No doubt, social media has revolutionised the way we communicate and interact with other people. As a tool, it can be a great way to stay in touch with friends, make new connections and keep up-to-date with topics of interest.
However, excessive social media use has also exacerbated mental health issues in a noisy digital world. Centralised platforms throw users into one big digital town square and use algorithms to keep them engaged—often mindlessly scrolling though content, peppered with a few ads.
Decentralised social media networks
Decentralised social media networks aim to be an alternative. Technologically, however, they are harder to achieve and usually require a little more technical competence from the end user.
If you’ve looked into decentralised social media before, then you may have come across Mastodon—an open-source software for running self-hosted social networking services. In fact, Meta plans to link its new text app Threads to the Fediverse—an ensemble of social networks (including Mastodon) that can communicate with each other.
That’s all well and good, but plenty of Mastodon/Fediverse servers have already stated their intention of blocking Meta’s access to their networks. And, there in lies the problem; these social networks rely on ‘clever’ servers and ‘dumb’ clients. Just like centralised social networks, all the heavy lifting is done by the servers, so users still don’t have full control over their content and feed.
What is Nostr
Nostr works on the opposite principle though; utilising ‘dumb’ servers (called relays) to simply pass information to ‘clever’ clients (apps used by the end user).
Nostr stands for ‘Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays’. Like HTTP or TCP-IP, Nostr is a protocol; an agreed upon procedure for passing messages around on the internet. Nostr itself is not an app or service that you sign up for. Instead, just like a Bitcoin wallet, Nostr accounts are based on public-key cryptography, so it’s easy to verify messages were really sent by the user in question.
Each Nostr account is based on a public/private key pair. A simple way to think about this is that your public key is your username and your private key is your password, with one major caveat. Unlike a password, your private key cannot be reset if lost.
So, if you lose your private key, your Nostr account is lost. If someone else gains access to your private key, they can take control of your account.
Since Nostr itself is just a protocol, you’ll need to use a client to access it. Clients can be web, desktop, or mobile apps and provide different experiences. For example, you might use one client to share photos like Instagram and another client to micro-blog like Twitter/X. The beauty here is that your followers remain with you from client to client, unlike on traditional social media.
To get started, here are our recommendations:
- Web/desktop – Access Snort.social from a web browser
- iOS – Download Damus from the Apple App Store.
- Android – Download Amethyst from the Google Play Store
You can use any client to set up an account. However, we recommend using Snort.social from a web browser, as this generates a 24 word mnemonic phrase, from which your Nostr private key is derived. In simple terms, this is a master password formed from 24 English words, so it’s easier to work with than a random string of characters.
How to setup a Nostr account step-by-step
1. Generate a set of Nostr keys
Access Snort.social from a web browser. Click ‘Login’ and then ‘Create Account’. Copy your public key and mnemonic phrase and keep it in a safe place. Follow the instructions to complete the account setup and then head over the ‘Settings’ tab. From here, click ‘Export Keys’ and record your private key with the previous information.
Important note: It’s not advisable to save this information in plain text on your computer. So, while you could paste this into a Word document and print it out, a safer bet may be to hand write in on a physical piece of paper and store this somewhere safe.
Reminder: If you are using a different client to create your account, then you may only be given a public/private key pair, without a mnemonic phrase.
2. Secure your Nostr public/private keys using Alby
You’ll need your private key to log in and post to any client moving forward. Some Nostr clients allow you to sign in by pasting in your private key. On the web, this is generally not recommended—it’s tedious and insecure. Instead, we recommend using a signing extension in your browser, which is a piece of software specifically designed to safely manage private keys and cryptographically sign events.
Alby is a popular signing extension and bitcoin lightning wallet that has built-in support for Nostr. It’s a great option for new users. Simply head over to getalby.com and create an account using your email address to sign up. Then install the Alby browser extension and connect your account.
Head to ‘Account Settings’ and view the ‘Key Management’ section. Here, you can import your Nostr private key for future use.
