Grow your own messaging services

Messaging people is the oldest method of using the internet, and there are lots of options for creating your own online services.


It can be used for messaging, group chats, audio calls and video calls. There are apps for every platform, and they have an end-to-end encryption feature called “OMEMO” which keeps your conversations private. XMPP accounts are based on usernames, you don’t have to give any personal details or phone numbers.


Email

Email was there at the start of the internet and is still going strong. It’s not controlled by anyone in particular, and is simply an open set of standards for communication between email providers. This means people can switch from one email provider to another while still being able to keep in touch with all their contacts.

Email has three main problem areas, but they can be solved: privacy, switching providers and lack of encryption.

Privacy suffers when people use ad-supported “free” email accounts from corporations like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo etc. Their ad-based business models are paid for by spying on people, and are bad for privacy. You can solve this by switching to an independent email provider which doesn’t have any ads, where the costs are covered by a small monthly fee.

Switching email providers can be tricky if your email address includes the name of the provider, as it’s a pain to ask your contacts to update their address books. This can be solved by buying your own domain name (such as “example.com”) and using that with an email provider. If you ever decide to switch to another provider, you can keep your address the same because the domain belongs to you and you can point it at any provider you choose.

By default email is not encrypted, and that’s why it isn’t recommended to send sensitive information through normal emails. However, there are ways to fix this if people at both ends use them. Some email providers (such as Tuta.com) have optional encryption features which rely on sharing a key code with people you trust, and there are third party apps like Delta Chat (see the section below) which let you message people with end-to-end encryption through email.

If you buy your own domain name and then use that with an indie email provider, that gives you both better privacy and lets you switch providers more easily. This is probably the best way of doing email, especially when combined with encryption options when needed.


For the encryption to work, both parties have to be using Delta Chat apps. You can also have unencrypted chats with people that don’t have the app, your messages will appear as normal emails to them and they can message you by sending an email to your normal address.

Normal email isn’t encrypted, which is why encrypted messengers like Delta Chat or XMPP are preferable if you’re sharing sensitive information.


Nextcloud Talk doesn’t connect to anywhere else, conversations happen entirely on your own Nextcloud server. This makes it best for people who want conversations entirely in closed groups, but it isn’t suited to those who want to message with strangers.