The idea of decentralisation disrupting traditional systems is not exclusive to payment platforms, despite the huge focus on Bitcoin as “digital money”.
Concepts including censorship resistance, decentralisation, and privacy are some of the biggest motivations behind the creation of messaging apps like Signal and Telegram.
However, these messaging applications are still controlled by singular entities – which are subject to government regulation and can be forced to divulge user data.
To circumvent this reliance on centralised organisations, developers building blockchain applications are using peer-to-peer messaging and other technologies to give users more control over their data.
One of these applications is Status, a blockchain-based messaging app for smartphones which runs on the Ethereum blockchain and allows for private, secure, and uncensorable messaging.
Status Technical Evangelist Andy Tudhope – a South African blockchain enthusiast and Status team member, who graduated from Rhodes University and the University of Oxford – told MyBroadband they are working hard on their Ethereum-based app’s communication protocol with the aim of providing a truly secure messaging platform.
Tudhope previously worked with the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium and at various blockchain startups, and is currently involved with the Status Ethereum-based messenger app.
Status allows users to run an Ethereum node on their smartphone, using the application as a cryptocurrency wallet and interface for decentralised applications.
The app also features a messaging component which Tudhope said is based on the the Whisper protocol.
“Whisper is a multicast, peer-to-peer, end-to-end encrypted gossip protocol,” said Tudhope.
“In English, this means that every message you send is encrypted, and sent to the person you want to receive it via a network of other people, rather than going through any servers.”
The term “multicast” means that when users send a message, they send it encrypted to the majority of the network and it bounces from peer to peer until the recipient receives and decrypts it.
“In the most secure mode, they decrypt it, read it, re-encrypt it, and keep on broadcasting the message to the network until its time to live expires,” said Tudhope.
“This provides – in addition to the features above – what we call plausible deniability.”
“That is, recipients of messages can claim that the messages they received were not necessarily intended for them, which is powerful because – even though the network and messages on it are secured – devices themselves can be compromised,” he said.
Tudhope added that this set of features means Whisper could potentially provide the most secure and private messaging platform in the world, available to anybody with an Internet connection.
Un-censorable and decentralised
The building of a peer-to-peer messaging system in Status means it could become an un-censorable messenger superior to platforms like WeChat.
“Not only can Status provide more private and secure messaging, but any payment or transaction goes directly from your phone onto Ethereum,”said Tudhope.
“You do not need a government-issued ID or good credit history. You do not need to trust your bank, or Pavel Durov, or Facebook to keep providing a secure service – Status can be run by anyone, anywhere.”
He noted that while the Whisper protocol is powerful, the Status app is not just about messaging.
The Status team also aims to build a more equitable and accessible Internet through the power of decentralised information.
“We are the mobile window onto the new web, which means you can access and transact with any product or service without the fear of being censored, and with a fairly high degree of certainty that it is, at least, extremely difficult to track you,” said Tudhope.
“It also means you have complete ownership over your own data and the value associated with your digital footprint in general.”
“There are no servers between you and the people with whom you want to connect, no company trying not to be evil when they sell on to third-party advertisers, or political campaign information that can be used to manipulate your choices or profile you accurately.”
By its nature, Status is very difficult to block and censor – even by the most powerful governments in the world.
“Putin cannot request the keys to our database like he did with Telegram, simply because there isn’t one,” said Tudhope.
“Brazil cannot ban Status like they did WhatsApp, because it is an open source protocol and community – there is no single person or small group who can be issued with a cease and desist to stop the network.”
“Google and Amazon cannot prevent Status from operating in Iran by blocking domain fronting as they did with Signal, because we use the Ethereum network itself as the transport layer for messages,” he said.