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Signal's Adding Support for Usernames, Removing Phone Number Requirement

The secure texting app will let you start conversations without having to give out additional info.

Mike Sorrentino Senior Editor
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
Expertise Phones, texting apps, iOS, Android, smartwatches, fitness trackers, mobile accessories, gaming phones, budget phones, toys, Star Wars, Marvel, Power Rangers, DC, mobile accessibility, iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, RCS
Mike Sorrentino
2 min read
Signal username graphic

Signal is adding support for usernames and removing the requirement to use a phone number for conversations.

Signal

Signal on Tuesday announced that username support is rolling out, and if you want it to, it can supplant the need to give out your phone number to new contacts. 

The chat app is launching username support in beta first, and when it rolls out widely it will hide your phone number from other people in the Signal app by default unless they already have it stored in their phone's contacts.

The change to usernames will mean that you can also choose to make it impossible for others to find you on Signal by phone number, which will be an optional setting. If you choose to use that setting, then other people will only be able to contact you on Signal if they have your exact username.

In the announcement, Signal notes that usernames will not fully replace phone numbers in regard to how you set up your account, but it will function as an alternative to giving out that information when starting conversations with others.

Signal QR code graphic

Signal is also adding a QR code option for sharing usernames.

Signal

Signal will also provide a QR code option -- similar to other apps like WhatsApp -- which will direct other people to your username.

Usernames will need to be unique and have two numbers appended to the end of them, which Signal states was done in order to help keep usernames "egalitarian and to minimize spoofing." A username can also be changed as often as one likes, and deleted if you don't want to use it anymore.

Ideally, the change will provide a lot more flexibility in how Signal can be used, while preserving privacy. Under the current system where Signal needs a phone number for setup, several of my colleagues have set up a Signal account using an entirely separate phone number that's dedicated to contacting sources. 

This username system -- especially the ability to change the username at any time -- might allow for preserving that privacy without having to give access to a phone number that's set up across multiple services.

This username system is expected to roll out widely to Signal users over the next few weeks.