BitTorrent ‘Bleep’ brings decentralized messaging to OS X and iOS

BleepIconXIf you use a Mac, an iPhone, or iPad, then likely you use Apple’s Messages service to contact your friends and colleagues. Given Apple’s push for you to sign up with iCloud, this service is a convenient way to get in contact, and has some perks like full end-to-end encryption; however, there have been some concerns about Messages and other services where message content is stored on central servers where its possible it could be read by others.

Even though Apple CEO Tim Cook has addressed these concerns by mentioning Apple is not interested in your personal data, and even though the Messages service is encrypted, given that storage on central servers is used, some may argue that it could still be possible to access a conversation.

To get around this, a new free messaging service from BitTorrent called Bleep, that uses the decentralized peer-to-peer BitTorrent network, is available for all major computing platforms. As with its other synchronizing and sharing services, BitTorrent claims this messaging technology will both keep your messages encrypted and never store them on any server.

The way BitTorrent works is your system connects to a tracker server that establishes connections between your computer and others running BitTorrent. From here, you create new possible connections to other peers through which data can be sent. Once this network is established, data such as a message will be broadcast to this network, so its availability will propagate to all who you are connected to and then in turn be propagated to all who your connections are connected to, making the data widely accessible without being on a central drive.

Even though it is being broadcast to many connected computers (which to some extent is no different than how the internet works to send data in packets through central hubs from one computer to another), the message you are sending is encrypted and only being requested by the systems that know about it, so only you and the intended recipient can receive it. Furthermore, data on the BitTorrent network is split into packets, so unless assembled in full on the receiving end by a computer that is specifically requesting this data, each packet will be unreadable.

This acts in many ways like BitTorrent’s Sync service that similarly uses the BitTorrent network to maintain a connection among your devices and synchronize files across them without needing to use an online drive, as is the case with iCloud, DropBox, Google Drive, and others.

The main limitation of using a decentralized option, is that it will requires both the sender and receiver to be on the network at the same time in order to communicate. With Messages, if your iPhone is off and you receive a message, then when you next turn on your device you will synchronize with the server and receive the message, even if the sender has turned off his or her iPhone. On the other hand, with Bleep, if your system is off when the message is sent, then while the sender’s computer will attempt to send it as long as he or she is connected, you will not receive it if the sending computer is turned off before the message is successfully delivered.

Despite this possibility, for the most part as long as your Mac or iPhone are on, then they will likely be connected to the internet in some way, so this should be a minimal issue. Furthermore, as long as one of your devices has received a message, then it will be synced to your other devices when they connect.

Overall, Bleep is another evolutionary step in the use of decentralized networking, and while still in its early phases of development, as with BitTorrent Sync it offers great potential for keeping in contact with others and synchronizing data among your devices, while helping avoid concerns about data privacy.

3 thoughts on “BitTorrent ‘Bleep’ brings decentralized messaging to OS X and iOS

  1. lkrupp215

    Oh because peer-to-peer networking is soooooo secure. Now my data is bouncing around through god-knows-whose computers in the world instead of iCloud servers. Oh but it’s encrypted. I see absolutely no motive for the average Joe to use this unless they have some paranoia complex about privacy. Spies, terrorists, organized crime, pedophiles, absolutely. Me texting my wife about dinner, not so much.

    And you read almost every day about some pedophile getting nailed because his peer-to-peer file sharing app defaulted to storing images on his computer and were downloaded by the FBI, his IP address traced, and off to prison he goes. Clueless is as clueless does and encrypted text messages will wind up on somebody’s hard drive somewhere. Just hope it isn’t the NSA’s hard drive.

    1. Brian M

      that would be a publicly shared item. This is more like BT Sync where a shared key or something similar has to be given to others to allow the direct connection to occur between the devices. (The central server/tracker only facilitates the 2 clients to find each other, after that, the central server is not involved)

  2. lkrupp215

    By the way, Mr. Kessler, you are doing fantastic job with MacIssues. Your troubleshooting advice is usually spot on. I just get on my soap box when this topic comes up because I think it’s stupid unless you’re trying to hide something. General concern about privacy is not a motive to use a service like this.

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