BitTorrent has teased its chat product for months, and now some lucky testers will get the chance to see the pre-alpha in action. The serverless chat client, designed to evade surveillance and big data collection, also has a name: BitTorrent Bleep.
“As far as we’re concerned, anything you say is ‘bleep’ to us,” the company said in aTuesday blog post.
First thing’s first: Bleep isn’t just another messaging app. BitTorrent is well-known for its decentralized, peer-to-peer protocol, typically used for file-sharing. The San Francisco-based company described Bleep’s platform as a fully distributed Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) server on top of which is the app, an enhanced SIP-compliant User Agent Client (UAC). How it works: You can choose to send messages straight from your device to your chosen contact without BitTorrent’s servers intercepting it. You can send texts or make calls to online contacts, with offline functionality coming down the pipeline later on.
Bleep’s features will appeal to Edward Snowden fans and the NSA-averse: BitTorrent won’t collect information on who is chatting or when. The company also doesn’t offer a way to find users.
“Person A finds Person B through other nodes in the network,” said Farid Fadaie, BitTorrent’s senior director of product development, in a Tuesday blog post. “We never track or store who is looking for whom.”
Bleep uses end-to-end encryption, which BitTorrent argues should be the standard for messaging services but isn’t. Even apps that offer encryption still store metadata, which can include all sorts of identifying information. BitTorrent doesn’t collect any metadata.
BitTorrent started sending out invitations on Tuesday to volunteers who signed up months ago to be chat app testers. There’s a caveat: You can only use the pre-alpha version of Bleep on Windows 7 and 8 desktops. But you can invite your friends to join you, import your Google address book, and sign up any way you please: email, phone number, or anonymously without an account. You can request an invitation to Bleep here.