Decentralized Messaging: True Or Tale?
If you often read about the development of the crypto money market and how fast blockchain conquers technological space, you may get the impression that decentralization is everywhere. In fact, this isn't true, and the February 2019 Blockchain Technology Business Guide by Globant reflected it in numbers. 64% of surveyed companies recognize blockchain as an advanced modern technology, but only 46% are ready to implement it into their internal business processes.
But we won’t go deeper into general trends. Today, we'll speak about a specific niche in the communications — IM clients. Just imagine: billions of people communicate in centralized messengers every day, and the development plan for only some of them includes switching to blockchain in the near future.
The most popular messenger at the beginning of 2019 is still WhatsApp. With one and a half billion users monthly, it's significantly ahead of other IM clients, even though its security has been criticized. WhatsApp is centralized, like other popular messengers from the world top.
Only the last two messengers from the ranking are going to introduce their own blockchain — LINE and Telegram. In addition, LINE is a regional IM service that is used mainly by the Japanese people. So, today we will consider not only the popularity of messengers but also their influence and adherence to decentralization (formerly, now or in the nearest future).
TOP 5 Decentralized Messengers
This is an official IM client running on the Bitmessage cryptographic protocol. It’s an open source protocol designed specifically for communication between two peer-to-peer network participants who don't trust each other. The Bitmessage network resembles Bitcoin by this feature. Technically, the messaging is not instant, it has a delay of up to several minutes because developers sacrificed speed to ensure system security.
Personal data of network participants isn’t stored centrally on the server, it's distributed among nodes and kept for two days. All messages are end-to-end encrypted — it’s one of the popular encryption methods that makes it impossible for a third party to read chat logs. Bitmessage was created in November 2012, and was updated at least until February 2018.
This is an open-source IM software created by the Canadian company Savoir-faire Linux. It has two types of accounts and is positioned as a decentralized alternative to Skype. The application is used for sending text, voice and video messages, and works on the SIP data transfer protocol. Jami is cross-platform software available not only on Windows, Linux and OS X desktops, but on Android and iOS mobile OS as well (since November 2018).
It was an open-source mobile application for messaging and file sharing, released in 2011 for Android devices. It’s not supported now, but its history has one interesting feature. TextSecure was the first messenger to use the Signal protocol developed in 2013 by the Open Whisper Systems project. it provided a popular encryption method — end-to-end — for exchanging instant text, voice, and video messages. Later, it was implemented in such IM giants as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
TextSecure was partially decentralized from December 2013 to February 2016. After this date, the application was merged with another one and received a new name — Signal. Unlike TextSecure developed only for Android, Signal is a cross-platform messenger, and it's actively used today.
This is an IM mobile application from Kakao Corporation — the South Korean leader of Internet communications. KakaoTalk (or KaTalk) users can create personal and group chats, exchange text, voice and video messages, files and geographic coordinates. The majority of KakaoTalk users are South Koreans, and 93% of the country's population prefer this instant messenger. The launch of the KakaoTalk testnet on the Klaytn blockchain platform was announced in October 2018. The mainnet launch date is still unknown, but it's expected in the first half of 2019.
One of the 10 most popular messengers completes our list today. Telegram was created by Russian developers and now is used all over the world. This means that it has a chance to become the first widely used IM app with extensive functionality on blockchain, unlike regional LINK or KakaoTalk. Telegram isn’t initially decentralized (as many people think) and has a list of security gaps. Only closed private chats that allow setting a destruction timer are completely protected from the possibility of reading by a third party.
There is planned migration of the project to its own blockchain platform TON — Telegram Open Network. It's scheduled for autumn 2019. The launch should take place no later than on October 31, otherwise the company undertakes to return all invested funds. The money was collected during the ICO campaign in 2018 attended by large investors. It's interesting that the amount of attracted funds exceeded the required sum. The total investment was $1.7 billion, although it was estimated that the development and the launch of the project needed less than $500 million.
It's expected that Telegram’s crypto money, Gram token, will be used to operate smart contracts as in the Ethereum network, but faster. As a blockchain platform of new generation, TON will provide high transaction speed — up to 10 million per second. The testnet should be launched at the end of March 2019. Let's see how this will affect Telegram users and how much their number will increase this year.
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