Tox, an encrypted instant messaging platform, has plans to experiment with Bitcoin micro-payments. Tox connects users to one another directly and uses advanced cryptography to encrypt all chats. Users of the platform will be able to voice call, instant message, video call, and exchange files, all with top-notch security and privacy in all conversations. The lead developer of Tox announced plans to possibly integrate Bitcoin payments through the platform in the future.
Currently, the platform is in early development, though users can still download the software that works quite well and test it out with friends. In addition to the cutting edge security and privacy with Tox , the platform is also completely free to use and ad free.
I got a chance to interview the lead developer of Tox to learn more about the platform as well as plans in development.
What are your responsibilities with Tox?
I’m the lead dev of Tox, I work on toxcore, maintain the uTox client and manage the whole project with help from others.
Tell me a little bit about Tox.
Tox is a secure, distributed, peer to peer messenger that uses various NAT hole punching techniques to connect you directly to the people you are speaking with. Tox uses the NaCl (https://nacl.cr.yp.to/ ) crypto library for all the crypto used in Tox. People in Tox are represented by their public keys. To add someone you add their Tox ID which is their public key with some other anti spam info attached. This is what a Tox ID looks like: (56A1ADE4B65B86BCD51CC73E2CD4E542179F47959FE3E0E21B4B0ACDADE51855D34D34D37CB5) for example this is the id of groupbot, a bot that we use to test group chats. Everything sent to someone with Tox is encrypted with temporary keys exchanged during the handshake meaning if someone steals your keys they can’t decrypt any of your previous chats.
How does Tox differ from other services such as Skype?
Microsoft is known to spy on skype users by recording everything that goes through it. A couple years ago, Microsoft bought skype and centralized it making it possible for them to record everything everyone said on skype. With Tox, everything is encrypted so nobody except yourself and the people you are speaking to can know what you are saying. Tox is fully distributed meaning it doesn’t require any central servers unlike almost all the other chat services that chose to go the easy centralized route. Most encrypted chat services only support text chats while Tox supports A/V chats and file transfers. The chat application market seems to be overcrowded with centralized text only that pass unencrypted text through their servers. Telegram for example at first glance seems ok but then you realize that only their “secret” chats that most users probably never use are end to end encrypted. The normal chats can be easily read by their central server. With Tox, everything is end to end encrypted and there is no way to disable the encryption so our users are forced to use it securely.
What are the benefits of using Tox over other chat services?
It’s easy to use, no setup required, works well, has fast file transfers, audio/video support, group chats that now support audio and everything is end to end encrypted.
Do you plan on integrating Bitcoin micro-payments into the software?
We plan on experimenting with Tox services that people can pay for in the future once Tox is more mature. Bitcoin being by far the most popular fully distributed currency looks like the logical choice for the payment system.
In your opinion, how important is it for chats to be encrypted?
There’s no reason for chats not to be encrypted. In 2014 the computing devices people use have enough processing power to encrypt everything they send and receive. In my opinion, any well designed communications software must have encryption as there are no drawbacks to encrypting everything. Encryption means your users don’t have to trust anyone but themselves with the contents of their conversations. It also prevents certain entities from conducting large scale surveillance of users by looking for keywords in your chats with other people.
What are your future plans for Tox?
Add more features like video group chats, device syncing, etc… and try to get a professional audit of the toxcore source code done.
The Tox platform is a great alternative to Skype, providing cutting edge security and privacy in addition to the great features offered by other chat platforms. In this age, encryption is incredibly important to have, as mentioned in the article, all modern computing devices have more than enough power to encrypt all data sent and received. The Tox platform builds upon the idea that conversations should and can be made private and secure. By connecting users to one another directly, and distributing the network, Tox does not rely on centralized servers. Much like Bitcoin, Tox seeks to decentralize the way things are done and put the power in the hands of individuals. We will keep you updated on the development of this unique platform. You can read more about Tox and download the free software here.
What do you think about the importance of data encryption? Comment below!
Images via Tox and Shutterstock.