Nostr is Bitcoin's Killer App
What is Nostr? How does it work?
A new social media protocol is taking the world by storm. It’s called “nostr” which is an acronym for “Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays”. The reason why I titled this newsletter, “Nostr is Bitcoin’s killer app” is because Bitcoin and nostr are ultra-compatible with one another. Both of them use the same kind of public key cryptography to fulfill their respective use cases.
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A note on public key cryptography
Over the course of the 14 years of bitcoin’s existence, public/private key cryptography has proven to be a suitable base level identity infrastructure for online monetary transactions (value transfer). Nostr is demonstrating in real time that the same public/private key cryptography is suitible for transmitting general and ambiguous information (information transfer).
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all public/private key pairs are created equal, that they endow their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Algorithmic Bias, and Freedom of Meme.” – The Declaration of Independence from Platforms
The above quote cleverly replaces “men” from the Declaration of Independence (DoI) with public/private key pairs. I much prefer this updated version of the DoI due to the breadth of whom and what can own and operate an identity, and what freedoms every public/private key is entitled to.
Centralized and Decentralized Identities
Governments and corporations are spending millions, nay, billions of dollars developing identity systems. Governments issue licenses, passports, social insurance numbers, healthcard numbers, and a handful of other identifies that are single-use. Then there are companies; every company has their own database of identities. See image below
But each one is centralized and siloed and federated by the company or government that issues and maintains that identity. Jack Dorsey, former Twitter CEO has made it a mission of his to develop open decentralized identity (“DiD”). He recognizes the need for the globe to have a free, permissionless, internet based identity system. But, truth be told, that identity system is already here, it’s the aformentioned public/private key infrastructure.
Public Keys are Identities
Public keys are unique identifiers. For every public key, there is a corresponding private key. The main thing you need to know about Public and Private keys is that it is easy to derive the public key from the private key, but computationally infeasible to derive the private key from the public key.
The useful analogy here that maps onto your existing understanding of internet accounts is the following.
Usernames = Public Keys
Passwords = Private Keys
One of the interesting things about public/private key infrastructure is that they’re interoperable with any other application/protocol that has opted to use them as an identity provider. What does this mean? Lets… explore!
The Power of nostr
There are a few reasons why nostr is a powerful information transfer protocol.
You must first understand that nostr, is a protocol, NOT AN APPLICATION. Google, Facebook, and YouTube are all applications built on the TCP/IP protocol. Nostr is a “notes and other stuff” protocol, and bitcoin is a value saving and transferring protocol. Apps are built on top of protocols. Protocols are not the apps in and of themselves.
The reason that I am most fond of is that it uses the same public/private key infrastructure as bitcoin. This has a few groundbreaking implications.
Your bitcoin wallet can now be used as login credentials for any nostr app
Anyone can send bitcoin to your nostr identity by default. Out of the box, it is capable of receive value in the form of bitcoin
Beyond this, nostr is a potent social media protocol because of the following.
All apps built on nostr (iris.to (Web), Damus App (iOS), and Amethyst (Android) share login credentials. They’re all interoperable with another, despite being separate apps.
Nostr is resistant to censorship, in the right way in the context of content.
Censorship is in your hands
Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube all play the benevolent dictator with respect what they allow and do not allow onto their platforms. In this sense, you’re outsourcing censorship of stuff you do and do not want to see to these companies. The price we all pay for this is them making egregious mistakes with respect to what to censor and allow. A good example of this is Facebook and Twitter censoring the Hunter Biden Laptop story during the height of the US election. The FBI directly interfered with the companies, instructing them to limit the reach of the story. The result is that the [true] story failed to reach the masses, arguably influencing the outcome of the 2020 US election.
Nostr takes a strictly “hands-off” approach to censorship, similar to bitcoin. As long as you give nostr information that it accepts, it will propagate it throughout the network. As long as you give bitcoin a valid bitcoin transaction, it will make sure it is included in a block. Neither protocol asks who sent it, for what reason, or the contents of the message.
It is up to the end user to determine what they do and do not want to see within their social media application of choice (Damus, Amethyst, Iris, or other). In other words, It is the responsibility of the individual to decide what they want to see. This is a double edged sword. I would argue this is the proper place to censor, but the tradeoff is that nostr may be used to propagate information that we would all object to i.e. child porn.
Its just a tool
I tend to think of these sorts of “unstoppable networks” as tools. It is the user of the tool that is at fault, not the tool itself. We should do everything in our power to stop these tools from being abused without being disillusioned that we can stop the misdoings by censoring the use of the tool.
How to get on nostr
Download one of the apps onto your mobile device, or visit iris.to in your browser. Then follow the prompts to create an account. Make sure to save your public/private keys as if you lose them, they cannot be regenerated and your account (and nostr identity) will be lost forever. That doesn’t stop you from creating a new one, but it would suck to lose a social account that you’ve built up to have 10,000 followers!
Then, when you’re finished downloading the app, use the search functionality to add my public key. Then you will see all my posts on your public feed.
More Nostr Content?
I’ll likely be posting more content about nostr in the near future, as I do believe that it will accelerate the use of bitcoin since the two protocols interoperate somewhat seamlessly. Is there a question that you’d like to see answered about nostr? Is there a guide you’d like to have? Leave it in the comments below!