I’ve been testing Bitmessage for a few days now. It’s intended to be an alternative or a replacement for email.
To use it, you download the client, create a bunch of addresses which you advertise or keep secret or hand out to your pals, and just let the program sit there until you get a message. Your CPU usage will increase for awhile. You can slip me a message at
I’ve been pondering what to do about email for a long time. Email is broken in at least two ways:
- Email is centralized: you have to sign up for an account on a specific server. You hope that server is reliable and that the people running it are trustworthy.
- Email is inherently insecure. Sending an email is like sending a postcard.
I’ve thought off and on about that second problem ever since I experimented with PGP in the late 90s. PGP’s approach was to use regular email and manually encrypt the text of the message. But it made no attempt to solve the first problem: you still had to get an account on someone else’s server (or devote large amounts of time and cognitive overhead to running your own, and usually leaving sloppy trails of money all over the place). If you care enough about privacy and liberty to use encryption in the first place, this creates something of a poser for you.
In short, at the most basic levels, the very design of traditional email makes it hard to use securely.
With Bitmessage, everything is encrypted and it’s not all that hard to use. I can see it getting much better adoption than PGP/GnuPG ever did. But more than that, you’re no longer relying on anyone else’s servers in order to receive messages. You could always set up your own email server, but it’s, shall we say, extremely nontrivial to do so in a secure, reliable manner: guarding yourself against spammers, setting up DNS records, getting a static IP address, etc. With Bitmessage you start up the software, it automatically finds and connects to peers on the network, and it’s off to the races. No money or personally identifying info changes hands (meaning actual privacy and anonymity are possible) and there’s no special configuration to do.
Caveat emptor. Bitmessage is new and it hasn’t had a security audit, so you should really treat it as a toy or proof-of-concept. All the same, give it a shot.