Signal Crashes Due To Millions of Sign-Ups

With more than 30 million people joining the non-profit, end-to-end encrypted communications app ‘Signal’ in just a few days, users of the app have (understandably) been experiencing a few technical issues.

Mass Sign-Ups

The announcement that WhatsApp would be changing its privacy policy and terms to force users (outside Europe) to share their data with WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook, coupled with recommendations by Elon Musk and Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey of the Signal app as a worthy alternative led to Signal’s platform being swamped with sign-ups. 

From 10 Million to 40+ Million Users

Last week, Signal’s user base soared from a respectable 10 million to a massive 40 million-plus, thereby immediately catapulting it to the no.1 social networking app spot in Apple’s App Store.

Issues

It appears that the mass exodus caused a need for greater server capacity which resulted in Signal users experiencing technical issues which included:

- Delays in sending verification codes for new-user sign-ups.

- Users seeing errors in their chats.

- The app has stopped working altogether for short periods of time.

Capacity

The huge numbers of people joining and trying to sign-up to (and use) the app in a very short period meant that Signal was short of server capacity which is likely to explain many of the technical issues. For example, Signal said on its Twitter feed on Friday that “We have been adding new servers and extra capacity at a record pace every single day this week nonstop, but today exceeded even our most optimistic projections”.

Back on Sunday

On Sunday, Signal was restored after it had gone down altogether, and posted a famous clip from the film Rocky (where the boxer reaches the top of the steps and celebrates) saying “Signal is back! Like an underdog going through a training montage, we’ve learned a lot since yesterday — and we did it together. Thanks to the millions of new Signal users around the world for your patience. Your capacity for understanding inspired us while we expanded capacity”.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

WhatsApp’s announcement that users would be soon given an ultimatum (share your information with Facebook or leave) coupled with the Signal recommendation from two tech big-hitters seems to have been enough to cause WhatsApp users to jump ship more quickly and in larger numbers than maybe anyone expected.  WhatsApp may have 2 billion users worldwide but 40 million+ is a lot of users to lose in just a few days. It may be that people working remotely (from home) during the pandemic made the message about WhatsApp get noticed and people take action more quickly and in larger numbers, and it may be that the closing of apps like Parler could have contributed at least some new users to Signal. It also appears, however, that people clearly value their data privacy and like the thought of having one popular end-to-end encrypted app for business and personal use. It may also be the case that Facebook is still suffering from a lack of trust in the marketplace left over from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and that people are hearing, seeing, and experiencing so many messages, rules, intervention, and changes from their governments at this time that having a new secure app of some kind, especially from a relatively unknown brand (not one of the big tech big brothers) is even more attractive. Digital transformation and the reliance on technology and apps in recent times may also have led to a greater willingness to (and less fear of) switching between alternative platforms and other tech services.  The massive switch to Signal will fuel its growth even more quickly as one of the attractions of using a new communications app is knowing that your other contacts are also using it.