Prav App - Reclaiming Choice of Service Providers

I am Ravi Dwivedi, a free software and privacy activist. I help free software projects Debian and LibreOffice. Currently, I am a part of prav project.

I would like to post about prav app project which is developing messaging apps for popular platforms to make privacy and software freedom accessible to general audience.

Prav logo

Unpopular policies

In January 2021, popular messaging app WhatsApp changed their privacy policy to combine all the data it gets with Facebook, giving users only two choices: accept the new privacy policy, or leave WhatsApp altogether.

In a world where using WhatsApp has become a norm, that wasn’t really a choice.

There were many users who did not like this new privacy policy. They tried to leave WhatsApp for other messaging apps, like Telegram and Signal. A sizable amount of users disagreed with the push by WhatsApp, but leaving a popular app like WhatsApp comes with its own costs—losing touch with contacts on WhatsApp. That meant, unless they were willing to be cut out from a lot of their contacts, people had to still leave one foot in the WhatsApp door.

How different the situation is with phone numbers! If you had similar disagreements with a phone company A, you could have easily switch to any other phone company B and still be able to talk to other contacts by calls and SMS. Your contacts need not switch to company B to communicate with you. (In fact, the reason phone companies don’t make decisions like this is because they know customers will immediately leave them for a better provider. The ability for users to leave keeps phone companies under control).

A solution: XMPP

Imagine if all messaging apps were like phone and email, where users of any app can contact with users of other apps. In the above example, people would have a real choice to leave WhatsApp and just use any other service.

This is exactly what we need.

XMPP is a protocol that lets this happen. For the uninitiated, you can think of XMPP as a superpowered SMS, which works over the Internet and allows modern features like calls and image-sharing. It’s not a single company like WhatsApp but a standard that different companies can provide for.

Messaging apps and services that that use XMPP can talk to each other. Examples of such apps are: Blabber, Snikket, Siskin, and more (think of these like Google SMS, Samsung SMS, Silence, and any other SMS app). Examples of XMPP service providers include,,, and a whole bunch more (think of these as different service providers, like BSNL, Vi, or Airtel).

To drive home the point: any user registered on any XMPP service can talk to other users of any other XMPP service. ( users and users can send each other messages, just like BSNL users can exchange SMSes and calls with people on Airtel). This gives users choice of service providers: a single company does not control everything, and we won’t be forced to accept arbitrary terms by services like WhatsApp to be in touch with others.

Ease of adoption

Unfortunately, the current onboarding process on most XMPP services is not user friendly at all compared to WhatsApp. This issue, combined with the lack of awareness about XMPP services among common people, has made mass adoption difficult.

Things don’t have to be this way, and Quicksy is a leading example of this. Like WhatsApp, Quicksy allows users to register in a few taps by entering their phone number and receiving an OTP. But because it’s an XMPP service, Quicksy users can talk to users on other XMPP services.

We are developing the Prav app to complement Quicksy by providing a compatible app (Prav users can talk with Quicksy users) and offering more choice to users. People can easily sign up for Prav in the same way they do for Quicksy, but now they have more than one alternative to choose from. Before, the choice only existed for people willing to figure out the complex setup process on other XMPP providers; with Prav they now have another easy-to-set-up alternative.

Respects users’ freedom

Our app is ‘free software’, which means users get freedom to run, study, modify, share and share the modified versions. When we say ‘free’, we mean ‘freedom’ and not ‘free-of-cost’. To avoid ambiguity of the word ‘free’, we also call it swatantra software. Examples of free software are VLC Media Player, Firefox, Debian, Quicksy, Prav etc. You can learn more about Free Software and why it is important here.

This means that the original source code behind a swatantra app is freely available for anyone to inspect; people can conduct independent security audits instead of having to trust a company’s word about what data they are or are not collecting. Such an auditing can also verify whether the app sends messages in end-to-end encrypted form or not.

In contrast, WhatsApp does not provide source code for their app and we can never verify independently whether the app encrypts messages as they claim.

Running as a cooperative

Choice aside, Quicksy is run by a single person, which has its own drawbacks—most significantly, having a single point of failure if something goes wrong. We want to offer Prav as a cooperative, adding more resilience by managing the service as a group, having a democratic decision making structure.

In India, cooperative societies can be registered under state cooperative laws or under central laws. Only people from the same state can become members if we register under any state cooperative laws. So, we prefer registering as a Multi State Cooperative Society to allow people from different states to join as members. Members elect the leadership team of a cooperative for a specific term and there will be regular elections to elect the leadership team giving members democratic control over the cooperative.

