Signal has always been heralded as the alternative to WhatsApp and Co. due to its open-source nature, but it looks like the nonprofit behind the chat app doesn’t want to play with completely open cards anymore. While it regularly publishes the code of its client apps, it hasn’t updated the Github repository for its server for almost a year, as reported by German publication Golem.
The repository is full of complaints from the open-source community asking why Signal doesn’t publish changes to its server code anymore, with the last publication dating back to April 20, 2020. One entry on the topic has been open since March 13, and Signal still hasn’t responded. Golem also reached out to Signal for comment, but it haven’t received an answer, either. The topic was previously already discussed on Hacker News, again with no explanation forthcoming.
While communication is guaranteed to be secure due to the end-to-end encryption implemented in the open-source client apps and the Signal protocol, a closed-source server app prevents forks and hinders anyone from running their own up-to-date Signal servers. For an open-source project, that has far-reaching consequences — others can’t create their own platforms using the code anymore if they’re unhappy with the direction Signal is going and would have to start from the available resources. And the fact that the nonprofit is close-sourcing its code without responding to comments might just be the reason why someone might want a fork.
Meanwhile, the company website still prides itself with a quote from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, endorsing the service because it’s open source and peer-reviewed, saying it’s “a refreshing model for how critical services should be built.” Having open-sourced clients is still great and so much better than anything Facebook offers, and it deserves stressing that Signal’s clients and its protocol are publicly available. Still, this radio silence leaves a sour taste, especially if you rely on security and anonymity online.
We reached out to Signal for comment and will update this story if we hear back.