Hello end-to-end encryption, hello video calls!

March 9, 2016

Video calling has consistently been our top requested feature. Today, we are happy to introduce video calling on Wire for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows.

That is not all. We are also fundamentally changing the way Wire works.

Wire’s voice calls have always been end-to-end encrypted. Today, we expand this to include all conversation content — text messages, video calls, photos, sketches. It is all now encrypted end-to-end, which means it is private and secure.

We believe Wire is the only solution in the market to offer fully encrypted audio calls, video calls and group chats that work across all devices (including Mac OS and Windows). The encryption is transparent, it’s always on. Unlike specialized security apps we do not sacrifice usability for security — there is no set-up or configuration and the encryption does not get in the way.

But let’s take a step back and look at why we are doing this.

Our online lives involve a great deal of personal data sharing:

  • Credit cards, banking information and medical records are now all online.
  • Retailers track and store our buying habits in massive data repositories.
  • On social media we share our photographs, our plans, our whereabouts, and our sentiments about everything we encounter daily.

Our personal data is at the center of a new economy. Things we share and do are used to build digital profiles of us. These are used to sell us products and services through targeted advertising. The data collected is incredibly detailed and often very personal. Vast resources are spent collecting this data, all without transparency, policy or oversight.

At Wire, we believe our personal and professional online communications should not be part of this economy. In the physical world we communicate directly. We lower our voices or close a door when we share private matters. Our digital life should be similar. Our communication should not be passing through any data mines.

This is why we introduced these changes today.

As with any new technology, there are a few limitations. To ensure best privacy, the conversation history is only permanently stored on the devices. New devices and clean installations of the Wire app cannot display the conversation history prior to their activation (for now). Wire for Web can only keep history if “Remember me” is selected at sign in. We are working on a better solution for both of these issues.

Other known issues:

  • On iOS it is not always possible to receive a call (voice or video) if the app is not running in the background. We will send the notification but the call may time out before it can be answered and connected. We are working to make the experience more consistent. Note: We realize people like to close their apps to conserve battery or memory but sources say this is no longer necessary.
  • On iPhone 6s there is an audio bug when using speakerphone mode that degrades the voice quality. It is specific to iPhone 6s and will be resolved very soon.
  • During call setup it is not possible to toggle between speakers. For video calls the default is speaker mode and for audio calls the default is the earpiece. This can be toggled once the call is established.
  • Video quality — we like this first release but we will continue improving with increased frame rates.
  • iOS notifications

We are using “VoIP” style notifications because they are processed natively by the app and can be encrypted end-to-end vs. standard push notifications that are processed by iOS and transmit plain text. They also have the advantage of being grouped and generally better organized.

However, these notifications are not as robust as the standard push notifications. When they fail to transmit we automatically fall back to a generic notification that does not contain the message text (to protect your privacy).

Battery life is also slightly impacted by the use of VoIP style notifications. We give users the ability to tune notifications on a per conversation basis, so you can silence “noisy” group chats and only receive notifications for your most important contacts. '

  • Web and desktop versions of Wire are adjusting to the new encryption protocol. There may be some issues with conversation ordering and sync states. These are work in progress.
  • On all platforms we are currently working on a significant overhaul and simplification of settings and user profiles. We think you will like what is coming soon there.

At Wire we believe everyone should be able to talk freely and privately. We strive to change everyday communications by keeping it simple to use, yet fully secure.

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