Messaging applications are one of the most popular mediums to interact with people in your circle. These apps are often open-source and free to download on Android, iOS, and even Windows, but privacy features like end-to-end encryption, and secure data access have been making apps like WhatsApp to be the best choice for messaging. 

But, a recent privacy policy change by the messaging app has created an enormous uproar. The new policy suggests sharing metadata with associated apps like Facebook. Though sharing of such data is not known and it began in 2016 with the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook, the messaging app was denying it until the recent policy change. 

Metadata is not of major concern if shared securely with features like end-to-end encryption. With the rise of the COVID19 outbreak, people saw a new data theft nightmare called smartphone sim cloning. It is a process of cloning a sim card and using it for transactions without the knowledge of the sim owner. 

A 300% increase in cybercrimes across organizations has made people more aware of their data security. Facebook owns WhatsApp, and the idea of data sharing between these platforms can be anxious to some people. 

The reason is simple: Facebook has been at the center of many data leaks, including the famous Cambridge Analytica case. Due to this lack of trust, more people are looking for alternative messaging apps to WhatsApp. If you are trying to develop one of such alternatives, here is how to do it.

App Architecture of Messaging Apps

Any mobile application has two major parts – frontend and backend. An app architecture helps develop the frontend and backend and then connects them to provide system response to user requests.

As far as the development phase is concerned, there are many SaaS(Software as a Service)-based tools that you can use. But, before we get to that, you need a plan to create an app architecture. 

One of the most significant aspects you should take into account before planning the architecture is your messaging application scale. The idea can be to start small, as, in the beginning, you are not going to handle millions of messages. So, here is a list of things to keep in mind:

  • Future traffic and possible scaling of the application
  • The capability of the backend to handle around 10000 concurrent user requests.
  • Real-time communication features 
  • Development time{three to six months}.
  • Chat rooms with enough capacity.
  • Advanced search options

First, if you want higher concurrency in handling the request, Node.Js is an excellent back-end development option. It comes with out-of-the-box capabilities like handling more than 100000 concurrent requests on a single core of the backend server.

Node.Js allows you to build backend features and microservices separately. Next, you can simply assemble them to create a reliable backend for your messaging application. Apart from the Node.Js capabilities, you will also need a solution to increase the chat rooms’ capacity. 

Each chat room has multiple users requesting to access data and send information at the same time. Now, as there are numerous users’ connections to a chat room, the overhead on a single backend server becomes enormous. To overcome this problem, you can use Amazon MQ broker.

AWS MQ ensures that the transfer of information from the application to the server is appropriately queued and stored without any backend issues. It can be used as a messaging broker to connect a virtual private cloud (VPC) network for your apps with the cloud-based elastic interface that users will interact with in a chat room. Using AWS MQ also helps create secure access to chat rooms through the cloud security layer. 

WIth Node.Js, you can easily use cloud-based services like AWS MQ and get your backend ready. Now that you have planned the backend development, let’s see how to plan your frontend development and decide what architecture you can use.

Template-based architectures for Frontend

Firebase offers pre-configured User Interface (UI) elements that you can use without worrying about the backend logic. It makes a reliable connection between the frontend you’re working on and the business logic embedded in the backend.

FCM or Firebase Cloud Messaging architecture can be leveraged to create robust messaging apps. There are three layers to FCM architecture.

  1. A tool to build message requests that help to create GUI(Graphic User Interface)-based notifications
  2. The FCM backend accepts message requests created in the first layer, performs fanout of messages according to topics, and generates message metadata.
  3. A platform-level transport layer helps with routing the messages to the targeted device for message delivery during group chats. This layer includes:
    • Android transport layer (ATL)
    • Apple Push Notification service (APNs)
    • Web push protocol for web apps

Using FCM, you can create a centralized messaging architecture that is compatible with native messaging transport layers like ATL, APN, and WPP. Though centralized messaging architecture can lead to security issues if the server or browser is exposed. The solution for such issues is a decentralized architecture.

