Amongst all the Twitter drama with Elon Musk taking over, many people are looking for a social media alternative. This is easier said than done since most of the large platforms use algorithms to guide your experience as well as to censor information they don’t like.
So where can you turn? Well, Nostr is a new social media platform that shows promise, even more than Mastodon. Read on to find out more.
What is Nostr?
Nostr is a social media platform built in 2020 and based on cryptographic keys. The platform is open-sourced social media platform, meaning anyone can see the code and how it works. It is also based on signatures. This means each individual user gets to choose what information they see and when based on the signatures or keys they know.
In order to use Nostr, you will have to have a signature. Then you can publish anything you want with your signature on it. After a post is published, it is sent to relays. You can then request information from these relays about other signatures (aka the people/companies you follow).
These relays are not smart learning programs, they are simple transfer and information-storing platforms. This means you don’t need to trust a relay in order to gather information from it about other signatures. You will choose instead to trust those behind the signatures you follow.
How is Nostr Different from Mastodon?
Mastodon is another open-source social media platform that is much better than Twitter. The problem with Mastodon is that users must subscribe to certain servers. These servers are owned by other users, and these other users can choose to ban an individual from a server. This means that even though you can’t be banned from Mastodon, you can be removed from a group or banned from a particular server. And when this happens, you lose all your information connected with that server.
On Nostr, users are getting information from relays, not servers, and all information is connected to your signature. This means that although someone can deny someone access to your relays (like denying a friend request) on typical social media, there is no way to truly ban someone from the platform (because only relays can ban signatures), and they can still receive and send information from on other relays.
Additionally, the fact that all updates must be saved to all servers gives Mastodon the same problem that Bitcoin is facing in terms of scaling. Because Nostr uses relays to relay information rather than storing everything on a client, this makes Nostr infinitely more scalable.
What Are the Benefits of Nostr?
There are several benefits to using the Nostr platform, the main one is that no one can ever get banned. And if, for some reason, you are banned from publishing on a certain relay because your information is tied to your signature, you will still retain your followers, and you’ll just need to find or create a new relay to publish on. You are never in danger of losing the information you have amassed on Nostr.
Not only that, but if you ever want to move information from one relay to another, it is very easy to do so, as you can publish a server recommendation that ports information from one relay to another. This means your followers will always be able to find you no matter what happens.
There is no censorship. Relays can charge fees to allow you to post, which means that even if all of the free relays have banned you from posting, you will always be able to pay to post somewhere.
One of our favorite aspects is that Nostr is spam/bot resistant. Many relays will require extra information when they believe a post is spam. If the poster can’t provide the additional information, the post won’t be posted to the relay, keeping the platform somewhat spam free. There are also no ads or annoying monetization techniques.
Now, this doesn’t mean that there is no spam on Nostr, it just means that there is less than on similar platforms like Twitter, which has a large portion of bot accounts.
The Downsides of Nostr
Nostr is truly the outline of what a good social media platform should have. The only problem is it’s so new that there aren’t many users yet. Social media startups are always slow, so we expect this will change as the months go by, but for now, you might not find a lot of content to follow. (Although Damus.io is releasing an Apple app store app soon, and we believe this will kick-start Nostr's popularity).
Getting started on Nostr is also hard. It isn’t an app you just download on your phone and make a profile and go. Nostr is a protocol, and it relies on people building its platform. This means it will take longer to grow than other social media platforms. It also may be difficult for those who aren’t technology savvy to get started.
Also, while the platform itself is censorship-free, it is still possible to ban people from relays you run. This means that censorship within a certain relay is possible. But remember, you don’t lose anything if banned from a particular relay.
It's also worth mentioning that it isn’t possible to see how many followers you have on Nostr. You can get general ideas through a request process, but it will never be like Instagram or Twitter, where you know exactly how many people are receiving your relays.
The final downside to Nostr is that it is a bit difficult to get a following. In order to join, you must find an individual (or business) public key so you can input it and receive their relays. Usually, you must ask for it or come across it on a website as there isn’t going to be a “people you might know” feature like on other social media platforms.
Should You Join Nostr?
If you have the technological know-how, it is definitely a good idea to join Nostr. While it isn’t popular yet, Jack Dorsey recently made a large donation to the platform, and it is expected to increase in popularity in the future.
Unlike other platforms, there is likely a bright future for Nostr. Even if it doesn’t become as large as other platforms, like Twitter, it is still a worthwhile platform to spend some time on. Plus, if it does become popular in the future, it’s a good idea to get a head start.