Signal's cryptocurrenty mistake


I’d like to first make clear that I’ve been a long-time user of Signal. And I’ll most likely continue to use it. This post is more of a warning that Signal might not be a wise long-term choice for messaging, so if you are new to Signal, you may want to consider alternatives before you jump in.

What happened?

Signal announced that they were testing the sending & receiving of cryptocurrency with their app. That by itself isn’t a bad thing, but their choice of currency is what concerns me. They are using MobileCoin (MOB) as the currency. I have looked into the technical background of a lot of alternative cryptocurrencies over the years and this one meets all of the criteria that scream, “I’m a scam coin” or developers looking to make a quick buck with a pump and dump. There is a good summary of some concerns (which I agree with) here: https://www.stephendiehl.com/blog/signal.html Even Bruce Schneier had something to say about it

From Mastodon:

Kind of gross that Signal added MobileCoin integration. Snippet from their website, thought this chat might get a kick out of it: “At MobileCoin, we believe governments have a legitimate interest in regulating the economic lives of their citizens. Good monetary policies help keep economies healthy and currency controls help fight criminals and terrorists.” 🤔

Here’s another interesting read, which smells of conspiracy theories and hasn’t really influenced my opinion, but it is an entertaining read: https://github.com/signalapp/Signal-Android/issues/8974

I think my biggest concern is that Moxie, as the benevolent dictator of Signal, has been making unwise decisions. These are some that stand out to me right now:

Don’t get me wrong, having a benevolent dictator for open-source software can work; take Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux as an example. Eventually the dictator will have to pass control on to someone else or some organization, who you will hope is able to continue making wise decisions. But if the benevolent dictator makes poor choices, people are going to leave and make their own version of the software or find another solution.

Now what?

Well, I’m evaluating options but I’m not fleeing Signal yet. But I plan to be ready to when the time comes. I should probably do a post and summary of all of the messaging apps I’ve evaluated. I’m a little sad that Michael Bazzell took down his Secure Messaging Comparison Google Doc. Maybe I’ll make my own if there’s enough interest.

Session or Matrix?

Currently, I’ve narrowed myself down to Session or Matrix. There are tons of messenger choices out there, and I feel like I’ve given many of them a try. Currently, I think that I might settle on Session or Matrix. They both have advantages and disadvantages over each other, but they’re both built on architectures that I feel are more robust, open, and trustworthy than Signal.

If you want to help test these or another messaging system out, please let me know and I’ll be happy to connect with you!