The desire for encrypted communications is no longer limited to spies, informants, and journalists. Amidst news of widespread surveillance, secure messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp are quickly picking up new users.
WhatsApp has surpassed a billion users and while most of them are outside the United States, the app added over 2 million users from 2015 to 2016 here, going from about 16 million to just under 19 million users.
WhatsApp makes it easy to keep in touch with far-flung friends on the cheap. It’s free to text and call as long as you have a Wi-Fi or data connection. The IM-style service is more popular than the very similar Facebook Messenger, likely because it works on feature phones, which are common outside the US, and because it isn’t directly tied to Facebook, despite being owned by the huge social network.
Aside from casual communication, WhatsApp is also becoming integral for industries in places like India, where hospitals use it for everything from shift scheduling to transplant planning. Whatever you’re using WhatsApp for, though, you likely don’t know everything it can do. Check out the slideshow for our top tips.