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           Prologue           

       Introduction       

       TL;DR       

Behold, most IMs suck profusely as they are of propriety centralized design. You should use XMPP (the eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol). IRC isn't bad either. Everything else either has issues, lack of features or is obscure.

       The Table of Instant Messaging Systems       

Name Spyware Rating Network Architecture Operating System License Verdict
Adamant Unrated Decentralized, Blockchain Android and Web GPLv3 ?
Briar Unrated Decentralized, P2P Android GPLv3 Probably okay
Cabal Unrated ? Electron AGPLv3 (core), GPLv3 (client) ?
Cwtch Unrated Decentralized, Semi-P2P Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS & Android MIT ?
DeltaChat Unrated Decentralized, same as email Various MPLv2, GPLv3 Probably okay
Discord Extremely High Centralized Web Interface and Electron, 3rd party clients prohibited Proprietary Do Not Use
IRC Unrated Distributed, Load balanced Various, depends on client Depends on implementation, usually open source Good
Jami Unrated Decentralized, P2P Various GPLv3 Probably okay
Keybase Unrated Centralized Linux, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS Custom Open Source (Client), ? (Server) Do Not Use
Matrix Unrated Decentralized w/ dominant instance (matrix.org), Federated Web Interface and electron (official client), Various (3rd party clients) Apache (official implementations), various (other) Avoid When Possible
Psyc Unrated Decentralized, Federated Various ? ?
Signal Unrated Centralized Various MIT Avoid
Session Unrated ? ? ? ?
Skype Unrated Centralized Various Proprietary Do Not Use
Telegram Unrated Centralized Various Open Source (client), Closed Source (server) Do Not Use
Threema Unrated Centralized Android, iOS, Web GPLv3 (client), Proprietary (server) Avoid
Tox Unrated Decentralized, P2P Various GPLv3 Avoid When Possible
Utopia Unrated ? ? ? ?
Wire Unrated Centralized Various AGPLv3, GPJv3 ?
WhatsApp Unrated Centralized Various Proprietary Do Not Use
XMPP Unrated Decentralized, Federated Various, depends on client CC-BY-SA 2.0 (specification), Various (client) Good

       Instant Messaging Systems Notes       

Adamant

Adamant is a crypto/blockchain based messenger that is paid. It's biggest downside is that it only offers web and app clients.

Briar

A peer to peer messenger that works over Tor. There is only an Android client, and you must scan a QR code to friend someone.

Cabal

?

Cwtch

?

DeltaChat

Rather than reinventing the wheel, DeltaChat uses an already existing email server (any) to relay communication, but in a chat-like realtime form. It is essentially an email client. It uses "Autocrypt" encryption.

Discord

For the love of god please do not use this platform.

Others have written about why Discord is really terrible:

IRC

The oldest and longest lived of all chat systems (and still in current use today), IRC was initially one network before getting forked into a plethora of different networks and implementations. Encryption can be had with TLS and OTR, probably other methods too. Features associated with modern chat system such as history can be found in IRCv3.

Jami

Jami is a peer to peer chat application most akin in features to Skype. However, development has been slow so it may lack many features.

Keybase

A messenger from the same entity that does that Keybase website, which is owned by the makers of Zoom no less.
Will collect your data, especially if unencrypted.[1] You also can't talk about weapons or firearms.[2]

Matrix

The reference client, Element (formerly Riot) is web based and only works on big 5 and big 5-adjacent web browsers. The alternative clients almost always miss critical features such as moderation or encryption (check out the WeeChat plugin, not to be confused with WeChat).
The reference server implementation (Synapse) is massively bloated and very poorly performing. The premier alternative, Construct, is purportedly treated in a hostile way[3] by the reference developers.
The official (massive) instance, matrix.org, is Cloudflared and employs a Google ReCaptcha to keep people away, and is hosted on Amazon servers. If you do use Matrix, be sure to use an independent homeserver or self-host.
  1. 3. Hacker News - Riot/Matrix is a chat standard, but it's not an open standard, 3/12/2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19365968

Psyc

Seems to be an implementation of XMPP, but in a different way.

Signal

A common crutch for cattle who are to scared to use XMPP or SIP. Outclassed in every possible way by XMPP.

Session

? Has something to do with LokiNet. Site is clownflared so here's an archive link.

Skype

A botnet owned by Micro$oft.

Telegram

Famous because they had to leave Russia. While the client is open source, and possibly the server software (?) this is meaningless because the whole thing is setup to only use their servers. Requires a phone number, and encryption only works on 1 to 1 messages (?).

Threema

Yet another "secure" "anonymous" "app" that's centralized.

Tox

P2P but there are concerns their crypto, also very poor client support.

Utopia

?

Wire

Another centralized "secure" messenger.

WhatsApp

Facebook owned.

XMPP

Pending.

           Epilogue           

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