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Messaging with Gems

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Gems is a new and exciting mobile messaging application for iOS and Android that brings cryptocurrencies to the masses, with no need for knowledge about Bitcoin, cryptography or encryption.

This is the kind of exciting innovation I have waited for. The Gems app puts the power of cryptocurrency in the hands of the users, without the usual complications that surround cryptocurrency technology today. Gems is a social-messenger app that comes integrated with next-generation bitcoin technology. Gems offers a WhatsApp-style mobile experience, but with fully encrypted private messaging and a built-in wallet.

The application is both a messenger and a wallet. Every Gems user automatically receives a wallet, protected by a passphrase chosen at registration. A chosen Gems username also acts as alias to a linked Counterwallet address, making it simple and easy for users to send and receive either gems or bitcoins (and later other assets).

The Gems app looks flashy and is easy to use. The user simply downloads the app, sets up an account, and then can immediately start sharing messages with friends and, by being active in the network, earning gems. Introducing new users to Gems is just one example of a way that a user can be rewarded with gems, the value of which is directly tied to the value of the network, since there will always be a fixed and limited supply of gems.

While many point to the option of Gliph for a new crypto-messaging platform, Gliph’s interface is not as attractive or as user-friendly as Gems. Gliph currently lacks the features that many mainstream messenger users would like to see for a daily messaging application.

The promotional video gives a simple overview of how Gems works:

We sat down with Daniel Peled from the Gems team to talk about Gems.

Mike: Why would users switch from regular messaging apps to Gems?

Daniel: Due to recent incidents where private information was leaked, technology users have become much more concerned about the security of their data. WhatsApp, for example, stores and does not encrypt its users’ communications, messages, pictures or videos. In comparison, user data is not stored by Gems, which has no way to access messages, and therefore messages and data are truly private.

Gems has other key features that differentiate it from other messaging apps, including the way it approaches its users. WhatsApp was recently bought by Facebook for $19 billion. Thanks primarily to its users, it has become an extremely valuable company. WhatsApp charges users $1 per year to use the app. Gems, on the other hand, is free—and even more, it actually pays users.

This works thanks to our unique in-app currency-reward model. Those who wish to advertise on the Gems network must purchase gems tokens in order to do so. Gems pays the tokens directly to the users to whom they advertise. If users do not want to receive advertisements, they can easily opt out. This creates a market where users can profit directly from their gems. We are the first to bring this brand new sharing-economy model to the market.

Mike: Can you tell us a bit more about the encryption used by Gems?

Daniel: The Gems app assumes zero trust and even protects user data from Gems’s own cloud servers. Every secure outgoing message is encrypted with a key that is unknown to the server, making the message recipient the only one who can decrypt it. This privacy model prevents any possibility of eavesdropping by third parties, including government agencies and corporations.

Gems offers a mixture of RSA 2048 and AES with 256-bit keys. Encryption is performed client to client, making secure messages indecipherable by the Gems infrastructure. This is the only real way to achieve 100% privacy because it does not entrust any third parties.

Mike: From a technical standpoint, it is our understanding that Gems usernames are essentially aliases of addresses on the Counterparty system. Will we be able to have lots of different currencies in our Gems wallets?

Daniel: Our goal is to develop a really easy and simple user experience; therefore, even though it possible to have lots of different currencies in the Gems wallet, we believe it is better to launch the app initially with support for Gems and Bitcoin only.

It is important to note that since this is the first time users will control the core value of the social network, it is too early to predict what other novel ideas will come into existence. We will take Gems holders’ input into consideration for future features.

Mike: How anonymous can I be on this application?

Daniel: Most social networks do not encourage or support true anonymity of their users. Consider WhatsApp: every account must be tied to a working phone number, enforced by a requirement to send an SMS during registration. You cannot open a WhatsApp account without identifying yourself. The same goes for Facebook, which by definition contains your real name, rather than an anonymous alias.

Gems, unlike other networks, allows you, the user, to choose the level of anonymity and privacy with which you feel comfortable. Your data is never shared with third parties, unless you consent. By default, a Gems account only contains an anonymous alias—your chosen username. This username does not have to reflect your real identity in any way.

Users who feel comfortable sharing their real phone number may choose to connect a phone number to their Gems account. Users will be able to find each other more easily if they do not have to know a username and they can instead rely on a phone number they may already know. The phone number is always kept confidential, however, and only those chosen by a user will have access to it. It is always possible to maintain complete anonymity, if desired. Gems does not require any real-world identification in order to operate.

The same level of anonymity applies to your gems wallet. Since every Gems account is also a gems wallet, your wallet address will be as anonymous as your account.

Mike: Right now you’ve got an iOS application and Android application in the pipe. Any plans on doing a web-based messenger, OS X application, Windows Phone app, and other varieties? We’ve seen that Telegram has been working on expanding to several other spaces quickly. Do you intend on doing the same?

Daniel: We have other platform versions planned on our long-term roadmap; however, at this initial stage we are focusing only on mobile Android and iOS, since they account for a majority percentage of our target market.

Mike: What elements of Gems will be open source, if any?

Daniel: During the beta development phases, the source code will not be available to the public. The client-side application will be open source once we have performed the necessary quality assurance and security analysis to ensure the process will not put our users at risk.

This will enable third-party developers to audit and improve upon the functionality of the Gems application. We see much value in the participation of the open-source community. It is important to emphasize that all currency-related transactions in Gems are currently based on open-source code (Counterparty), and that the core of our IM technology is based on open-source software as well (SignalR).

Further information about Gems can be found on the Gems website, Bitcoin Talk thread, or via @getgemsorg Twitter account.

Coin Fire will stay abreast of the latest developments with Gems and will be sure to share them with our readers!

Images courtesy of Gems.

Coin Fire is a cryptocurrency news site started on June 6th of 2014. The site focused on hard-hitting investigative stories. Coin Fire was acquired by 99Bitcoins on October 2015.

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