Newbie here - what is the difference between FOSS & regular Telegram? So confused and getting different answers

Been trying to become more privacy focused lately and decided to choose Graphene. However for the time being, I’ll need to be using telegram.

I already have an account that I made a while ago on my regular stock android phone, which houses my important chats.

From what I understand, you need to download the FOSS version of Telegram using F-droid or the Aurora store (I think these are open-source alternatives for google play to access and download applications?).

So my question is; what exactly is the FOSS version of Telegram and how does it differ to the regular app? What does being open sourced actually change about it, is this not basically a completely different application to Telegram itself and essentially a remake?

One person I asked said that I’ll have to create a new account using FOSS when on Graphene and that I can’t use my current one…But then another person said I’ll be able to use it fine with my regular account?

With that said, what actually is the answer? Can I use my normal telegram account on FOSS, and will everything (such as my chats / groups / premium status) remain and work as normal? Is the functionality the exact same? Same groups, people etc? Or is it like a version for FOSS users only and I’ll essentially be starting afresh even by logging in with my usual account?

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

I don’t use Telegram myself but by what I understand you should be fine. You’re just getting confused by all the new information (which is normal, we all live and learn).

So to answer you questions:

Yes! What the F-droid page is saying is that you can’t create a new account with the FOSS app and instead must do that with the official app (if you do not already have an account). Since you do, you can ignore this.

What do you mean by need? To become more private, yes those are two common ways to get apps — you can read more about it here.

If you mean on GrapheneOS specifically, then no you don’t need to switch. You can keep using the ordinary Telegram app. GrapheneOS has very good compatibility with most apps.

The main differences are that the FOSS app is not developed by Telegram and the proprietary code and functions are removed
You can read more about it on the Github page under ‘Changes’.

Yes! It’s supposed to be pretty much the same. Just with the not open source code taken out. You can read more about why that can be a good thing here.

You don’t need to wait to find out. Install the app and try it out. That way you’ll know for certain.

1 Like

Firstly, thanks for the reply, links, and for going through my questions - much appreciated :smiley:

What do you mean by need? To become more private, yes those are two common ways to get apps

Well, I was under the impression that Graphene blocked all google-related services and therefore the remaining options left to download apps were things such as Aurora/F-droid.

I saw all these people saying that they use the FOSS version and I assumed that it was the only version available, and that it was almost like a standalone, custom telegram application only for FOSS users, meaning that you couldn’t find or contact regular telegram users as it was essentially a different app.

But it turns out the regular version is also downloadable (through the google play store) and that’s an option too if needed?

GitHub says non-FOSS uses;

  • Google Vision face detection and barcode scanning (Passport)
  • Google Wallet and Android Pay integration
  • Google Voice integration

So I assume the reason people don’t use the official application on Graphene is because it doesnt work properly if everything is degoogled due to the google-related features above ^,? If not…does it not completely defeat a big purpose of using a custom OS if google is still left active on the device for the regular version of Telegram to work?

TBH this part still is frying my brain. It’s developed by a third party and basically a different app, but it still operates on Telegram’s servers as if i was just using the non-FOSS version…? If for example I got banned on non-foss…how does it carry onto the FOSS version if they are different applications?! How am i communicating with people who use non FOSS if they are two different apps?? Or joining groups through a regular telegram link if its not the same app?! :face_with_spiral_eyes:

Sorry lol, I’m sure what I’m saying all sounds like absolute rubbish and stupid questions but I can’t wrap my head around it atm. Slowly trying to learn!

Out of the box on a fresh installation of GrapheneOS it does indeed not have any Google apps or services. That is because it is developed from AOSP not Google’s Pixel version. So they’re not blocking Google but are rather just not including their stuff.

What they have then done, quite marvelously, is created a compatibility layer, which allows Google Play to function without the privileges it normally requires. I.e. GrapheneOS puts the same restrictions on Google Play that all other apps have. So it is your choice whether you want to use Google Play (and give up some privacy) or not.

A metaphor (that I just thought of so it needs som work):
Think of your home (the phone) and how you decide who gets to visit (the apps you install). In vanilla Android, Google Play is your partner/landlord, able to enter whenever, invite people and kinda do whatever they want.
On GrapheneOS you live alone in a house you own. You decide who gets to visit and when. BUT, if you invite several people, while they can’t open locked doors etc., you can’t control who they talk to and about what (installed apps that want to share data with other apps and/or Google Play).

Yes it is a standalone app that is FOSS (because it has removed/replaced the parts that are not). It still uses and communicates Telegrams network, because they allow it. Think of it as a different browser – you’re still accessing the internet through it but it might have different functions and maybe not all things work the same. The content however is the same.

Yes, those are functions that don’t really work on GrapheneOS, partly because they’re not wanted and partly because Google doesn’t want it to. That doesn’t stop you from using the app though – just that those things won’t work.

Whether it defeats the purpose depends on what YOUR purpose of switching is. It’s a trade-off between privacy and convenience. If you’re trying to cut out Google completely, using their services would indeed work against that. If you just want more privacy and control, it might be worth to give up some privacy if the benefit is great enough.

The point and purpose of GrapheneOS is to give you the choice and option to decide, instead of having it forced upon you. With that in mind, if you haven’t already, the first thing you should do is figure out what your threat model is. Once you’ve done that, then you can start deciding what you need to change.

We all start from a point of ignorance. Been there, done that and still am. It’s fine to change just one thing at a time. So if GrapheneOS doesn’t brake something you absolutely need/want, I highly recommend installing it and keeping everything else the same until you’ve learned what else you want to change and how. GrapheneOS is in and of itself a massive improvement to privacy and security.

1 Like

You will not receive SMS confirmation messages if you’re using FOSS clients. You will need to use a proprietary client to login to your account on a FOSS client.


Thank you so much, your replies have helped clear up a lot of questions - will be going through the links and learning more, thanks again!

1 Like

As I understand this, it means I’ll need to be logged onto the non-FOSS version (I have a spare phone so its ok) to receive SMS/2FA codes in order to log into FOSS?

FOSS versions can’t send SMS messages, but you do receive confirmation messages inside the Telegram itself, so you will need a non-FOSS Telegram to login on the FOSS client, after that, you can delete the non-FOSS client.

1 Like

Thank you :slight_smile: