Cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex and USDT stablecoin issuer Tether have collaborated with the Hypercore open-source protocol team to launch a new peer-to-peer (P2P) communications application Keet.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) is a decentralized communications model in which each party has the same capabilities and either party can initiate a communication session
Keet is a novel peer-to-peer video and chats app that offers private and secure communications, with integrated Bitcoin payments. It allows a given set of parties to exchange instant video, message and file communications in a truly P2P fashion.
The technique is an improvement to the traditional end-to-end encrypted centralized platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp. However, in Keet, the data being shared is not forwarded to a central server at any time; rather, the connection is established simply between the users taking part in the chat — lowering latency and increasing reliability.
Keet just launched its alpha version on July 15th 2022, and users can download the application on its website. The mobile version of the app is expected to be launched by November 2022.
The Technology Behind Keet
Holepunch is the technology behind Keet. Holepunch leverages BitTorrent-like computer networking infrastructure, which will be fully made public as an open-source software development kit (SDK) in December 2022. As a nod to “holepunching” — the act of a computer directly connecting to another — the back boning infrastructure aims to make it easier for developers to develop truly P2P apps with the Hypercore stack.
Hypercore is a peer-to-peer data network built on signed, append-only logs. These logs work similarly to a blockchain, but without the consensus algorithm and thus without the need for a global ledger state to be kept by all nodes.
Holepunch makes Hypercore more accessible by abstracting away low-level technical details of the protocol. It takes Hypercore one step further by simplifying the architecture and enabling more people to build apps with it — which enabled a single frontend developer to build Keet in under four months, chief strategy officer of Holepunch and CTO of Bitfinex and Tether, Paolo Ardoino, told Bitcoin Magazine.
“Holepunch offers a range of easy-to-use, collaborative, P2P data structures allowing developers to mainly focus on building great apps rather than having to be networking or P2P experts,” Ardoino and Holepunch CEO Mathias Buus said in a joint statement sent to Bitcoin Magazine. “Having built Keet on top of Holepunch, we know firsthand how powerful the platform is, and we cannot wait to see what other developers will build.”
All communications on Keet are encrypted by default, as the app leverages asymmetric cryptography. The application generates ED25519 private and public key pairs locally upon the first launch.
“Keys are generated on the device, all locally, and we’re working on adding support for various hardware secure modules (HSMs), like Ledger, to give more flexibility to users,” Ardoino and Buus explained. “This means in the future in addition to keeping their keys on their local device, users can store them on external hardware or their phones.”
Public keys are announced to Holepunch’s distributed hash table (DHT), an open network of computers that can be used by peers to discover and connect to each other.
“Our DHT is used to both discover peers (i.e., mapping a public key to a peer), and to facilitate ‘holepunching,’” Ardoino and Buus said. “In traditional systems, like WebRTC and others, this happens through a centralized server, which leaks a lot of metadata. With Keet this happens using multiple DHT nodes, each only having partial information, meaning much less metadata is lost.”
Holepunch forgoes using a blockchain and a native token entirely, enabling distributed apps to be created for scalability with minimal resources.
“Instead of relying on a shared blockchain between all users of the app, each user constructs many small data structures” which are used for storing the user’s own data as well as that of those in the same call, Ardoino and Buus explained.
Integrating Bitcoin Technology
“When using blockchains, all of this data has to be stored in one big chain, strictly ordered, and replicated between all users globally, which makes sense for financial systems such as Bitcoin,” they continued. “However, for normal apps, it’s often much more efficient to use a bunch of smaller data structures, only storing local data.”
Speaking of Bitcoin, Ardoino added that the team is working on integrating into the SDK the ability to send Lightning payments. Possibilities for bitcoin in Holepunch apps include allowing users to stream BTC to content creators, make regular P2P payments, and offer tips. The SDK will also support Tether’s USDT.
“Bitcoin and Tether payments are add-on features to provide payment rails/options for people using applications built on top of Holepunch or plan to build/offer services through the Holepunch network,” Ardoino and Buus said.
Holepunch will provide primitives to support the digital P2P payment options in a non-custodial form.
“Differently from other projects [like] Impervious AI … Holepunch uses pure P2P communication techniques (DHT, distributed holepunching, swarming) … that are decoupled from the payment system in order to achieve the highest level of freedom in reaching the scalability requirements of a mass communication system,” they added.