Will the Wickr app sign Snapchat’s death warrant?


Wickr is the messaging app you’ll turn to if Snapchat is guilty of another blunder.

Nico Sell is an entrepreneur and fierce privacy advocate. She co-founded Wickr, an app that allows you to send and receive messages that self-destruct. If the description stopped here, you’d probably decry Snapchat plagiarism. It isn’t. Comparing them is laughable.

The premise of the app is similar, sure: you set the timer to decide how long the message will last (from a few seconds to six days), send them to the recipients, then watch them explode when the countdown reaches zero with a pretty cool animation on the screen. You can control your communication more than anywhere else.

The difference: Wickr is a messaging app designed by professional cryptographers for professional cryptographers – but it’s simple enough that anyone can use it. Once you’ve tried it, there’s absolutely no point in going back to Snapchat.

A team of superheroes at the helm

Wickr’s board of directors looks like a team of superheroes fully dedicated to protecting secrets. There’s Dan Kaminsky, the oft-anonymous hero who discovered a fundamental weakness in the DNS protocol, a key technology that makes the Internet work. There’s Cory Doctorow, science fiction writer and blogger for BoingBoing, known for his work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation . There’s even Whit Diffie, co-creator of the ECDH (Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman) protocol and star of the cryptography world.

As for Sell herself, she has long organized the DEF CON hacker convention and is the co-founder and CEO of Rootz – an organization that encourages kids to become “white hat” hackers (those who hack for the good, the “bad guys” being dubbed “black-hat”). She’s not afraid to criticize her competitors – talk to her for more than a minute and she’ll have convinced you that Wickr is about to get huge. “Snapchat is an app for kids. Wickr is an app for spies that kids are going to use,” she said. “We’re happy to leave Snapchat at the forefront for now. They’re multiplying their blunders over and over again. Users will come to us looking for a better app.”

Snapchat is run by (smart and capable) students who have rarely been far from the spotlight. But Snapchat has already been hacked once, as its team was too slow to respond to warnings about the app’s vulnerability, and its users’ phone numbers were published on the web.

Sell, the co-founder, and her advisors are celebrities in the closed world of crypto, and they created a product they use themselves.

Another argument tends to support Wickr’s claim to be more privacy-friendly: the application does not collect your personal data. There is no option to connect with Facebook. Your communications are anonymous because Wickr doesn’t care who you are. The app ties your “identity” to your smartphone. When a Wickr message is sent to you, it appears only on your smartphone, and you can only communicate with other Wickr users using their Wickr nickname.

Wickr isn’t just for texting, by the way – it’s also for sharing photos, videos and sounds. Sell told us that some politicians use the app’s audio feature as an encrypted radio system. This is traditionally a very expensive system to set up, but it’s free with Wickr.

In fact, all of these features are completely free. So how does the app make money? Sell answers that question in a Q&A on Reddit: “Our plan is for millions, then billions of people to use our basic service for free. We expect the top 3% of our users to make premium integrated purchases. We don’t have any personal data to sell and won’t put ads in place.”

Integrated purchases will launch this year. Sell and his team are working on “private audio and video calls, secure email, conference calls and group video chats.” Whether this is a viable business model remains to be seen, of course, but the Wickr team doesn’t seem afraid to experiment.

And it will, indeed, have to experiment. Wickr has a conversion problem. How do you convince people to use a superior product when Snapchat is in the spotlight and in the spotlight?

We’re pretty sure Wickr is destined for great success. While everyone is busy discussing Snapchat’s huge privacy blunders, its gargantuan $3 billion valuation, and the controversial lawsuit over an ousted co-founder, the Wickr team is patiently biding its time, adding features and improving security, and building a service that makes Snapchat look like a ridiculous app.

Wickr is a free app available here for iOS and here for Android.

View original : Wickr Is The Messaging App You’ll Turn To If Snapchat Screws Up Again


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