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What Is Nostr And How To Start Using Nostr

Last Updated March 5, 2024 12:22 PM
Andrew Kamsky
Last Updated March 5, 2024 12:22 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Nostr is a decentralized social network that emphasizes decentralization and user empowerment.
  • Nostr operates as an open protocol using “relays” for sending and receiving text messages.
  • Nostr addresses issues in traditional social media, such as monetization, questionable algorithms, centralized control, and spam.
  • To start using Nostr, users generate private keys, interact with relays, and choose from various client options to share their voice or follow other individuals.

Nostr has emerged as a potential game-changer in the field of social media and online communication. Drawing in the attention of crypto enthusiasts and tech visionaries alike due to its similarity to Twitter or now X, this decentralized social network, championed by Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter, promises to revolutionize the way interaction is done online.

What is Nostr?

Nostr is not just another social media app. It is a technology and protocol that is attempting to redefine how digital text can be transmitted and received. Unlike traditional platforms, like X (previously Twitter), Nostr operates as an open protocol, emphasizing decentralization, censorship resistance, and user empowerment. 

At its core, Nostr makes use of ‘relays’ which is a software that facilitates the sending, receiving, and storage of text messages. The beauty of these relays lies in their accessibility, as anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can run one.

Why Makes Nostr Unique

In today’s digital landscape, social media plays an important role in bringing awareness about the global world. Unfortunately, the existing social media systems have shortcomings that probably are best identified and addressed. These include:

  • Monetization through attention: Traditional social media platforms often prioritize ad revenue and rely on user attention to sell advertisements which potentially compromises the quality of the user experience.
  • Opaque content algorithms: In centralized social media platforms, secret algorithms determine what content users see, making it impossible for users to inspect or modify these algorithms.
  • Centralized control: Centralized platforms have complete control over who can participate and hold the power to censor content at their discretion.
  • Spam and bot infestation: Spam and bot accounts are prevalent on mainstream social media platforms, diminishing the quality of interactions.

In response to these challenges, Nostr emerges as a protocol rather than an app or service, providing an open standard upon which anyone can build. It aims to address these issues by offering a decentralized, transparent, and user-centric approach to social networking, where users have more control over their data and communication, and where censorship and spam are less prevalent. 

Nostr represents a significant step towards reimagining how social networks can function in a more user-friendly and equitable manner.

Understanding Decentralized Social Media

For individuals who have explored alternative social media, Nostr does not constitute a singular social media platform, brand, or application. Rather, it serves as a protocol upon which social media applications may be constructed upon.

Today’s mainstream social media platforms have advanced beyond the stage where virtually any individual, armed with a smartphone or computer, can effortlessly locate a website, download an app, and establish a social media presence with minimal assistance.

With more than 3.5 billion users, establishing a social media presence appears to be a relatively accessible task, irrespective of an individual’s level of expertise. However, Nostr’s journey is not as straightforward for the average individual and may necessitate some adaptation, particularly for those without a strong inclination for technical exploration.

How Nostr Works 

When using the Nostr protocol, the first step is to generate a set of private keys, which are the secret keys exclusively held by the individual to unlock their account. Unlike traditional social media accounts which are tied to an email or phone number, Nostr accounts are managed by the account holder, and there is no central entity for password recovery.

Similar to the treatment of private keys with cryptocurrency wallets, the private key of Nostr should be kept secure and not shared, while the public key can be shared with others to locate the account. It’s important to note that the private key is the sole method of account recovery, and losing it means losing access to the Nostr account.

Nostr Relies On Relays

It is important to keep in mind that there is no Nostr app, no Nostr website, and no Nostr company. Nostr is a protocol that provides censorship-resistant communications on the internet. Nostr uses relays to forward messages from one user to another.

Anyone can spin up a private and public key pair, connect to a relay via a client of their choice and broadcast their information, in many cases a post, to one or several relays. 

Unlike using X, where you login and post your text message to X’s cloud storage servers for others to retrieve, Nostr works a bit differently. When you post content on Nostr, it uses relays that enable public submissions. You can choose between public relays, private invite-only relays, or even set up your own relay.

Where Can One Find Nostr Relays?

Nostr relays may connect with a preferred client, one can find a list of them at the following urls:

What Are Clients And How Do They Work With Relays?

Clients retrieve information from their chosen relays and distribute data to other relays of their preference. These relays do not communicate with each other but are only used to interact directly with other users.

To illustrate, when a user wants to “follow” someone in the typical sense, the individual Nostr user would simply direct their client to request posts from that public key i.e. from the relays they are aware of.

A Step-By-Step Process On How To Start Using Nostr

Using Nostr means using one of its clients to access the Nostr network. This article will explain the clients, and how one may use these clients to access the decentralized social platform.

