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Signal tests public usernames for phone number anonymity

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Signal, the privacy-focused messaging app, is testing bringing usernames to the platform, thereby hiding the phone numbers of people you want to communicate with.

Signal has invited users to test the new username feature in the Staging Environment — a parallel universe within the Signal app.

To engage in this testing phase, users must install and run a new build provided by Signal and register for a new account using their phone number (which can be the same as their Production account). It’s worth noting that anyone a user wishes to communicate with in the Staging Environment must also be registered in Staging.

Signal sets clear expectations for Staging, with no uptime guarantees and potential issues with push notifications during testing. Despite these limitations, Signal encourages users to explore the new functionality available in the Staging builds by navigating into Settings > Profile and Settings > Privacy > Phone Number.

Source: Signal Update Info on Mastodon.

Currently, Signal offers desktop installers for macOS and Windows on its community website. Android users need to register via Firebase to access the staging builds. In contrast, Linux users are required to add the Desktop Alpha apt repository and build the signal-desktop-staging version.

Key areas of focus during testing include creating usernames, sharing usernames links, modifying sharing settings for phone numbers, and inviting people to groups using both usernames and phone numbers.

“These early builds are designed to proactively crash if it appears that anything has gone wrong under the hood, since we’re changing the fundamental way that accounts are identified in the Signal ecosystem,” said the community post by Signal.

The developers are interested in user feedback on crashes and corresponding debug logs. Signal acknowledges that there may be rough edges in the user experience with this pre-beta software and welcomes users to report any issues they encounter.

Signal has been working on usernames for over a year now. In November 2022, President of Signal, Meredith Whittaker announced this on Twitter.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: