FOR THOSE who wish WhatsApp was still an independent app with a small price tag, but no interference from Facebook – two ex-employees from the messaging giant have launched a new app to cater to you. Here’s everything you need to know about HalloApp.
WhatsApp is comfortably the most popular chat app on the planet, with more than two billion users worldwide. But a new rival is trying to tempt some of those users away. And it’s created and designed by two of the earliest employees who worked at WhatsApp.
Dubbed HalloApp, the service will be available to both Android and iPhone owners. As you might expect, there are a number of similarities between WhatsApp and HalloApp – both apps are available on iPhone and Android, both are designed for individual and group chats with close friends and family, neither includes any advertisements. Like WhatsApp, HalloApp only allows you to add someone to the app when you know their mobile phone number.
And most importantly, HalloApp follows in the footsteps of the creators’ previous employer by ensuring that all messages are end-to-end encrypted. That means the team working on HalloApp can’t even see what is being sent within the app. Only the intended recipient will be able to unscramble the text message, picture or video to see what was sent.
HalloApp’s cofounders, Neeraj Arora and Michael Donohue, both worked on WhatsApp before and after it was acquired by Facebook. Arora served as WhatsApp Chief Business Officer until 2018, while Donohue worked as Engineering Director at WhatsApp for almost nine years before he leaving Facebook in 2019.
The two ex-WhatsApp employees haven’t spoken out against Facebook in public, but it’s clear there’s no love lost for Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth social network. And they’re not alone. WhatsApp cofounders Jan Koum and Brian Acton both left Facebook over disagreements with the parent company about plans to introduce adverts into WhatsApp. Acton, who uses his fortune to fund encrypted messaging app Signal, tweeted “#deletefacebook” in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
HalloApp contains four tabs: a home feed that contains posts shared by friends, a list of active group chats, all of your individual chats, and a tab for settings. The overall look is minimal and there are no algorithms that sort posts or groups chats based on what it thinks you’ll want to see. And, as stated above, no adverts whatsoever.
Neeraj Arora shared the philosophy behind HalloApp in a blog post, in which he brands engagement-driven social media as “the 21st century cigarette.”
“Imagine your friends online were your real friends,” he writes in the blog. “Imagine your feed wasn’t filled with people and posts you didn’t care about. Imagine scrolling through meaningful moments and seeing what you wanted you to see — not what the algorithm wanted you to see. Imagine not being treated like a product.
“Where you hoped to find your friends, instead you found ads, bots, likes, filters, influencers, followers, misinformation, and more. Where you hoped to have meaningful conversations, instead you found yourself falling down the rabbit hole of blinking red notifications and an algorithmic feed of meaningless content.
“Where you hoped for a safe space to keep in touch with your siblings, family members, neighbours, and
friends from college, you found content from people you’ve never met before—the whole thing feeling invasive, even creepy.”
Without adverts, how does HalloApp plan to keep itself afloat? Well, the business model will be immediately familiar to anyone who used WhatsApp before it was acquired by Facebook.
Writing in the company blog, Arora explains: “Unlike legacy social networks, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right. HalloApp uses your phone address book to connect you with the real relationships in your life, and that’s it. Beyond that, we never collect, store, or use any personal information (we have no idea where you live, what you do for work, or how likely you are to consume a certain type of content). More importantly, we will never show you ads. Ever.
“Instead, we plan to eventually offer additional features at a small cost.”