Console’s mission is to build chat for Web3. While Console isn’t built on Nostr, we’re very interested in supporting the growth of the Nostr community. Why? Because Nostr is one of the most decentralized messaging protocols we've ever seen — and we love decentralization. In fact, we'd consider the possibility of building Console on Nostr in the future. 👀
Nostr is still in the early days, and showing a lot of promise. Relays are the secret sauce of Nostr allowing censorship-resistant messaging. Meanwhile, a strong connection between Nostr and Bitcoin and the lightning network make it easy to integrate payments. Nonetheless, there are a few drawbacks of Nostr holding Console back from building on Nostr today. I address them in the piece below
Nostr is a simple idea, but not so simple to explain. That's why, in this article, I'm going to teach you the basics of Nostr in under 10 minutes.
What is Nostr?
Nostr is designed to rival email, blogging, Instagram, Twitter, Discord and more. It’s not an app itself. Rather, Nostr is an innovation in how digital text can be sent and received.
In the first three months of 2023, Nostr’s user growth skyrocketed from 90k to 1.5 million users.The protocol has garnered the attention of tech celebs like Edward Snowden and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “[Nostr] replaces things like Twitter and Instagram,” commended Snowden. “A milestone for open protocols,” lauded Dorsey.
Openness is a key principle of Nostr. Anyone can join Nostr. Anyone can run their own Nostr apps or network without needing permission from the larger network.
To appreciate Nostr, you have to understand the challenge of today's internet. When Tim Berner Lee invented the Web in 1991, his original vision was to create a global network that anyone could join, and where two people could communicate without fear of censorship.
His dream was short-lived. Today Google, Amazon, GoDaddy and about a dozen other companies are the backbone for a majority of the internet. The apps we use — Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and other juggernauts — are locked into running on these centralized services because, frankly, there just isn’t a better option. That’s where Nostr comes into the story.
How does Nostr work?
Nostr’s key innovation is the concept of relays. A relay is software that sends, receives and stores text messages. Fiatjef (a pseudonym), the Nostr founder, describes Nostr relays as “simple” because they can be run by anyone with a laptop and an internet connection. This levels the playing field for running projects on the internet — you don’t need Amazon or Google to run a Nostr relay.
Here are five Nostr apps you can start using today:
1. Iris.to — Setup a Nostr Profile
Iris.to is a Twitter-like Nostr app. Here you can create a profile, follow people, and send notes (short messages) and zaps (bitcoin lightning payments).
Once you’re on Iris.to you can follow other Nostr users. I’d suggest following: Jack Dorsey, Lyn Alden and Edward Snowden.
Remember that Nostr is a protocol (not an app). Therefore you can use your same public/private key pair to log into dozens of other sites where you can also view your notes, follows and DMs. For example, here’s Lyn’s profile on Iris, and here’s what Lyn’s profile looks like on Snort.social.
2. NostrChat.io — Replace Telegram with Nostr
NostrChat is a chat app built on Nostr. With NostrChat, you can start a channel with one or more friends, and be confident that your communications will stay online even in the face of a dramatic effort to censor you.
- Go to NostrChat.io and click “Create Nostr Account”
- Put in your name, and then click skip
- Instantly you’ll enter a global chat
- Great job — you’re using Nostr!
You’ve just entered a global NostrChat: You are chatting directly with other users on the Nostr network.
The magic with NostrChat is that you are in control of where they go when they leave your computer. Now that you’ve joined the Nostr network, here are three steps to becoming a Nostr pro.
3. Nostr.Watch — Use relays to make your data more censorship resistant
If you’d like to experiment with relays go to Nostr.watch where you’ll see a list of all available public relay addresses. The more relays you add, the more decentralized your communications will be.
4. Alby — Secure your private/public keys using Alby
Alby is a Bitcoin browser extension that manages your public/private keys locally. With a wallet extension like Alby, your private key never leaves your computer, but you can grant access to apps using Alby.
- Install Alby
- Set an unlock password (this is neither your public or private key, but a password for unlocking Alby, similarly to how you might have a password to unlock your mobile phone. You’ll use it every time you unlock Alby).
- Once you enter the app go to Accounts -> and find your public and private keys. Make sure to save these in your password manager (e.g. 1Password, Last password). You’re free to copy them into a notes app, or on a piece of paper — but it just won’t be as secure as a password manager.
5. Damus — Use Nostr on iPhone
Damus is a Twitter-like app built on Nostr. Since NostrChat.io happens to be sending it’s data to the Damus relay (wss://relay.damus.io), all of your chat messages on NostrChat are by default also be published to Damus.
The Future Of The Nostr Protocol
Nostr is still in its early days. Once you play with a few Nostr apps, you’ll quickly learn that the protocol has issues with spam, privacy and scaling. Many apps can still be slow and buggy. For now, Nostr’s biggest asset is the protocol’s censorship resistance. Anyone can join Nostr. Anyone can run their own Nostr relays without needing permission from the larger network.
In December 2022, Elon Musk issued the ban of Twitter accounts linking to Nostr, Mastodon, Facebook, Truth Social and other Twitter competitors. In contrast, social media censorship isn’t possible with apps built on Nostr. If users want to leave Iris for Damus, for example, they can. When they do all of their Nostr messages, followers, and DMs will already be waiting for them. It’s not possible to censor them.
That’s the power of open protocols over closed apps. For now, Nostr is a small idea with a potential big impact for how entrepreneurs, developers and users grow the next era of social media.
Originally published in Forbes.