NOSTR philosophy

An introduction to the NOSTR protocol

NOSTR philosophy
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Nostr's Mission: Restoring the Promise of the Free and Open Internet

George Orwell said the following words some 50 years, well before the birth of the Internet: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.". Yet, the quote from the author of 1984 (the dystopia where every aspect of society is controlled, which is quite telling) depicts a reality that we confront today: a digital space where censorship and freedom are infringed.
Social media has become a double-edged sword. It was initially conceived as a platform for connection, expression, and open communication, a place where people could share their thoughts and experiences with the world. But, over time, it strayed from its original purpose.
It's a shift that's hard to ignore, and it comes with a price: censorship and control. Issues like censorship, data misuse, and centralized control have tarnished the once-ideal vision of social media. How did the ideals of an open digital world become tarnished?
Intending to steer away from the risks of a digital 1984 in our days, Nostr (short for Notes & Other Stuff Transmitted by Relaysactively addresses the challenges that have long burdened traditional networks, reinstating user control and flowing decentralization in a genuinely open and interconnected digital ecosystem:
1.   Giving the Control Back to the User: Traditional social media platforms have shifted from their original vision, concentrating power in the hands of a few. Nostr counters this by promoting decentralization, allowing users to regain control of their digital identities, and preventing any single entity from monopolizing information flow.
2.   Your Choice Matters: Nostr offers a refreshing change from the one-size-fits-all approach of conventional platforms. Users can select from various Nostr-compatible apps, each providing a unique way to interact with social media.
3.   No One's in Control: Nostr isn't owned by one big company. It's open for everyone to use and change, like a big digital playground. No one can decide what you can and can't see.

Social Media - from Total Freedom to Stringent Control

Connection, communication, and freedom – these pillars represent the foundation of social media that began as a liberating force, a digital utopia where everyone had a voice and the world seemed more connected. It was a space where ideas could flow freely, and users could express themselves without the limits and restrictions we see today.
Over a decade ago, when platforms like Twitter were born, there was an air of excitement and innovation. These platforms were not just about connecting people; they were about creating an entirely new way of interaction. The Internet's early days were characterized by open protocols and decentralized structures, allowing for unprecedented innovation and freedom. Protocols functioned like digital highways, transporting data across the globe.
However, early internet companies grappled with organizing the chaotic sea of data, leading to the birth of giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Initially focusing on managing specific organizational tasks, these companies gradually began centralizing information, shifting away from the Internet's original decentralized ethos.
And as these platforms grew, they transformed into something quite different from their original vision. The very essence of social media, once driven by a desire to connect, has become more about retaining users at any cost. Leaders in the digital space initially didn't realize the full extent of our responsibility in shaping this digital world, and this oversight has led to unforeseen consequences.
How did this change happen? And more importantly, what went wrong?
Now, think about a future where a massive online retailer like MegaMart starts bidding for exclusive rights to manage public transportation systems. They introduce a fleet of smart buses equipped with advanced sensors that collect data on passengers' travel habits, destinations, and preferences. Then, as cities rush to cut costs, they embrace MegaMart's transportation solution. In this scenario, people may unwittingly become data sources for MegaMart's profit, feeling like passengers on a tech-driven transit system serving corporate interests.
In fact, this example is a tangible representation of Techno-feudalism, explaining how Big Tech ushered in a new economic era. Unlike traditional capitalism, where profits fuelled innovation and productivity, today's capitalists increasingly thrive on surveillance-based platforms, often distanced from the workers who provide goods and services.
Within these dynamics, we are not fighting for finite resources but for the "cloud capital," the driving force of Techno-feudalism. It's different from the old capitalism that focused on buying and selling goods. Cloud Capitalism is all about controlling and using digital information worldwide, crossing any borders.

Understanding the Addiction Model of Social Media

Social media isn't just about sharing anymore; it's about keeping you hooked. Have you noticed how hard it is to stop scrolling through Instagram or Twitter? That's not by chance; it's by design. These platforms have evolved into finely-tuned machines, with algorithms designed to learn what keeps you engaged, showing you more of it and making it nearly impossible to look away.
More than two billion individuals use Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok daily. Yet, their business ideas are based on user addiction rather than merely user engagement. And this is a deliberate design strategy, not an accident. The online communities we used to be a part of for fun and connection have slowly transformed into mazes that are becoming harder and harder to escape.
As these platforms grew, they became more than just digital spaces; they became powerhouses of information control. A single entity, often led by just a few individuals, began to decide what millions would see, read, and believe. This power to influence is immense and, quite frankly, frightening. It led to the creation of 'walled gardens' – closed ecosystems where platforms had complete control over the content and the user experience.
Eventually, the centralization of social media has impacted user experience and given rise to issues like censorship and data control. Platforms now have the power to decide what is seen and what is not, a power that can be used against the very users they serve.

Nostr Brings Back Control, Choice, & Freedom for the User

Battling all of the faults instilled by the rise of Big Tech social media, Nostr represents a new, innovative form of social media technology. Metaphorically, it resembles an open field where many different apps can access and share the same social media content rather than having one company control everything.
Nostr empowers users to have more control over their social media experiences. It's a return to the Internet's original promise: an open, free space for all. Users are no longer confined to one platform's content presentation and may choose from different apps that connect to Nostr, each offering a unique way of interacting with the same data.
Users can select an app that aligns with their preferences – be it a text-focused interface resembling Twitter or a visually driven one akin to Instagram. Nostr's model encourages constant innovation as developers strive to create more user-friendly and engaging platforms. Altogether, the variety ensures that users can find an app that resonates with their personal preferences rather than conforming to the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional social media platforms.

The Basics: How Nostr Works

Do you know how you can send emails from Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and other email services to anyone, no matter which service they use? Well, this is possible because they all follow the same rules, or "protocols," for sending and receiving emails.
These rules or protocols ensure that different email services can speak to each other, just like speaking the same language. So, even if you have Gmail and your friend has Yahoo, you can still exchange emails because both services use these open protocols.
Now, imagine the same idea, but for social media. Nostr is like a set of rules (protocols) that allow different social media services to work together. With Nostr, people can create different "clients" or apps, just like Gmail or Yahoo, to send emails. Some Nostr clients work on Twitter, some on Telegram, some on desktop, and some on mobile.
The significant part is that all these Nostr clients understand the same rules (protocols), just like Gmail and Yahoo understand email protocols. So, even if you're using a Twitter-like Nostr client, and your friend prefers a Telegram-like one, you can still interact with each other because they follow the same Nostr protocols.
In other words, you gain the freedom to choose different Nostr clients, and they can all work together. Nostr isn't a closed or isolated system; it's open and lets you connect with others, just like email services.

Introducing Relays

Nostr works quite differently than traditional social media problems. Instead of one big server in control, think about Nostr as a network of post offices (called relays) spread worldwide.
Just like how you can send a letter to anyone through any post office, Nostr lets you send messages through these relays. These relays are not owned by one big company (like Twitter or Facebook) but are run by different people all over the globe.
When you want to send a message on Nostr, your message goes from your device (the client) to one or more of these relays, similar to dropping your letter in multiple mailboxes.
Afterward, the relay's job is simply to hold onto your message. When someone wants to see your message, their device asks the relays for messages from you, which deliver your message to them.

Introducing Clients

In Nostr, a client is just the app you use to connect to and use the Nostr protocol. Think of it like the Twitter app you use on your phone or the Twitter website you visit to see tweets.
Because the Nostr protocol is straightforward and adaptable, different clients have their unique ways of using it. Some make it look exactly like Twitter, some focus on showing how important relays are, and some use smart methods to resist censorship without making things complicated for users.
Since a client is simply a tool to access data from relays, you can use different clients or log into as many as you want. As long as each client is connected to the same relays for data, you'll see the exact same messages across all your clients.

Understanding Nostr Identities

In Nostr, your digital identity is tied to two key elements: your public and private keys.
Public Key = Unique Id
Think of your public key (a unique 77-digit number) like your social media username – it's visible to everyone on the network. It's a long number, unique to you, ensuring no one else can pretend to be you.
Private Key = Secret
On the other hand, your private key is more like a password. It's another unique number that you keep to yourself, ensuring that your communications are secure and genuinely from you.
Handle = Nickname
But there's more to your identity in Nostr than just these numbers. Apart from these technical identifiers, you also have what's known as a 'handle' in Nostr, just like a nickname or a chosen name that represents you on the network. It's how you want others to recognize you.
For instance, someone might be known as 'Watchful Guardian' on Nostr, even though it's not their real name. It's more like a CB radio handle – a unique identifier that sets you apart. You're free to choose your handle and communicate without fear of censorship. It's all about trusting who you want and expressing yourself freely.

