With the pacy growth of internet use in the past decades many services emerged for the public use. Many startups reached remarkable market heights and have become brands in the business. The label of “trustworthy” mostly associates with the brand names that became official companies. In this article we will look over the third party apps that try to coexist the official names. Their approach for finding their market base is providing new and interesting features.
There are many apps available with various applications and services they provide you with. One thing is the same principle in all of these apps regardless of their use; and that is security. Using any online apps or services puts your data at risk. Messaging apps are of no exceptions. Whether you are sending a selfie to a friend or sending crucial business plans, security of your data is important. Alongside the official messaging apps there are other apps that coexist the popular existing ones, called third party apps. These apps are usually popular and you might even have one right now like, GB WhatsApp, Mobogram, Gold Telegram, etc.
Third Party Apps: Messaging Platform
One of the best developing grounds for third party apps are messaging platforms. Official messaging applications offer many features and keep updating themselves and introduce new ones. With that said, users still find new needs and want features to their functional liking. Every day users find, or better put, look for newer and customized features. In result the official brands cannot always keep up with this need’s pace. This is due to the three phased trial runs big companies take to apply the new features publicly. Besides that, companies try to hold off the release to keep their audience on the fence for the new updates. This marketing technique is guaranteed by the official companies’ security and privacy assurances.
Third Party Apps Development (FORK)
One of the security measures taken by big messaging apps, and other applications, is to have an open-source policy. Open-source is basically a software that its source codes are open to the public. This policy initially and intentionally is to ensure security. This is by letting experts find bugs, backdoors, and any other security issues in an ethical hacking manner.
Third party messaging apps, AKA client apps, use the open-source to develop a new version of the app. Computing terminology calls this manner of developing a software Fork (Software development).
Reasonably one might ask about copyright laws and if they can or cannot stop such development approaches. To answer such questions it is worth mentioning the copyright license details for these developments. The open-source software is released under the licence that the copyright holder grants other parties to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. This somewhat loop-hole is there for the debugging reasons. By the by there are cases that the Forking is authorized by the copyright holder.
However, the official companies have Terms of Service policy to safeguard their users from security breaches and/or misuse of the data by the client apps. The official apps expect the third party apps to respect users’ privacy and security of data.
For instance, in the case of Telegram banns in Iran the company warned Iranian users not to use the two native versions. This was due to violation of Terms of Service by Telegram Talaii (Gold) and Hotgram. If the Terms of Service is violated the official app can terminate access to their Application Programming Interface (API). Conservatively Telegram didn’t use this option.
Despite the entitlement of the right to stop client apps like Talaii Telegram, Hotgram, or Mobogram (another Iranian fork of telegram which is popular) Telegram still holds it off. The company’s founder, Pavel Durov, responded to these forks via twitter. Here’s what he had to say to users around the world about third party apps.
Facebook, on the other hand, started cutting its client apps. This was because they were interfering with upgrades, raising security concerns as well as violation of Terms of Service. In 2018 Facebook cut Cambridge Analytica’s access to its API due to the misuse of the private data.
Like Telegram other apps, too, only warn their users not to use the third party apps. They do NOT guarantee any security once you use a client app. WhatsApp also warned users that apps like WhatsApp+ or GB WhatsApp are not official. However, WhatsApp started banning users who had used WhatsApp+. The company claimed that they only banned certain users and that the client app wasn’t a threat.
One of the other reasons official apps ban client apps is to prevent difficulties for their future updates. Technically speaking, deploying new features can get complicated with unofficial third party apps going about their way in the API.
As aforementioned in the article, people tend to use third party apps for their practical, new, and fancy features. These cool features rage from skins to some security and privacy features. Here are some examples in different client apps in the market.
As a client app to WhatsApp this third party app offers some cool features. Here we go about them one by one.
One reason for client apps development is to offer features that make the app convenient to all types of tastes. With over 700 themes that you can choose by changing the style and visual themes within the client app, WhatsApp Plus was successful in achieving this goal.
The use of emoticons is popular among users and this could be another aspect a client app can work on. WhatsApp Plus brought this factor into action by adding new emoticons. Here is a picture of all of them below.
This client app is , or at least was considered one of the best if not the best third party app to the official Telegram app. Here we check out the features that helped make this unofficial app fan favorite.
The Ghost mode gave this opportunity to get online and don’t be seen even to those you approved of seeing your activity on your contact list ( or even everyone for that matter). The perk of this mode is that you can see your messages without the double tick of the “seen” indicator. This way you read messages and the person who sent you the message would not know if you have read it or not, and only the “delivered” tick is shown to them.
In Telegram official version all of your messages are in chronological order. Mobogram gave the users the opportunity to categorize their messages in different already set sections. In the picture below you can see the different categories in Mobogram.
The icons stand for a particular category; from the left: Bots, Channels, Super Groups, Groups, Individuals, Favorites, All Messages (chronologically), Unread Messages.
Although third party apps can be interesting enough to use them instead of the official apps, but are they as safe? Well even the official apps like Telegram have their problems with security. Official companies gain market share based on their reputation. This reputation comes directly from the amount users spend time on their platforms. So to keep their head high and keep people satisfied at the same time they try their best to ensure security.
But can we say the same thing for third party apps? Would they try their best to ensure us with data security and privacy? Trusting a client app is accepting the probable security breaches and privacy invasions. Unfortunately some of these apps are intentionally there to penetrate to your security shell. Moreover, some third party apps, again intentionally, are developed to invade your privacy, sell or simply give information about you to third parties like government agencies, publicizing companies and etc.
Third Party Apps’ Support
Official apps stand by their Terms of Service and provide support to their users and are held responsible. Should any problem happen to your data security the company is obligated to give you support and address the issue. Whereas the client apps do not give as much support. Once you use the unofficial clients official apps cannot guarantee security and functional support to you. In the same way just like WhatsApp they might even block you out of the app.
Client App Responsibility
As far as responsibility is concerned, in the best case scenario it’s good to have a client app does NOT sell your data. There are cases that developers work with security agencies and governments that are violating human rights. Not only they won’t stand by their violations but also they are actually supported by governments.
These third party apps can easily sell your metadata. Metadata is the data on when a message was sent, to whom it was sent to and other log activities. To shed light on the importance of your metadata it is worth mentioning that US Air-force uses metadata to carry out airstrikes.