Blockchain has been the buzzword of 2018. For the uninitiated, let me break it down in simpler terms. The blockchain is a decentralized ledger of transactions recorded using cryptography. The entries or blocks are then distributed across many computers running on nodes in a P2P environment making it impossible to alter the information later.
Blockchain was designed to be used mainly in the financial sector of digital cryptocurrency. It has since then evolved to record anything of value, create self-executing smart contracts, and build decentralized apps (DApps) like chat messengers.
Why not use Discord or Telegram? Because though secure and encrypted (only Telegram), these apps are still centralized and owned by a single entity who may choose to do what they deem fit. This creates trust issues. Decentralization is the road ahead.
Benefits of Blockchain
Blockchain offers many advantages over traditional systems. First is immutability. Once something gets recorded, it is almost impossible to change it because a decentralised database of computers and blocks are involved.
Because information blocks are shared and stored across a network of nodes run by people, no single person or entity has complete control over it. This reduces the risk of one person or entity manipulating the records without others knowing about it.
It also eliminates the risk of a single point of failure. If all your data is stored in a single system and the system fails, you lose everything. Distributed ledger eliminates this risk. Each encrypted entry is visible for everyone to assess, bringing transparency and accountability to the system.
Finally, the new generation chat apps are also integrating cryptocurrency wallets into their offering. This allows users to send and receive money, just like messages, only freely or with minimal transaction and processing fees.
A race is on with a slew of Blockchain-based chat messenger apps that offer features like security, privacy, and P2P currency. Here are four such apps that you should check out.
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Dust is a blockchain-based messaging app built by Radical App, a company advised by billionaire investor Mark Cuban. The idea is to create a platform that rewards good behavior and punishes the bullies. How? Dust will issue tokens (GMT - Global Messaging Tokens) that will cost more for users who abuse the system. Users can reward each other for creating value by sharing useful stuff. I saw Mashable posting news stories on Dust! Can Dust be used as a chat messenger and a news hub?
Another selling point is a Snapchat-like feature where every message you send will be deleted upon being read or within 24 hours. You can change this in the settings. The protocol is app agnostic, meaning it will allow users with different apps to connect and share without having to be on the same platform. Imagine being able to send a message via WhatsApp to WeChat! The dev team has recently released the Mercury Protocol that makes all of this possible.
Other features include the ability to delete messages from receiver’s phone, screenshot notification, and a no-name policy where the user’s name is not displayed in group chats. Dust is available on both Android and iOS platform.
Similar to Dust, Status is also a privacy-focused and blockchain-based chat messenger that uses the Ethereum platform. The in-app messages are end-to-end encrypted (Whisper Protocol). To make sure that absolutely no breadcrumbs are left behind, Status will open all links inside its built-in browser in the privacy mode. This means no one knows which site you just visited.
Being an Ethereum project with an ERC-20 token, Status comes with an Ethereum wallet that you can use to send and receive ERC-20 tokens and track transactions on the blockchain. To make things more transparent, Status has made its code open-source.
Status, still in beta, wants to be an all-in-one solution for chatting, browsing and transacting with people in real time. They are looking to create an ecosystem. You can download the app and test it.
e-Chat is a messaging app with a Status-like vision where you can send and receive not just messages, but also payments using a P2P environment. e-Chat comes with a multi-currency wallet. ECHT is their native token, and is based on Ethereum.
Other features include the ability to make voice calls to up to 10 people, HD video calls, and text messages. The ability to publish and monetize content is where e-Chat wants to differentiate itself. e-Chat says bloggers will be able to publish content in different formats to create an additional revenue stream for themselves.
Finally, there is an Instagram-like tab where you can upload media (e-Chat calls them Moments) and users can show their appreciation by tipping you with ECHT tokens. Maybe Instagram users will like it.
Note that unlike Dust, e-Chat allows taking screenshots easily. It is more focused on creating a community than privacy and security in my personal opinion; however, these are still its early days.
South Korea based BeeChat wants to build an ecosystem of apps based on blockchain. BeeChat has attracted millions of users in a relatively short period. BeeChat is a chat messenger app that will let you send text, audio, and video messages. Like several blockchain based messenger apps, BeeChat also comes with a cryptocurrency wallet that supports 12 different currencies at the moment.
Taking things to the next level, BeeChat is cross-chain compatible which means you are free to use other mainnets like EOS and Ethereum to store your encrypted data. Fans of Telegram will be happy to know that BeeChat supports the former’s protocol, enabling users to cross-match contacts. Telegram sent me a verification code the moment I signed in to BeeChat.
Following Telegram’s footsteps, BeeChat has attracted many blockchain companies to create their own channels on the app where they share news and updates about their projects and ICOs.
There are talks of several other projects in the pipeline who are working on creating secure and privacy-focused chat messenger apps within their small ecosystems. Maybe the golden age of social media is transitioning to the next level? Of course, more security and privacy based messaging apps are welcome. But by how many? Only time will tell.
Next up: Not sure whether you should stick with WhatsApp or make the switch to Telegram? Click on the link below to find out.