The new WhatsApp killer built on the blockchain creates privacy-focused encrypted messenger
Oxen is a privacy-focused platform built on top of a proof-of-stake (PoS) network. It has also built a secure and anonymous messaging platform Session.
The company’s chief technical officer Kee Jefferys talked to Cointelegraph about its platform, its technology and how important privacy and data protection are for the end-user.
1. Hello! Tell us about Oxen and Session.
OXEN is a private, stakeable cryptocurrency. The Oxen token (OXEN) has brought a lot of innovation to the CryptoNote space (CN), including instant transactions and a large-scale PoS system. However, the real magic is the service node network. It’s powering a whole range of decentralized privacy applications — all incentivized by OXEN.
So far, our shining star is Session.
Session is an encrypted messenger that takes an uncompromising stance on preserving user privacy. No phone numbers, email addresses, or any identifying information are needed to sign up for Session. The messenger lets people benefit from the best bits of blockchain without needing to run a node, hold any cryptocurrency, or even being familiar with what blockchain is. Because of that, it’s already getting mainstream adoption, and Session currently has over 200,000 active users. The app is available for free on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows and Linux.
2. What’s wrong with messaging giants like Messenger and WhatsApp?
Messenger and WhatsApp are both owned by Facebook, a company known for aggregating user data to be sold for profit to advertising companies at the expense of the end user’s privacy, putting very little energy into maximizing privacy and security for users.
So here’s what we know about Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp:
- They are both owned by Facebook
- They are closed source
- They have “end-to-end encryption”
- Their servers are centralized
- They do not provide metadata protection
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the most popular messaging applications in the world, which technically means that encrypted messaging applications are the most popular form of communication. However, there is uncertainty about WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption implementation because their closed source code makes it impossible to verify the quality of their encryption.
In addition to this, the centralized servers used by WhatsApp give them a central point of failure. Apps like Session that are built on a decentralized network can be more resilient to attacks and have less downtime.
3. How does Session plan to get ahead in this competitive space?
A primary focus early on for Session was to reach out to journalists, activists and NGOs to test the app and provide feedback.
Now, the encrypted platform is used all the way from Boston to Baghdad by well over 200,000 people across more than 200 countries. Activists, journalists and human rights defenders rely on Session to be able to communicate safely and effectively and continue doing their pivotal work. Users are able to have conversations with their friends and family without worrying whether their conversation is secure.
4. Why is anonymity in messaging so important?
Anonymity is privacy, and privacy, according to the United Nations, is a human right everyone should be entitled to — see Article 12 of the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights.
Around the world, people are persecuted for their opinions, beliefs and conversations. And even if it’s not your job, anyone posting on social media these days can be a whistleblower, activist, or revolutionary. That opens a lot of people up to being targeted and makes anonymity a huge issue for every single person on the internet.
5. How many people currently use Session?
Session has been downloaded over 500,000 times and currently has over 200,000 monthly active users, according to recent estimations. Due to the decentralized nature of Session, we’re unable to see the exact number of users we have. Apps like WhatsApp and Telegram have access to more accurate information regarding user numbers and activity.
6. What are the premium paid features that Session is planning to offer?
We strongly believe that the app’s core functionality — a hardcore private messenger — should remain free. Secure messaging is an incredibly difficult challenge to solve, and the monetization features we add should improve the app’s user experience and not restrict it behind a paywall.
That said, some of the paid features that Session may offer in the future:
- Permanent Oxen Name Service usernames
- Increased closed group size
- Increased file size transfers
- Group calls
- Simplified open group setup
- Multi-account registration and management
- Customer stickers and emoji sets
- Manual region selection for nodes in the onion request path
- Verified account badges
- Encrypted account backup storage
All decentralized core components of Session are free. Some additional features and services that would consume OPTF resources to provide or put additional strain on the Oxen network will be included among Session’s premium features.
Session’s monetization strategy includes premium features that can be used to buy back and burn OXEN from the open market, adding additional deflationary pressure to the OXEN cryptocurrency.
7. Is it possible to migrate from other platforms to Session?
Community groups from other apps can easily shift from, let’s say, the centralized Telegram to decentralized Session. However, there is no means of porting users directly from Telegram to Session.
The platform’s open groups facilitate real-time group chats with an unlimited number of users, while the closed group feature where users can chat with up to 100 people with the same metadata protections as Session’s one-on-one conversations.
8. What are Session’s plans for the coming 12 months?
Our main objectives for the next 12 months are to increase the number of users and improve the monetization model. We’re planning to add user-generated sticker packs, increase file size limits, remote device wiping, local message editing and more.
The biggest upgrade on the horizon is Lokinet integration, which will bring lower latency communication and better, non-Apple/Google-like push notifications as well as onion-routed voice and video calls.
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