Exploring the Technology behind Nostr

Quite simply, Nostr acts "as a social layer for the Internet protocol stack. Big Tech companies had to build a proprietary social graph layer within their vertical since a social graph makes (almost) everything information-based better. Nostr pushes out the social graph from the application layer and allows smaller applications to be built on top." (NJUMP, 2023)
In contrast to peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as torrents, it does not rely on direct data sharing between peers. Nostr's decentralization ethos does not depend on a central server or conventional P2P methods, enhancing its resilience and also reducing the risk of single points of failure. Cryptographic keys and signatures sustain an environment for tamper-proof and authentic data.
Also, Nostr is far different from Bitcoin; its approach to data distribution and management is based on event-driven architecture using web sockets and JSON, an approach to decentralization that is different from both the blockchain and traditional P2P models.

Instilling the Potential for Change through Open-Source Structure & Decentralisation

Data, algorithms, and content distribution are often under the stringent oversight of traditional social media platforms. Nostr's approach counters this by advancing decentralization and giving users more agency over their online interactions.
Down this path, Nostr's commitment to freedom of choice challenges users to break free from the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional social media. It invites them to explore different client applications aligned with their preferences.
No single person or entity owns Nostr. It's an open-source protocol, meaning anyone can contribute to and use it. Although individuals can own specific parts of Nostr, like relays or client applications, the network's decentralized nature ensures that no one can monopolize or control the flow of information. With numerous relays and various clients available, Nostr maintains an open and unrestricted environment.
Your social media posts and data are not stored on just one platform (like Twitter or Instagram) but are shared across many different apps- this is what Nostr does. It's like how many email programs can access the same email account.

How Nostr Addresses Common Social Media Problems

User bans and server shutdowns pose challenges in many online communities, but here, users can maintain their identity and followers through public keys, even if banned on one relay. Besides, the network updates relay addresses automatically, ensuring a smooth transition when needed.
Nostr is built to be inherently censorship-resistant. Users can freely publish their updates on multiple relays, creating a decentralized ecosystem that stands strong against censorship attempts. Fees act as a deterrent, guaranteeing a server will always be ready to serve your posts.
To tackle spam control, relays have the option to demand payment, authentication, or implement anti-spam measures. Clients can switch to other relays for updates if a relay becomes spam-ridden.
Data storage is handled with remarkable efficiency in this network. It thrives with only a few active relays, and newcomers can join without any constraints, reducing overall storage demands compared to similar platforms.
Managing heavy content is straightforward here. Relays can either reject or charge for hosting large amounts of content, preventing the network from becoming overwhelmed. Market forces maintain order, ensuring the distribution of bandwidth-intensive content remains manageable.
Empowering user preferences, clients enjoy full autonomy in customizing how they view posts, whether AI-driven content sorting or the simplicity of chronological order, ensuring a tailored and satisfying user experience.

Surpassing the Limits of Social Media

In more depth, Nostr's structure and philosophy fulfill the original vision of Twitter's early years when it aimed to provide an open application programming interface (API). In simpler terms, it offers what Twitter had initially envisioned but never fully realized - a more open and adaptable system for users and developers.
Step by step, it overcomes the shortcomings of the previous centralized social media platforms, defined by tightly regulated ecosystems. Its openness and decentralization make it feasible to build novel applications that would have been impossible with the old, centralized system. In turn, Nostr paves the way for innovative and game-changing technical developments, which is quite exciting.
But, with the potential to become more than just a new standard for social media, Nostr is a versatile solution that has the capacity to replace platforms like Github, which are fundamental for collaborative software development. Even more, it can serve as a resilient "identity and reputation layer" for users, providing a secure and reliable online identity that can be used across various online services.


  • Restoring Digital Liberty: Echoing Orwell's vision, Nostr is a powerful antidote to the growing digital censorship, embodying the true spirit of liberty in the digital age.
  • Reviving Social Media's Original Vision: Nostr returns to the essence of social media as a platform for free expression and connection, countering the trend of centralized control and censorship.
  • Challenging the Status Quo: Nostr not only changes how we interact online but also questions the underlying power structures of the digital world, advocating for a more balanced and equitable information ecosystem.
  • Empowerment Through Decentralisation: By decentralizing control, Nostr hands back the power to users, allowing them to shape their digital experience without interference.
  • Diverse Platforms, Unified by Nostr: The flexibility to choose from various Nostr-compatible apps ensures a more personalized and enjoyable social media experience.
  • Innovating Beyond Social Media: Nostr's potential extends far beyond traditional social media, offering a resilient framework for new applications and digital interactions.
  • A New Era of Digital Interaction: Nostr isn't just a platform; it's a movement towards a more open, interconnected digital world where freedom of expression and innovation thrive.

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Nostr Sky

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Nostr Sky editor