Start-Up Wire Launches Encrypted Video Messaging

Private End-to-End Communication Service Raises More Questions

Wire, a secure messaging service, last week extended its coverage with encrypted video communications. Wire offers free messaging, group chats, and audio and video calls to its users.
The start-up highlights solid end-to-end encryption as a way to distinguish itself among so many other messaging services, but the promotion of Wire comes at a time of heavy debate in the industry as IT firms and governments try to find a balance between individual privacy and public security.

Wire, based in Switzerland, was founded in December 2014 with the backing of Skype co-founder Janus Friis, as well as former engineering talent from Skype. The company’s main rivals include Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and Line, all of which come with varying levels of encryption.

According to Wire co-founder and chief technology officer Alan Duric, the intention of the latest update of Wire is to enable a “one-stop shop” for all modes of secure communications. Wire doesn’t hold the decryption keys and claims its software contains no backdoor to unlock customer data. In theory at least, there is no way for third parties to get at the information that flows through the service. With encryption at its core, Wire is stepping right into the ongoing debate escalated by the wrangles between Apple and the US government.

Other messaging services come with similar features: voice, text, stickers, emoji, video, and some with the same solid encryption. Wire positions itself as being different thanks to its focus on security as well as the company’s strong pedigree. In addition to former Skype employees, Wire also boasts employees who used to work at Apple, Nokia and Microsoft.

A key selling point for Wire is that its privacy features also protect its users from advertising. Wire is available for Android, iOS, OS X and Windows. Given this multiplatform support, Wire expects to scale up and reach critical mass quickly — the network effect means that any communications service is only as good as the number of people using it.

Although messaging applications that place a priority on privacy have a potentially big opportunity as consumers and businesses become more security-conscious, luring people away from long-established services like Facebook is going to be a hard work. The outcome of the legal battle between Apple and the FBI may also make their task even more difficult.