Keybase

Keybase is a free security app for mobile phones and computers. Find out how it works today in our review.

What Is Keybase?

Keybase, found online at Keybase.io, aims to improve end-to-end encryption in the messaging world. You can download Keybase for free on Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Basically, Keybase is like Slack but with end-to-end encryption across all your devices. The company also compares itself to Team Dropbox, but where the server can’t leak your files or be backed.

Keybase was launched by the co-founders of OKCupid all the way back in 2014. The company made headlines in early March 2018 for receiving an investment from the Stellar Development Foundation (as reported exclusively by Coindesk). Stellar is the world’s eight largest blockchain. The company has also previously received $10.8 million in funding during a venture round led by Andreesen Horowitz.

Today, Keybase has 230,000+ users and 28,000+ teams.

How Does Keybase Work?

Technically speaking, Keybase is a key director that maps social media identities to encryption keys in a publicly auditable way.

Keybase offers an end-to-end encrypted chat and cloud storage system called Keybase Chat. Keybase is best known for its messaging functionality. However, it also allows for the storage of files in the Keybase filesystem. Files placed in the public portion of the filesystem are served from a public endpoint. They’re also served locally from a filesystem mounted by the Keybase client (like on your computer or mobile device).

At the same time, Keybase supports connecting to popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and even GitHub. Specifically, Keybase publicly connects identities on these platforms to their encryption keys.

Keybase can also publicly connect bitcoin and Zcash wallet addresses to public identities. Keybase once supported the same feature with Coinbase identities, but that partnership ended in March 2017 when Coinbase terminated public payment pages.

To “prove” the connection between online identities, Keybase using OAuth. With OAuth, identities are proven by posting a signed statement using the account a user wishes to prove ownership of. This makes identity proofs publicly verifiable. Instead of having to trust that the service is being truthful, a user can find and check the relevant proof statements themselves. The Keybase client completes this process automatically to verify identities.

Today, Keybase has applications available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and multiple Linux distributions. The applications are written in Go with an Electron front end. You can also access Keybase directly from the Keybase.io website.

How Do Keybase Teams Work?

One of the unique features of Keybase is the Keybase Teams feature. Each “Team” is a group of people with flexible membership. If you’re working on a project called Treehouse, for example, then you could register “treehouse” on Keybase. The team name is universal: there can only be one Keybase team with a given name.

Keybase launched their Teams feature in 2017.

Teams get chats and channels. The interface for Keybase Teams looks similar to Slack or Discord. It’s a collaborative chatting environment.

All communication within the Keybase Teams system is encrypted end-to-end. That means you don’t have to worry about server hacks.

Teams can be casual and small – like for your friends and family. Or, they can be large: like for an entire company or corporation.

All teams have signature chains. When you create a team, you begin a chain of signatures. Your first link declares that only you can append to the chain. At this point, you can begin adding other people. Technically, each user is a chain, so you’re signing their chains onto the team chain.

Each team’s signature chain is deterministically located in the Keybase Merkle tree.

How Does the Keybase Filesystem Work?

The Keybase filesystem is a cryptographically secure file mount that offers public, signed directories for everyone in the world.

You can use the Keybase filesystem to write data in a public space – say, in /keybase/public/yourusername – to verify your data.

Every file you write within that particular folder is signed. There’s no manual signing process, no taring or gzipping, and no detached sigs. Instead, everything in the folder appears as plaintext files on everyone’s computers. You can even access the filesystem using the ordinary Finder or Windows Explorer.

You can view your own public folder and everything inside it. You can also view someone else’s public folder, in which case you’ll see plaintext data contained within that filesystem.

Another unique and useful thing about Keybase’s filesystem is that there’s no sync model (unlike Dropbox or Google Drive): all files stream on-demand.

Who’s Behind Keybase?

Keybase was launched in 2014 by co-founders Chris Coyne and Maxwell Krohn, who previously founded dating website OKCupid in the early 2000s.

Keybase previously secured $10.8 million in venture funding in a round led by Andreesen Horowitz. On March 8, 2018, Keybase announced it had received funding from the Stellar Development Foundation.

Keybase chose to partner with Stellar because of its cheap and fast transfers as well as its minimal environmental impact. Keybase also has a history with Stellar’s chief scientist, David Mazieres.

The Keybase project is open source.

Keybase Crypto-Chat & File Storage Conclusion

Keybase is a end-to-end encrypted file system and messenger with powerful features – including the ability to prove your connection to specific bitcoin or Zcash wallet addresses or to social media profiles on Twitter and Reddit.

Keybase made headlines in March 2018 for partnering with Stellar and its Stellar Lumens (XLM) cryptocurrency. Keybase chose XLM due to its fast and cheap transactions and its environmental-friendly blockchain.

To learn more about Keybase, visit online today at Keybase.io.

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