The First Nostr App Is Out. WTF is This?

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read
The First Nostr App Is Out. WTF is This?

First off, Nostr is "a decentralized network based on cryptographic keypairs and that is not peer-to-peer, it is super simple and scalable and therefore has a chance of working." Jack Dorsey has invested in it, and the first app to use it hit the App Store today. The app is called Damus, and it's completely free.

First Run

Setting up an account is cringy from the start, with the lamest placeholder text I've seen in an app in a long time. The thing is, this probably lands for other people, so to each their own, but this made me immediately go, "oh, this is the crowd this is targeting."

Creating Your Account

Now you you do set a username, but there's no need for a password. That's because you don't access your account with a stinking password, and you don't use one of those new-fangled passkeys, you get a private key you need to save and paste into any Nostr app going forward. in fact, here's the UI for logging in if you ever get logged out.

All you do is paste in your secret key and that's it. It's hopefully just an implementation detail, but it's worth noting that the app does not present this as a password field, and therefore iOS does not present your password manager to fill this out.

It's All Keys, Keys Everywhere!

But I hear you, what's this public key?

That, dear reader, is what you need to give people to find you on the Nostrverse…Nostrweb…whatever. You may have noticed that I grabbed the highly sought after @georgewbush handle, but that won't do you any good finding me there, you need that key.

It's like Nintendo friend codes, but worse!

Usernames are Whatever

Oh, and don't worry, old Georgie boy can still get @georagewbush if he wants because usernames aren't unique. in fact, I made 3 separate @georagewbush accounts just to make sure.

Which one is the real guy?

  • npub1fpzxlhpu0unksea6hher98d3dsc87qfh2tm6l48ntwck0z5lt9tsm9de3e
  • npub1fdndgfx5dbhrs6tfgbsrdfzbutaersug6aery5gaer6fgb5adszgsegyearsgs
  • npub1fsueyrgekusyrfgesrhjgfwkuyh5tkbhj45gtuy34wgr3u4gkty3k4tv34t3

Impossible to tell!

Funnily enough, the app is a wasteland when you first log in and there's no indication where you can go to find things to follow, so I just searched for Apple. The good news is Apple has 2 accounts set up already! But wait…

This appears to be the same guy who's created 2 @apple accounts. The first is clearly a squatter who is asking for payments to "free up" the handle, which is funny because:

  1. We know from my George W example that usernames are not unique.
  2. We know this bozo knows that since he has @apple twice.

The second account is asking you to DM him to start up a "multi-level business" with him with only 15 BUSD (which appears to be a stablecoin that is sure to crash just like the other stablecoins).

Honestly, this is just what I'd expect from a crypto-adjacent project like this.

My Feelings

This ain't good, and I don't recommend anyone rush out there to try it (usernames aren't unique, so no need to even reserve you preferred name). Maybe there will be some killer app in the future that changes my mind, but this has zero appeal to me.

We all give Mastodon a hard time for being a bit confusing to explain to people, but Mastodon looks like the most friendly social media platform in the world compared to this.