloud, they are not protected.

Who Delta Chat is for

If you don't want to communicate via audio and video calls, you will theoretically find a very good alternative to WhatsApp in Delta Chat. However, you have to be aware that messages from the app to an email account are not necessarily end-to-end encrypted.

Also, someone may not check their email account all the time. Urgent messages that actually need an immediate answer could then initially come to nothing.

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Even if you have activated push notifications for incoming e-mails: the Delta chat messages may then end up in the folder for unknown e-mails or spam messages - and of course we often do not receive any push notifications for these.

So it should be best to test the messenger first and wait to see how friends react to the e-mail communication. If it runs reliably, Delta Chat can keep up with the usual messengers in the most important points.

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