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RetroShare is a open source cross-platform, private and secure decentralized communication system. It lets you to securely chat, share photos, videos, and more, using OpenPGP to authenticate peers and OpenSSL to encrypt all communication.
Send text and images. Discuss with various people in chat rooms. Express your emotions with the rich smiley set. Use distant chat to securely chat with friends-of-friends.
Voice and Video
Make free and secure calls with the VoIP plugin. Catch up face to face with a video call.
Send encrypted messages to other members of the network. Retroshare can store encrypted messages on friends nodes to deliver messages while you're offline.
Share files with your friends or with the whole network. Use the search to find files. Retroshare uses swarming similar to BitTorrent, to accelerate the download. This makes it possible to share big files with 1GB or more. Your privacy is protected with anonymous tunnels. Only your direct friends might learn which files you download.
You can read and write forum posts offline. This is perfect while you're on the go. When you have an Internet connection, Retroshare will automatically sync forums with your friends. Decentralized forums are censorship resistant by design.
Share your favorite links. See which links others like. Vote and discuss links.
Publish files in channels. Subscribe to channels and automatically download the latest files. Comment on files and spread them to your friends.
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Retroshare: friends not included! If you want to know what this application can do, you'll need some friends! Or you can be like me, forever alone, and set up two computers and try it out. After about 30 minutes of messing around, here are some preliminary impressions I had.
The certificates is probably the hardest thing to manage with Retroshare. Exchanging them was easy, using online expiring paste services (I used Hastebin and Ghostbin for this), although any method you can think of to send a block of text will work. Signing and validating the certificates, however, wasn't really clear to me. It could be just me, since this was my first time managing certificates like this.
The design of the GUI is quite nice, although first-time users may feel overwhelmed by the options. It takes a bit of browsing and prodding around to learn everything Retroshare has to offer. It allows users to chat to every single node they are connected to, chat with only select nodes, create alternate identities, send email-esque messages to certain nodes, and share a folder of files with certain nodes (shared directory), among other things.
I didn't get the chance to try out the "Channels", "Forum", and "Links" tabs yet, unfortunately, but I have a hunch that those tabs would be very useful for those who like sharing things with their friends.
Maybe Retroshare's speed was an issue of the past, because I haven't had any serious connectivity issues trying to contact other nodes...then again, it could be because the nodes I connected to were nearby to begin with. I don't really know how well it works for long distance nodes.
Overall, I find Retroshare to be a viable platform for connecting to friends in a decentralized way.
EDIT [April 2]: I finally convinced one of my friends to try it out, even if just for a moment. I had some trouble connecting to their computer at first, but it turned out it was because he was on an unsecured network. After resolving that, our computers found each other without a hitch.
After doing some more exploration of the features, I conclude that Retroshare is well-suited to being a social media platform for very close friends, without a server in between.
So, to summarize all these different methods of communication:
Direct chat for one-on-one. Quickest.
Chat lobbies for IRC-like experience.
E-mail for more permanent messages and file sharing.
Forums for general discussion about any topic.
Files for anyone who likes to do peer-to-peer file transfers.
Channels for your own personal soapbox.
Links to share interesting websites or URLs.
After doing some more reading I've heard stories of people whose computer crashed or had a power outage, then after a reboot found Retroshare had lost friend nodes...or something like that. Apparently there are some measures to remedy this but it could use some more work to completely fix.
As for the speed, I got to test it out a bit more. It appears that the speed can vary widely depending on the connection quality of each of the nodes. Chat messages between my two computers was virtually instant, and with my friend had a delay of a second, which in my opinion is pretty good. The other methods, like email and forums, however, are unpredictable in their speed. Forum posts can take a while to show up (fastest I've had between my two computers is about 30 seconds, slowest is 30 minutes). Maybe this is what they call "propagating information through the network"? Then again, if you are looking for quick communication with someone, you should be using the chat function anyways.
[Edited by TerrifiedTyphlosion, April 02]
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