With revelations of government surveillance continuing to roll in, BitTorrent decided late last year that it was high time someone made a chat client that would let people communicate in a secure way without actually having to know a whole lot about security. The result of that project is coming out today in the form of a public alpha release: it's a chat client called BitTorrent Bleep, and BitTorrent says that it will allow people "to speak freely without worrying about who might be eavesdropping."
"The new normal in the post-Snowden era."
Bleep keeps messages encrypted for their entire ride, so theoretically only their sender and receiver should be able to see them. BitTorrent says that this type of encryption should be "the new normal in the post-Snowden era," but that actually isn't the big innovation here — plenty of other options exist for chatting with end-to-end encryption. Bleep's standout feature is that it doesn't leave metadata behind on a central server, whereas a traditional chat client does.
Most chat programs are routed through the servers of whatever company makes the program — Facebook Messenger, for instance, would run through Facebook's servers. Even if the messages going over that server are encrypted, they leave behind potentially unencrypted metadata, such as who is talking to who, when they're chatting, and how many messages they're sending back and forth. It's all information that can be pretty revealing.
Bleep avoids that by sending its communications directly between the people who are talking, rather than relying on an intermediary. That said, there's still a matter of making that connection between two people in the first place, as they have to figure out where on the internet one another actually is. That's handled with a traditionally BitTorrent type of network that distributes the information across the phones and computers of people hooked into Bleep. BitTorrent says that this information is encrypted so that your computer's digital location won't be seen by anyone but the party you're actually looking for, and no one but the receiving party should even know who you're looking for either. Altogether, BitTorrent says that it would be "practically impossible" to gather metadata on who's talking to who.
As of today, Bleep is available for Windows 7 and 8, Mac, and Android. An iOS client is in the works, but it likely won't be published until Bleep is no longer pre-release software, per Apple's rules. You can currently use it to send messages and make voice calls. The app is still in an early stage, though, and BitTorrent says that there are some issues with it — so you should only use it if you're ready to deal with that.