3. Complete your Nostr profile
Head back over to your Nostr client and navigate to your ‘Profile Settings’. Here, you can upload a profile picture and banner, fill in your name and about me section, and add your website.
Note on profile images: Certain clients might not offer the ability to upload an image for your avatar or banner and only allow for an image file reference. In cases like this, you will need to upload your image onto another site, such as your traditional social media account, file upload site, cloud storage account, or your own website. You can also use nostr.build.
4. Add a Lightning address
In your profile section, you’ll notice a field to input your Lightning address. Lightning is a second-layer protocol built on top of Bitcoin, just like Visa or Mastercard is to the traditional financial network. Adding a Lightning address to your Nostr profile enables users to send you ‘Zaps’ (tips paid in Bitcoin on the Lightning network).
You’ll need to create a Lightning wallet first and generate a Lightning address for your wallet. If you setup an Alby account (from step two), then you already have a Lighting wallet. Simply head over to your web Alby account and edit your Lightning address from the ‘Wallet’ section. Here’s our Alby Lightning address as an example: [email protected].
Once you have your Lightning address, you can add it to Your Nostr profile, which will automatically enable you to receive tips on your Nostr account or posts on any client.
5. Add a Nostr Address (NIP-05 Identifier)
In your profile section, you’ll also find a field to input your Nostr address. Some clients will refer to this as your NIP-05 Identifier.
A NIP 05 Identifier is a unique handle you can assign to your Nostr account using a registered website/domain. You can choose to use a domain that you control or take advantage of websites that offer NIP verification services, for example Nostr Verified and Nostr Plebs.
If you set up a Lighting address with Alby (from step 4), you can use the same address as your NIP-05 Identifier). Simply add your Nostr public key in your Alby ‘Profile Settings’ and you’re ready to go. Once your Nostr address is assigned to your Nostr public key, you can add it to your account. It then becomes visible on your profile, and users can tag you in posts using your NIP-05 handle.
6. Select your relays.
When you set up a Nostr account with Snort.social, or any other client, it will already have specific relays that it broadcasts to by default. These are likely public relays so that you, as a new user, can start following users, broadcast posts immediately or source posts from public relays for your global feed.
While public relays have their place in the Nostr ecosystem, they are more prone to spam due to the fact that anyone can post to them. That’s why many serious Nostr users prefer to pull their feeds from filtered paid relays.
In order for other users to see your content, they need to share at least one relay with you. So, as a starting point, it’s a good idea to use a few of the most popular public relays and at least one paid relay. When using a mobile client, more relays will result in increased battery usage. So, sticking with 5-7 stricks a good balance. See Nostr.info for a regularly updated list of Nostr relays. However, here are our recommendations to get started:
Add your relays
To add a relay, all you need to do is head over to the ‘Settings’ page of your Nostr client, select the relay option and paste the URL, which will look something like this:
Once you’ve pasted in the URL, in some cases, you will need to select the function such as:
For most of us, that would be both, so make sure they’re both toggled to on, and then save. Congratulations, you’ve added your first relay.
7. Follow other users to fill your feed.
Unlike traditional social media networks, your Nostr feed isn’t filled by algorithmic curation and suggested posts but by the content created by users you follow. If you don’t follow any users, you won’t have any content in your feed, and if you don’t follow active users, your account feed will become rather stale.
Posts are displayed chronologically, so you’ll never miss a post as long as you keep scrolling. You have complete control over who gets to take up time in your feed, and you can unfollow users and customise your feed as you go.
Follow ADAPT Network on Nostr here: npub123dpgzzlzpxjmaxg7ts7njap385m2xsv6q3a4vaseqfdvztr65vsqa2ejr
Bonus. Link your traditional social accounts
To help your existing followers find you on Nostr, you can link your traditional social media accounts to your Nostr account at nostr.directory. You can also use this service to find people to follow yourself.
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