This Open Source Twitter Replacement Is Absolutely Brilliant

By David Lumb
Fast Company Labs

Tired of feeling NSA eyes on the back of your head? An open social media network called Trsst encrypts your posts and messages beyond control, and readers don’t even need to sign up for an account, because distribution is built on RSS. We’re sold.

We’re living in a post-Snowden era, which means you should assume that everybody, including the social networks you use every day, are always looking over your digital shoulder. So how do you take back your online communication from the prying eyes of the government? Enter Trsst, a new social network that promises to be a white knight of media, keeping all of your cat posts and private messages safe and secure forever.

Trsst was built as an alternative to today’s social media and blogging platforms, which not only cede to every whim of government content inspection, but can also reverse course on content ownership policy and feature development to tighten control over the service experience (remember Twitter’s API lockdown last July?) at a moment’s notice. These social media platforms have also largely shut down syndication and kept content inside members-only walled gardens.

Trrst wants to be entirely open and as reliable as possible. That’s why the service chose to syndicate content via RSS, which has been the Internet’s simplest way to “follow” people and content since it was first publicly released in 1999. If you’re creating public posts on Trsst, users need only to subscribe to your RSS feed, no signup required. Posts and blogchains are digitally signed (proof that nobody censored your content or eliminated a blog response), and fully indexable by search engines. If you want to send private messages, you don’t need to worry about third parties reading them. Trsst itself can’t crack into your content, they claim, because you keep your own encryption keys. That also means they can’t hand your stuff over to the government, even under court order.

Privacy and identity is handled by these same encryption keys. Your account’s public key is signed to all of your posts, and if you want someone to be able to view your private posts, Trsst lets you add their public keys, which gives them access. Private keys are used for group messaging: When somebody joins or leaves the group, the system auto generates a new private key and distributes it to all of the members.

Journalists, activists, and revolutionaries need not fear man-in-the-middle attacks. The peer-to-peer connections themselves are encrypted, so sneaky listeners can’t intercept content. Because the service is built around peer-to-peer connections, users can easily move around firewalls by going through other users’ connections.

If you want to monetize your blogging content, Trsst even provides a digital wallet built in to your account. Envisioning long-term pay-per-view content consumption, Trsst helps bloggers collect microtransaction payments through digital crypto-currency like Bitcoin–for views, shares, likes, or even anonymous donations.

All of this digital cloak-and-dagger defense makes it sound complicated, but Trsst abstracts away most of the hard stuff. Advanced users can of course access and control their keys, but for most users, the frontend will look just like Twitter or Facebook, complete with posting, following, friending, creating groups, and sending messages. So watch out, digital spooks: Your job may soon become a lot more difficult.

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