Every member will have one vote irrespective of the number of shares they hold in the cooperative, making it impossible for big companies to aquire the cooperative and take control of decisions. Acquisition by big companies is an issue as it can compromise the service: as an example, WhatsApp was an independent company, but it was eventually bought up by Facebook, which compromised the service in may ways, such as by weakening its privacy policy over the years.

Next steps

For this project to be successful, we need more people to join as members of the Multi State Cooperative Society. By law, we need at least 50 members each from two Indian states before we can do the registration.

At the moment, we have 50+ members from Kerala, 17 members from Maharashtra, and a few from various other states. Details are at

By registering as a member of the Prav Multi State Cooperative Society, you can help us with your experience, knowledge and the amount that you give for buying shares will help us in funding for the app and running the service. Plus, your membership will help us cover the legal requirements for becoming a cooperative society.

In case, we fail to reach 50 members from a second state by June 15 this year, we plan to register as a cooperative in Kerala. This is an intermediate measure: we will still work to meet the necessary requirements in other states, and once that’s done, we will register as a Multi State Cooperative Society as originally planned.

How you can help

If we don’t get enough members by June 15th 2023, we will have to go through a two-step process to get members. To prevent this, we’re trying to onboard members as soon as possible—and we need your help!

  • You can register as a member and spread the word to your friends to register as well, by visiting Become a Member - Prav app

  • To help you explain Prav, we’ve put together a poster below which you can share with people

  • We are currently in private beta testing. Attached below is a screenshot of prav app. If you’re not ready to join as a member yet, you can still sign up to be a beta tester. This will give you early access to the app, where you can test out features and let us know what is or isn’t working. Register here: Private Beta Release Party - Prav app

Besides the above, you can learn more about the project by visiting our website, Alternatively, you can call or email any of the undersigned for more information and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have:

  • Email: prav at fsci dot in

  • Praveen +91 9561745712 (English, Malayalam, Hindi)

  • Ravi +91 9535650745 (English, Hindi)

  • Badri +91 9442990598 (Tamil, English)

  • Vinay +91 9108313399 (English, Kannada, Telugu)

Credits: Pirate Praveen for drafting the first version, Ravi and badri for adding points and improving it. Badri for the poster.


Note: the above post is licensed under CC-BY-SA . This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
Creative Commons License

An appeal: please read this post. This is a serious and sustained effort by those who want to protect software freedom and privacy by amplifying the use of protocol based instant messaging, without locking up users to a phone number.

This group needs 30 more pledges from Maharashtra to register as a cooperative. Though we also need pledges from other states, it is crucial to obtain our target in Maharashtra so that we can begin the registration process.

If you need any further clarifications or questions, join the conversation on this thread.

I am in full agreement with the rationale for something like this. However, I have one question:

To become a member, there is a question which states, “How many shares you can buy (assuming 1000 rupees for a share, we will decide the exact amount later)”. As per my understanding, cooperatives follow the principle of one person one value, i.e., each person can only own one share and each share has the same value. Will this principle be followed or can different people own different numbers of shares, opening the possibility of one person holding a controlling stake?


You can buy as many shares you would like to. The difference being in a cooperative society, each person gets equal vote, irrespective of the number of shares they buy.

Quoting wikipedia

Cooperatives are democratically controlled by their members, with each member having one vote in electing the board of directors.


Thanks for the clarification. Will greatly appreciate it the final document which will be used to register the cooperative can be shared whenever it is ready.

1 Like is the document for the multi state cooperative society act.


Is this the norm that is respected in Indian cooperative act as well?


See section 31 Vote of members on page 24

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Thank you for sharing the link.

We will draft the bylaws together with people who are interested in planning the project currently.

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We are looking forward to more participation in the drafting process as well. We are thinking about taking a bylaw of an existing multi state cooperative (for example and adapting it to our needs.

Hi. Great initiative. I want to try out Prav but I’m not able yo register as a beta tester. The page keeps timing out.

I just checked and it is working for me. You can try again later or send an email to prav at fsci dot in.

Just an update, within a year of our membership campaign (we started in February 2022), we have gained pledges from 108 members from across India. Though we need to meet the target of 50 members from two states. As of today, Kerala has 55 and Maharashtra has 22. Next two states are Karnataka with 8 and Tamil Nadu with 6. And we have membership pledge from 16 states in total. Even though we have 55 members from across Kerala, registering in Kerala has an additional constraint, we need 25 from a single district. Thrissur has 11 and Palakkad 8 and presence in 13 districts across Kerala.