How to set up Conversations as alternative to WhatsApp
March 2, 2017 1 Comment
Note: this article is also available in German.
What is Conversations?
Conversations is an app for Android Smartphones for sending each other messages, pictures, etc, much like WhatsApp. However, there are a number of important differences to WhatsApp:
- Conversations does not use your phone number for identification, and doesn’t read your address book to find contacts. It uses an ID that looks much like an email address (the so-called Jabber-ID), and you can find contacts by exchanging Jabber-IDs with people, just like you do with email addresses, phone numbers, etc.
- Conversations uses an open protocol called XMPP, that is used by many other programs on a wide range of systems, for example on desktop PCs.
- Converations is Open Source, i.e. everybody can inspect the source code, check it for security issues, see what the program actually does, or even modify and distribute it.
- XMPP builds on a decentralized infrastructure. This means that not one company is in control of it, but instead there are many providers, or you can even run your own server if you want.
- Conversations does not collect and sell any information from you or your contacts.
There are more differences, but I don’t want to go into detail here, others have already done it, and better (German).
From Google Play
Conversations is easily installed from Google Play. However, it currently costs 2,39€. I’d recommend everybody who can to buy the it, it supports development of this really good app.
Alternative: From F-Droid
For all those who cannot or don’t want to spend the money, there is another way to get it for free. It is available in the F-Droid. It is an alternative app store, that only distributes Open Source software. In order to do that, you first need to install F-Droid. Then you can start F-Droid and search for Conversations and install it.
Set-up Jabber account
Next step is to set up a Jabber account. You need two things: an ID, and a provider. The first part, the ID, you can choose freely, e.g. a fantasy name or something like firstname.surname, but this is really up to you. In order to find a provider, I recommend this list https://gultsch.de/compliance_ranked.html. The providers at the top of the list have best support for the XMPP features that are relevant for smartphone users. I’d recommend trashserver.net because this supports in-band registration (directly from Conversations) and is very well maintained. If you want to further support the developer of Conversations, I’d recommend an account on conversations.im, this currently costs 8€/year. I think it is worth it, but you have the choice.
If you choose, for example, the ID ‘joe.example’ on the provider ‘provider.org’, then your Jabber-ID is email@example.com. When you’re decided on a Jabber-ID, you can easily register an account by starting Conversations, entering the Jabber-ID in the set-up screen, check the box ‘register new account on server’, enter your preferred password 2x and confirm it.
Adding contacts is different than WhatsApp. You have to manually add contacts to your roster. Tap on the ‘+’ symbol next to the little people icon, enter your contact’s Jabber-ID and confirm it. Now you’re ready to start chatting. Have fun!