Signal is down as rush of new users swamps secure messaging service

Secure messaging service Signal is down this morning, with users reporting an inability to log into their account and check their encrypted messages. The company reported a huge influx of new registrations over the past week, accelerated by chatter that Facebook-owned WhatsApp planned to share user data with its social network parent.

The controversial change in the privacy policies seemingly overruled an early promise back when Facebook acquired WhatsApp. Then, it said it had no plan to share data with Facebook; the update to that policy, it appeared, changed all that.

WhatsApp went on a damage control tour earlier this week, suggesting that Facebook won't be getting access to contacts in the messaging app, and promising it was business as usual for things like ephemeral messages. However, the damage was arguably already done. People were looking around for an alternative, cross-platform messaging service with a greater focus on privacy, and Signal – along with Telegram – was one of the recipients of that attention.

Though it's been around for some time now, Signal was until recently one of the lesser-known messaging platforms among everyday consumers. That changed when – among other things – Tesla CEO Elon Musk name checked the platform on his Twitter feed. Back on January 10, the company said the growth in users had saw it "shatter traffic records" as it added capacity to handle the extra load. Even then, some features – like group chats – were struggling to work as intended.

This morning, the situation got a lot more problematic. "Signal is experiencing technical difficulties," the company confirmed on Friday, January 15. "We are working hard to restore service as quickly as possible."

Those trying to access Signal on their phone may find themselves staring at the page-loading screen rather than their inbox. New sign-ups to the service are getting the confirmation code that Signal sends to validate a new phone number, but the app typically hangs after that is entered.

It's a reminder that, while the privacy policies of services like WhatsApp may not be entirely to users' tastes, service uptime is another considerable issue. Signal is a 501c3 nonprofit and relies on user donations rather than advertising or paid apps to pay for its servers, and as always, if you want to use the platform then it's worth opening your wallet to support it.