Signal is currently in the early stages of public testing for a feature that allows users to add usernames to their accounts, reducing reliance on sharing phone numbers for connections.
Jim O'Leary, VP of Engineering at Signal, announced the "pre-beta" test on the Signal forums, cautioning users about potential rough edges like crashes and broken push notifications.
The official release is scheduled for early 2024, as confirmed by Signal President Meredith Whittaker.
This move is pivotal for Signal, renowned for promoting private and secure communication.
Although user accounts will still be linked to traditional mobile numbers during setup, the introduction of usernames means users can connect and message each other without divulging sensitive information.
In a screenshot shared on X, it's revealed that Signal users can share their usernames through a unique QR code or link.
Once a username is established, users can designate it as the primary mode of contact on Signal and prevent their phone number from being shared via their profile.
Signal has been working on this feature for an extended period, with signs of its development dating back to 2019, as noted in the service's wiki.
While the username feature enhances privacy, it also introduces the potential for misuse.
In 2021, when Signal's plans for this feature were reported, concerns were raised about the possibility of users impersonating others.
As Signal progresses with this innovative step, it navigates the delicate balance between privacy and the prevention of misuse in the messaging landscape.