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Nostr Meaning

May 12, 2024 | Updated May 12, 2024
Nostr is a decentralized protocol that enables users to exchange signed text messages via a network of relays rather than centralized servers.

What Is Nostr?

Nostr is short for “Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays.” It defines an open standard upon which users can freely publish or build apps and services on the web, such as social media apps. In other words, the protocol itself is not a social media service or application that users sign up for.

A developer pseudonymously known as Fiatjaf created this protocol for a distributed social networking system in 2020. It operates as an open protocol, primarily focusing on censorship resistance, decentralization, and user empowerment. 

What Makes It Unique?

Nostr is designed on the basis that the existing mainstream social media applications and services are susceptible to censorship due to centralized ownership. That is, a single entity has control over the entire platform, giving them the power to censor content and control participation. In addition, conventional social networks often prioritize monetization over user experience. In some cases, the platforms become riddled with spam and bot accounts that undermine the quality of user interactions.

Therefore, this protocol addresses these challenges by presenting a more decentralized, transparent, equitable, and user-friendly approach to distributed social networking. This approach gives the power over data and interactions back to the users. 

Some of its key features include simplicity, verifiability, and resilience.

  • Simplicity – Utilizes standard asymmetric encryption for keys and message signing, which simplifies operating relays and creating clients.
  • Verifiability – It is easier to verify the validity and accuracy of text messages as it employs asymmetric cryptography.
  • Resilience – The protocol does not rely on trusted central servers to transmit or store data, making it resilient.

How Does the Nostr Protocol Work?

Instead of tying the account to a phone number or an email like conventional social platforms, the Nostr protocol generates private keys for the account. The private keys grant the user access to their account. This set of keys is the only account recovery method, and losing it means losing access. The protocol also constitutes a public key to the account, which can be shared with the public to locate the account.

More importantly, the protocol does not rely on a peer-to-peer or blockchain architecture. Instead, it transmits and stores text messages using clients and relays. The clients are the applications or services that allow viewing and publishing content, while relays are the servers that host the content. Put another way, relays are software that facilitate the sending, receiving, and storing of digital texts. 

These relays enable accessibility, where anyone with an internet connection and a computing device (PC, laptop, etc.) can operate them. So, anyone can create a private/public key pair, link to a relay through a client, and transmit their information.

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