We need your help to make Prav App available for iPhone users

Background

We have introduced the Prav App project here earlier and we got good support from all of you. We have been making some good progress in the project since then. Now anyone can try Prav App from F Droid app store for Free Software applications

Progress and Current status

We managed to collect 50 people each from Kerala and Maharashtra to register as a multi-state cooperative society. We are in the process of discussing and finalizing the bye-laws of the society.

The iPhone challenge

I have personally found it impossible to get friends with iOS on XMPP whereas friends with Android were happy to join via Quicksy. This is because Quicksy only asks people to enter their phone number and they already have me in their contact list. With a regular XMPP app like Monal or Siskin, the steps involve - 1. Choosing an XMPP server2. Choosing username 3. Choosing a password 4. Find my XMPP id and add me to contacts or share their XMPP id with me.

To complicate things further Siskin IM recommends some XMPP servers that needs account verification by clicking on a link sent via email, but the app does not tell the user to check email. (Note: This has improved slightly since I tried on-boarding friends last time since Monal implemented some missing features and their default recommended server don’t expect email verification).

Fund raising to overcome this challenge

We are raising funds to build Prav App on iOS, so users can start using XMPP by just entering their phone numbers. Please contribute at Prav iOS - Open Collective and spread the word among your contacts. Since we announced the campaign on OpenCollective, developers of Monal, an existing XMPP app announced they will be building the Quicksy variant so that is less work for us to fund (we still need to develop support for custom usernames and also pay Apple for publishing in the app store). This fund raising is hosted by XMPP Foundation, they will receive the donations on behalf of Prav and pay the developer implementing this feature directly.

The Apple dilemma

As a Free Software advocate I know Apple is on the exact opposite side for the values we stand for. But I don’t want Apple iPhone users spoil adoption of XMPP as a single contact using iPhone dis-proportionally affects XMPP adoption. Even though right to modify a software is a fundamental right for any Free Software, exercising this right is not very easy in practice. Since only a small percentage of Free Software users are developers, even smaller percentage of users who know or comfortable with a particular programming language. So raising funds and paying someone is an important aspect of exercising our right to modify.

The other side of sticking to principles leading to isolation

Many times people say they don’t like joining via SMS OTP, but what they seem to miss out is, unlike software that runs independently on our devices without a server or don’t need to interact with others, a messaging app choice is much more complicated. Looking at it as a binary of either

  1. making the exact compromise of using centralized platforms for our contacts or
  2. staying isolated on our federated platforms Matrix or XMPP
    is not really scaling up or we are losing out.

Those who don’t like to share their phone number to get started still have the slightly more involved extra steps of using Monal or Siskin IM and create an account with any username. Quicksy takes your phone number as username, but in Prav we will offer an option to choose a custom username instead of taking the phone number as username.

Summary

Unlike centralized services like WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal, both Prav and Quicksy are interoperable ie, a Prav App user can talk to Quicksy user and vise-versa (not just these two, they can also talk to users of Monal, Siskin IM or Android apps like Monocles Chat or Desktop apps like Gajim or Dino). This truly liberates users from depending on a single app/company and gives them choice in addition to privacy by default end to end encryption (only the users participating in a chat can decrypt messages sent in that chat).

We need to offer a choice of exactly the same convenience or exactly the same control of self hosting and still being connected with each other. Quicksy is a brilliant hack that makes this possible - offers the same user experience as centralized messengers for people who want it but still being federated with any XMPP service at the same time so people who are not happy with sharing their phone numbers or using another service can even self host and still talk to Quicksy users.

Call to action

Donate at our open collective page and ask your family/friends too. Together we can reclaim our privacy and choice.