Voxer adds end-to-end encrypted ‘private chats’

Voice-focused messaging app Voxer has added an end-to-end encrypted ‘private chats’ feature on its Android and iOS apps — powered by Open Whisper Systems’ Signal Protocol. So all content shared within a private chat, including live voice, text, videos, images, GIFs, and document sharing, is fully e2e encrypted.

It’s the latest messaging app to make use of the Signal Protocol, which is also used by the likes of WhatsApp to secure users’ content from the risks associated with the service provider having internal access to users’ comms — albeit those apps use e2e everywhere, not just within a single ‘private chats’ silo.

e2e encryption means data is encrypted locally and users’ hold the encryption keys, meaning providers cannot be compelled to decrypt and hand over their communications.

Why isn’t Voxer applying e2e encryption across all comms content? CEO Irv Remedios says it’s trying to balance convenience and (robust) security.

“Many businesses and consumers rely on message history using multiple devices — being able to find older messages even after logging out/in on mobile and desktop. End-to-end encryption would change that. We wanted to provide a solution for our users that wanted end-to-end encryption and we’ll build on this,” he tells TechCrunch.

The opt-in private chats feature must be initially on a per chats basis, and is currently only available for one-on-one chats — although Voxer is aiming to launch e2e encrypted group chats in Q1.

The company notes that content sent within a private chat cannot be shared, forwarded, or synced with other devices. Once the user logs out of their Voxer account all private chat content is erased.

Despite being a 10-year veteran of the mobile messaging space, Voxer does not break out active users, saying only that it’s in the “millions” at this point. And while the app is currently a free download, the company’s monetization efforts are focused on mobile workforce users who might not have time to type texts but do still need to leave and receive messages rapidly — such as people working for on-demand delivery companies, service technicians, hotels/hospitality employees and educators.

It says its best market is the US, followed by the UK, Canada, Australia, Taiwan and Japan.

Voxer’s differentiating voice messaging feature is called ‘Live-messaging’ which enables users to stream media live but also store it simultaneously — allowing users to listen to an audio message as it’s coming in while also having it saved for referring back to later.

According to Remedios a majority (~ 60 per cent) of the messages sent via the app are voice, although he notes this can be higher still (“towards 80 per cent”) for business users. “Most of our conversations are quick,” he adds. “Half of all voice messages are 10 seconds or less… Responses to messages are also quick. The median reply time for a message is 20 seconds and two thirds of all messages are replied to within 1 minute.”

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