In December 2022, Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, announced that he had donated 14 bitcoins (approximately $250,000) to @fiatjaf, who identified himself as the anonymous founder of Nostr.
Nostr has been around for years, but it wasn’t until after Dorsey’s Tweet that the protocol became popular among netizens. But what is it? An abbreviation of “Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays”, this decentralized protocol provides censorship-resistant communications on the Internet. In its essence, it allows people to exchange signed messages. It is heavy on cryptography and is based on cryptographic keys and signatures.
Being decentralized means that Nostr does not rely on any central server or rely on peer-to-peer architecture. From a technical standpoint, this makes the protocol resilient and tamperproof. Being censorship-resistant means that everyone gets the freedom of speech and ideas, and users can take control of their identity and data.
Uncle Bob's short introduction to Nostr:https://t.co/EFC49RqULX
— fiatjaf (@fiatjaf) May 6, 2023
How it works
Nostr has two components: relays and clients. In its terminology, servers are relays and these can be run by anyone after signing up. Meanwhile, clients are apps through which you access the protocol. For example, Twitter is the app through which you access the Twitter feed. Client examples include Iris, Nostrgram, Damus, and Amethyst.
All users have a public key, which is their username. They also have a private key, which is the password. Users can create posts that are signed and validated by the client. Users can follow other users, but searching for specific users is tricky. In fact, you can not search for someone by their name.
So, if you want to follow a user in Nostr, the only way is to instruct your client to query the relays it knows and look for posts posted from that public key. For this to work, the clients fetch data from relays of their choice and publish it to other relays of their choice. A relay cannot talk to another relay, only directly to users. On startup, a client will query data from all servers it knows for all users it follows. Then, it displays the data to you chronologically.
Importance of protocols
Today, the world relies solely on social media platforms, and they are centralized. Everything we see, read, or come across during our time on social media is controlled and works to drive engagement. Most of the time, users have no control over what they see and consume.
Nostr aims to bring back that control. For the most part, it serves as a competitor to Twitter. From ads and algorithms to shadowbanning, spamming, and banning people, Twitter has become a thoroughly centralized, pro-censorship platform. Hence, the need to decentralize social media and establish protocols.
All in all, Nostr is a bit more complicated than most of us are used to. But it gives you complete control and allows you to choose the content you consume while ensuring your privacy and security, too.
Photo credit: The feature image is symbolic and has been done by Christopher Isak with Midjourney for TechAcute. The screenshot in the body of the article has been taken by the author for TechAcute.
Source: Michael del Castillo (Forbes)