BY CATHERINE SHU
Kim Dotcom, the infamous entrepreneur behind Megaupload, has released his latest product. Currently in beta, MegaChat is a browser-based encrypted video calling and file-sharing platform that is being positioned as a Skype competitor.
MegaChat is being rolled out feature-by-feature today and there are still a few kinks left to sort out.
When I tested the service with my TechCrunch co-worker Jon Russell, we had problems connecting a few times. Despite enabling them, neither of us got pop-up notifications for incoming calls. When the service did work, however, audio and video quality was on par with Skype’s. We had more luck with MegaChat’s file-sharing feature, successfully sharing folders and files with one another. MegaChat uses what it calls User Controlled Encryption (UCE), which means it provides you with your decryption key, which you can send to people to allow them to access files. One of the draws of MegaChat is that you don’t have to install software to use it, but Chrome and Firefox extensions are available which are supposed to boost performance and security.
Kim Dotcom first announced MegaChat in December, when he declared that it would dominate Skype and provide a secure alternative to the Microsoft-owned service, which has been targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency. According to documents obtained by The Guardian from whistleblower Edward Snowden, Skype also cooperated with the NSA by allowing user communication to be monitored.
MegaChat is targeted at people who are wary of Skype’s security (and its browser-based model is also a swipe at Microsoft’s plans to integrate Skype into Internet Explorer so people don’t have to download its desktop app). As with all services that offer end-to-end encryption, however, it still pays to be careful. The Register notes that a security researcher was able to steal passwords from Mega’s file-sharing service back in 2013. Kim Dotcom is seeking to allay similar concerns about MegaChat by offering a bounty to anyone who finds a security bug.