[tor-project] Future of Tor Messenger

Georg Koppen gk at torproject.org
Thu Oct 26 07:47:00 UTC 2017

Sukhbir Singh:
> * Arthur D. Edelstein:
>> One type of chat that is extremely popular is mobile messaging (text
>> messages, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, QQ Mobile, Snapchat etc.) I
>> think a metadata-free mobile messaging app (similar to ricochet) is
>> likely to be much more popular than any desktop chat app. So if we're
>> looking how to transition to a new chat product, I would strongly
>> consider switching to a focus on mobile, regardless of whether it's
>> integrated with the browser.
>> In general, I would advocate taking a cold, hard look at user numbers,
>> both in terms of our own apps and apps in the same markets (chat,
>> email, etc.). I think we should try to focus on what most users want.
> I agree that mobile is important (and indeed in some countries, people just
> use smart phones to communicate) but my (personal) opinion on this topic is
> that mobile is not the platform we want to target, at least with "Tor
> Messenger".  Now of course an argument can be made that we can transition the
> same patches, but that's not the main idea.  I think there are other apps in
> the space already that are doing a better job than we could, unless of course
> we work on something like Ricochet for smartphones. That is why when asked,
> "Is there something like Tor Messenger for mobile?" to which our answer has
> been, "No and there are no plans. Use Signal/something by the Guardian
> Project."
> The kind of users I (and I cannot speak for the rest of the team) have in mind
> with something like "Tor Messenger" are the ones that need to use messaging on
> desktop for Twitter, XMPP, IRC, and that we can enable them to do so securely.
> Unless of course we do something like Ricochet on mobile, which would then beg
> the question if we should abandon the desktop space altogether and leave it to
> Pidgin and Adium?

Tor Messenger is a nice experiment and I think we have learned a lot so
far. Now that a central part of it, Instantbird, is officially dead it's
a good time to think about requirements for the next chat application we
plan (if we want to have any at all). From my point of view there are at
least two of those requirements:

1) It should not be a desktop-only application. Given that we hope to
reach mobile-only users not planning with them in mind does not sound
right to me. Moreover, I bet there are a bunch of non-mobile-only users
that are using mobile heavily as well and who don't want to have
different chat applications with different UI, different functionality
etc. for different devices. They want to communicate with their friends
the same way regardless whether they are on mobile or not. You would not
want to make a Windows-only chat application either because most of our
users are currently on that platform, right (and they might be the ones
that need a secured chat environment the most)? So, let's tear this
desktop/mobile barrier down while thinking about the future.

2) It should support onion service-based chat protocols. Those are a
good showcase for metadata-free chat/messaging and we should support
that + convince users to switch to them.


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