Decentralized Chat Architectures

With FCM, you can create a centralized chat architecture. But, if you want a secure architecture that ensures a distributed cybersecurity mesh, decentralization is quintessential. 

For instance, a matrix is an API (Application Programming Interface)-based decentralized architecture type that supports three significant activities in messaging apps;

  • Group chat
  • WebRTC Signalling
  • Reducing Silos

The Matrix structure is a mesh of services that distributes the load across servers to reduce the overhead on infrastructure. It simplifies messaging app communications by using open protocols such as WebRTC. However, the core of the decentralized and centralized architecture may not be so different. Nodal interactions differ in a decentralized architecture.

If you want to use Matrix architecture to build your messaging app, here is how you can do it:

  • Purchase a domain 
  • Get a hosting server
  • Install Synapse using Linux Command line tools
  • Create the frontend part of your app
  • Launch the app

There is only one drawback with decentralized architecture-testing. Through a decentralized architecture, you can enable good security and anonymity of messages, but testing it is difficult. The reason is the heterogeneous nature of architecture which forces customer environment creation for testing. 

Now that we have an idea about what type of application architecture you can use to create a secure messaging app like Whatsapp or Telegram let’s discuss some advanced features to include.

Advanced Features

Notification Bubbles

With the latest Android 11, you can now offer rich communication features like bubble notifications. Messaging apps like Whatsapp have been popular due to rich communication features, and you can offer the same through Android SDK

Adding features like bubble notification can help enhance the user experience. They float on top of other apps so that your users never miss a message. Bubbles are responsive and can be expanded to reply back on the go. It even shows notifications on locked smartphones or Always-on displays.

Personalizations

The best thing about WhatsApp is personalization. It has been the reason why WhatsApp is one of the top ten popular messaging applications in the world. From the custom wallpapers in chat backgrounds to personalized emojis, there are many different features that you can add to your messaging app to make it more attractive for users.

Data Security

Data security relates to the prevention of data leaks and threats to phishing attacks. Messaging applications are prone to leakage of sensitive data. Such leaks occur when:

  • Sensitive data transfers from external browsers to internal servers and vice versa.
  • Sensitive data transfers between internal servers (internal traffic).
  • Sensitive data is stored in compromising conditions.
  • A vulnerable cryptographic algorithm.

The best way to ensure that the data transfers, storage, and exchange are secure is to employ a powerful algorithm. Machine Learning algorithms can help with such algorithms that can be customized according to the application logic.

Data Encryptions

WhatsApp employs end-to-end encryptions, which have been quite successful, but if you are to create more reliable data encryptions, you need advanced technology. There are many other security options from AndroidOS that come pre-built, which you can use, including cipher, shared preferences, and memory cache. Apart from native Android security features, one of the most innovative ways to democratize data in the modern digital age is Blockchain technology, and you can use it to encrypt data.

Securing Data

Apart from the data encryptions, authentications are a great way to reduce data thefts in your messaging apps. There are many types of data authentication approaches that you can use for your messaging applications.

OAuth

OAuth is an open-standard authorization protocol that helps with authentication of access to unrelated servers without sharing initially related credentials. It is often also referred to as:

  • Third-Party Authentications
  • User-Agent Authentications
  • Delegated Authentications

2Factor Authentications

Two-factor authentication (2FA) refers to the authorization of access to data by verification of two different authentication factors. For example, a user is asked to verify through an email and cell phone number at the same time for authentications. As the innovations are integrated into such protocols, you can now include facial scans or fingerprint scans for 2FA.

Conclusion

WhatsApp is here to stay, and despite the backlash on its privacy policy, it is not just fading out from the market. At the same time, you should look to create a reliable messaging application that is far more secure than any other option in the market. Don’t just look for solutions to the present security issues in the market, but tap into technologies like Blockchain or Facial Recognition that can be future-proof.


About Author:

Parth Bari is a Tech Addict, Software Geek, and a Blogger at Kunsh Technologies. He loves to help people and found blogging the best way to help people out there so express his opinions through writing. Follow my work HERE

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