Signal will soon let you share a username instead of your phone number

Illustration of the Signal logo: a white speech balloon with a dotted outline on a black and blue background.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Signal is rolling out support for usernames on its encrypted messaging service over the next few weeks. The feature, which is still in beta, lets you add an optional username that will allow you to connect with others without sharing your phone number with them.

You can create a username by heading to your settings and selecting “Profile.” After you create a unique username, you can generate a QR code or link that points people to your username in the app. Other users can also connect with you by typing your username into the new chat bar and sending a message. As noted in Signal’s FAQ page for usernames, you can change your username whenever you want, but other users will be able to claim your previous name. Signal first started testing usernames last fall.

Image: Signal

Signal’s usernames aren’t like account names on other social platforms, as they don’t function as logins or handles that people can identify you with on Signal. Instead, they offer a way for people to quickly connect with you without your phone number. You’ll still need a phone number to sign up for the encrypted messaging app, though — it’s just up to you whether you want to reveal it to other people.

If you do decide to create a username, it won’t appear on your profile details page or in your chats. Other users won’t be able to see it unless you share it. “Put another way, someone will need to know your exact unique username in order to start a chat with you on Signal,” Randall Sarafa, the chief product officer at Signal, writes in a post announcing the feature’s rollout. “And Signal does not provide a searchable directory of usernames.”

Image: Signal

Aside from usernames, Signal is rolling out a couple of other handy security features, including a way to let you restrict who can find you using your phone number in the app. Instead of allowing anyone with your number to start a new chat with you, you can prevent anyone from messaging or calling you in the app even if they have your phone number and know you’re on Signal.

The app will also start hiding your phone number by default if users don’t already have it saved in their phone. You can always change this by heading to your settings and selecting Privacy > Phone Number > Who can see my number. All of these features are only available in the beta version of the app, so you might have to wait a few more weeks if you have the regular version of the app.

Although sharing your username instead of your phone number could make messaging people through the app more private, it’s possible some people could abuse this feature to impersonate others on the app. To mitigate this risk, Signal suggests that users should compare safety numbers — the unique code meant to help you verify the person you’re messaging. The app also displays a banner if you’re in a group chat with multiple people who have the same name and will show whether you have any group chats in common with another user. You can find out more about the new features coming to Signal on the app’s support page.