Social networking the FOSS way

The Email Upgrade

© Lead Image © nasirkhan, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © nasirkhan, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 196/2017
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Forget email: Bitmessage harnesses the power of public key cryptography to create a decentralized, trustless P2P communications protocol. Messages are virtually impossible to spoof or tap.

Users of the pseudonymous cryptocurrency Bitcoin will know that its strength lies in a blockchain – a decentralized ledger of transactions shared across thousands of computers. Since transactions are confirmed several times, it is highly unfeasible for anyone to forge an entry in the blockchain to give themselves a digital wagonload of Bitcoins. Nor is it very easy to steal coins from another user's digital wallet without their digital private key [1].

Like Bitcoin, Bitmessage uses a decentralized peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol. Instead of using a blockchain to record transactions, however, Bitmessage uses complex mathematics to validate and encrypt messages. In simplest terms Bitmessage works as a vast e-mail server, albeit one that is not controlled from any one central point [2].

Developer Jonathan Warren's official whitepaper on Bitmessage [3] goes into considerable detail on how this is achieved. As an average Linux user, it's sufficient to know that each user is assigned a virtual "address" (e.g., BM-2cSpVFB6cDxLLGUeLRy3pZTwYsujmpRzP7) that can be used to send and receive messages. Bitmessage users can have one or a number of these addresses (Figure 1).

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