BitTorrent today launched its encrypted P2P chat app Bleep. You can download the first stable version for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac from bleep.pm.
Formerly known as BitTorrent Chat, Bleep was first released in private alpha in July (but only for Windows 7 and Windows 8) and then as a public alpha in September with apps for Android and OS X. While there have been numerous updates since, today’s release brings Bleep to iOS for the first time, and removes the alpha tag on all platforms. That’s right — Farid Fadaie, senior director of product development at BitTorrent, confirmed with VentureBeat that Bleep is skipping the beta phase entirely and going straight to public release.
Additionally, BitTorrent has added a new whisper function to Bleep for both mobile and desktop (though it works best on Android and iOS). In short, whisper lets you send ephemeral messages; just tap “Go to Whisper” to ensure both text and pictures disappear from devices after they’ve been viewed (after 25 seconds). The experience is slightly different on the desktop: Hold shift while hitting send. “You can switch back and forth between normal and whisper messages seamlessly, so you don’t lose the flow of your conversation,” Fadaie said.
In short, whisper takes Bleep’s privacy-focused strategy a step further: Messages are not only stored locally, they are quickly deleted after they are viewed. BitTorrent says whisper messages even include basic screenshot protection: Either nicknames or text are blocked out so it’s not clear who said what. Hitting the “eye” icon will switch between the two modes: either nicknames or text are blurred, so taking a screenshot only captures one or the other.
That’s what’s new. As for what else Bleep can do, here the five features BitTorrent wants to highlight:
- No Personal Info Required: To get started with Bleep, all that is required is choosing a nickname. You can share your Bleep key wherever you like, and no one will have any of your other details. Optionally, you can verify your email addresses and mobile numbers with Bleep, which will let your friends discover you through Bleep when they open an account.
- In Your Hands, Instead of the Cloud: Messages and the encryption keys for images are stored on your local device, not the cloud. For messages and metadata, there is no server for hackers to target, and because you hold the keys, images can’t be leaked to haunt you later. BitTorrent claims it has “solved” serverless peer-to-peer messaging.
- Adding friends is easy: Invite friends via your device’s address book, their email address, mobile number, or Bleep key. In situations where you want to add a friend in person, you can scan/share a Bleep code.
- Free Voice Calls: Start a Bleep-to-Bleep call with any online contact by tapping the phone icon at the top of your text conversation. Calls are connected directly (with a cloud service) with end-to-end encryption.
- Cross-platform: The mobile apps work over cellular or Wi-Fi connections, while the desktop apps have essentially feature parity except that they can’t yet send images (only receive them). Each device you own is registered with Bleep separately, but you can add your friends to each device to stay in touch.
So, what’s next? While Fadaie told us that there are no plans for adding more platforms just yet (“we’re going to just focus on these major four”), he wanted to expand on the last point above.
Full multi-device support is coming next. That means messages will eventually be synced across all your devices (while this feature was technically available in the alpha, support was pulled because it still needed some work and was difficult to set up). Fadaie also promised one more upcoming feature: group chats.
BitTorrent plans to keep Bleep’s basic features free for consumers. New features may end up costing extra, Fadaie told VentureBeat, but the company isn’t sure yet what exactly those might look like (frankly, we doubt users will want to pay for extra messaging features).
We say “for consumers” because BitTorrent is exploring licensing and other revenue models for businesses. The company is considering a separate SDK and APIs, as well as private relationships with select partners, though Fadaie couldn’t share a timeline for when BitTorrent may go down the enterprise road.
For now, BitTorrent Bleep is still very much aimed at consumers. It will have to succeed there before any other plans can come to fruition.
The messaging space is already ridiculously saturated, and while an encrypted app is desirable, it’s simply not a feature many get excited about. That said, Fadaie did share that BitTorrent saw 200,000 installs of Bleep since the alpha launch.
With today’s public Bleep release, Fadaie said, BitTorrent is hoping to get that number into the “millions.”
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