Signal tests usernames that keep your phone number private
Signal tests usernames that keep your phone number private

Signal tests usernames that keep your phone number private

Signal tests usernames that keep your phone number private

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Signal tests usernames that keep your phone number private

Signal is now testing public usernames that allow users to conceal the phone numbers linked to their accounts while communicating with others.

As Signal’s VP of Engineering, Jim O’Leary, shared earlier today, this long-expected new feature is now being tested in a staging environment separate from the stable Signal encrypted messaging service following multiple rounds of internal testing.

“Think of The Staging Environment as a parallel Signal universe: you’ll need to install and run a new build, and register for a new account with a phone number (you can use the same one you’re using in Production),” O’Leary said.

“Anybody you wish to talk with in Staging needs to be registered in Staging as well. We have no uptime guarantees in Staging, and it’s likely that push notifications won’t work as well, or potentially at all, during your testing.”

After registering for a staging account and launching the app, users can access the new features within these builds by navigating to Settings > Profile and Settings > Privacy > Phone Number.

Signal encourages users to test various functionalities, including creating usernames, sharing username links, adjusting sharing settings for phone numbers, and inviting individuals to groups using both usernames and phone numbers.

“Usernames are paired with a set of digits and aren’t shared on your profile. Each username has a unique QR code and link you can share with friends to start a chat with you,” users are told when setting up a new username.

“Turn off phone number discovery under Settings > Privacy > Phone number > Who can find my number, to use your username as the primary way others can contact you.” 

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Signal users can start testing the new username features by installing pre-beta build versions that will likely be updated daily.

Currently, Signal provides macOS and Windows desktop installers on its community website. Android users must enroll through Firebase to get the staging builds, while Linux users have to add the Desktop Alpha apt repo and build the signal-desktop-staging build.

Even though an iOS staging build is unavailable via the App Store, iOS users can build their own Signal-Staging iOS app using the latest Signal-iOS source code.

“Running a linked desktop requires you to first have registered with an Android or iOS device in Staging,” O’Leary said.

“I’d like to emphasize that you should not get attached to any data on these staging builds. You’re running early pre-release stuff, and there may be classes of bugs that happen where we may fix something moving forward and just tell existing users to reinstall the app to get back into a good state,” added Signal Android developer Greyson Parrelli.

Signal President Meredith Whittaker first mentioned one year ago that Signal usernames are under development, allowing users to use the encrypted messaging service without disclosing their phone numbers.

“We are working on usernames, which will allow people to communicate with each other without ever sharing their phone number,” Whittaker added this August.

“You will still need a phone number for registration, but you can choose to share it with no one.”


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