Nostr Clients

Some of more popular Nostr clients are:

  • astral.ninja  , a Nostr web client which has twitter-like social network ( which is also typically called the ‘Nostr’ network)
  • coracle.social  has support for public channels.
  • Damus is a MacOS and iPhone app that’s available on Apple Testflight. It supports a twitter-like social network.
  • Nostr Console is another client which is more for people familiar with the command line. It’s a terminal-UI based client, and has binaries for windows, linux and macOS.
  • A larger comparison list of clients available for Nostr can be found on Github here .
  • Almost all clients support encrypted direct messaging to other users.

Steps To Make An Account And Register On Nostr

The below steps may help making an account and register on Nostr:

  1. Create a private/public keypair: When using a Nostr client like astral.ninja . The client will ask you whether you want to create a key pair, and if the individual agrees, it will be created. This is used as a ‘self-sovereign’ identity in the Nostr system.
  2. Save the private key: Once a private/public key pair has been created, one should keep or save the private key somewhere, and keep it secret. Keep in mind if the private key is lost a new key can always be generated, however one may lose access to the old private messages and such, but not public messages.
  3. Create multiple keys if needed: The same key can be used on all Nostr clients. If the person wants to create multiple identities or accounts, new key pairs may be created.
  4. Update your profile: From the client being used, one should be able to update the profile name, picture and description of the Nostr account. Whilst this information is dependent on the client used it typically allows for an “add your name”, “about me section” and profile picture.
  5. Make posts: The client should also show posts made by others and allow them to create posts and follow others.
  6. Find users: Astral.ninja has a global feed where a viewer can see posts made by others. The page nostr.io/stats  shows some of the more prolific users. The page damus.io/channels  shows some of the more active public channels.

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Using Nostr

Decentralized social media platforms like Nostr offer unique advantages and disadvantages compared to centralized counterparts.

Benefits Of Nostr

Data Ownership and Privacy

Platforms like Nostr prioritize user data ownership and privacy. As a result, users have more control over their personal information and can choose what data to share and with whom.

Censorship Resistance

Decentralized social media platforms are resistant to censorship and government control. Content moderation decisions are typically made through community consensus rather than centralized authority.

User Empowerment

Users often have a more direct say in the platform’s governance and development. Decisions are made collectively through voting or consensus mechanisms.


Decentralized social media platforms can promote interoperability, allowing users to interact across various platforms and services seamlessly.

Reduced Monopoly Power

Decentralized social media aims to reduce the monopoly power of other centralized social media tech giants, promoting a more diverse and competitive landscape.

Drawbacks Of Nostr

Technical Complexity

The manner in how protocols like Nostr are used requires a higher level of technical understanding. Users need to manage private keys, wallet addresses, and navigate blockchain technology. This can be intimidating and confusing for less tech-savvy individuals, potentially limiting the platform’s accessibility.

Scalability Issues

Decentralized platforms prioritize security and decentralization over scalability, ensuring a robust foundation. However, this can lead to slower transaction speeds and higher fees on blockchain-based decentralized social media platforms, impacting user experience.

Content Moderation Challenges

Decentralized platforms aim to avoid centralized content moderation, but this approach can make it challenging to address illegal or harmful content effectively. Striking the right balance between free speech and safety is a significant challenge, and decentralized platforms may struggle to find effective solutions.

Limited Adoption And Network Effects

Decentralized social media platforms prioritize user privacy and control.  However, they may have a limited user base compared to mainstream centralized platforms, making it harder to build network effects and engage a broad audience.

Technical Hurdles For Development

Decentralized platforms are often built on blockchain technology, offering unique features like token incentives and smart contracts. Developing and maintaining these features can be technically complex and may require specialized knowledge, potentially limiting the pace of development.


In the foreseeable future, decentralized social media platforms like Nostr are poised to bring about a transformative shift in the digital landscape. These platforms promise true data ownership, granting users unprecedented control over their personal information. 

In theory, digital communities will be rooted in shared interests and values, fostering more meaningful and authentic connections. Content creators will own their content, benefiting from direct monetization opportunities, while information flow will become more robust and resistant to censorship.

Ultimately, these platforms represent a shift towards a new social paradigm one characterized by trust, transparency, and user empowerment, offering the promise of a more inclusive, secure, and equitable digital future.


What is Nostr and why is it gaining attention? 

Nostr is a decentralized social network like Twitter. It has been gaining attention for its promise of user empowerment and emphasis on decentralization.

How do I start using Nostr on Linux?

To start using Nostr on Linux, generate private keys, choose a client, connect to relays, and share or follow users.

What are the benefits of decentralized social media like Nostr? 

Decentralized social media protocols like Nostr offer data ownership, censorship resistance, user empowerment, interoperability, and reduced monopoly power. 

What are the challenges of using decentralized social media platforms like Nostr? 

Challenges of using Nostr include technical complexity, scalability issues, content moderation, limited adoption, and technical development hurdles.

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