“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all public/private key pairs are created equal, that they endow their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Algorithmic Bias, and Freedom of Meme.” – The Declaration of Independence from Platforms
I published my initial Nostr guide on December 20th: What Is Nostr and How Do I Use It?
Since then, development on and around Nostr has advanced at a breakneck pace, so it’s time for another guide on how to get started using Nostr, and a little context for why it matters.
Yesterday, Damus was finally approved by the App Store after three failed attempts. Congratulations to William Casarin (AKA @jb55), the creator of Damus.
As Jack noted, this is a huge milestone:
How do I use Nostr?
TLDR: To use Nostr, simply log into any mobile/web client and generate a public/private key pair:
For those who want to dive a little deeper, read on….
For those who prefer videos, here’s one from David King which walks you through using Damus: Damus Help Desk
What is Nostr?
Nostr stands for “Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays.”
Think of Nostr as a social network, built similar to Twitter, where you can create posts or “notes” (like a tweet), like posts, follow and unfollow people, and “boost” posts (like a retweet). You may see “post” and “note” used interchangeably on Nostr. An “event” in Nostr can be any one of these previously mentioned actions.
One thing to make abundantly clear: Nostr is a protocol.
It’s a set of rules that servers and clients use to communicate (just like Bitcoin, email or Bittorrent). Nostr is not an app nor a “platform” (like Twitter, Facebook, etc.), but many applications can be built on top of Nostr.
In the words of Edward Snowden, “If a platform is a silo, a protocol is a river: no one owns it, and everyone is free to swim.”
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, Nostr is decentralized. There are no central servers or corporations who control what you can post and what others can see. Nostr is censorship-resistant and open source. The license for Nostr is simply “Public Domain.”
How does Nostr work?
To use Nostr, you must run a client. A client is simply the way you interact with Nostr (web client in your browser, mobile client on your iPhone, native client, etc.).
To publish something on Nostr, you write a post (note), sign it with your key and send it to multiple relays. You have two keys: your public key and your private key. Think of the public key as your username (like your @handle on Twitter). Think of your private key as your password; DO NOT SHARE IT WITH ANYONE.
To find another Nostr user, you just need to search in your client of choice using their public key. Here is mine (@walker): npub1cj8znuztfqkvq89pl8hceph0svvvqk0qay6nydgk9uyq7fhpfsgsqwrz4u
Once you follow someone on Nostr, you can @ them just like on Twitter (e.g. @walker)
A relay is a server hosted by you or by someone else; anyone can run a relay.
To get updates from other people, you ask multiple relays if they know anything about these other people. All a relay does is accept posts from people and forward them to other people. You don’t need to trust the relays because signatures are verified on the client side (where you are interacting with Nostr). There are free relays and paid relays.
On Damus, tap your profile icon in the top left corner, then tap Relays. For best performance, you should add any “recommended” relays.
You can use any of the hundreds of free relays, but if you want to try a paid relay, here's how to set it up:
You can edit your profile on Damus by clicking the “Edit” button on your profile page. Use nostr.build to upload photos (you can use this for posting photos or for your profile picture and header images) and nostrplebs.com to get an NIP-05 ID.
Now that you have your public/private key pair and you’re using one of the various mobile or web Nostr clients, you’re probably wondering “how do I find people on Nostr?”
Fear not, because Derek Ross put together a great list of ways to discover new Nostriches below:
How do I find people on Nostr?
Use pre-built lists of power users and signal boosters:
Find users inside your Nostr client:
Can I send money on Nostr?
Anyone can send money on Nostr using the power of the Bitcoin Lightning Network.
You can send Lightning invoices directly on Nostr by simply generating an invoice and pasting it into a note. On clients like Damus, the invoice text automatically changes into a nice little pay button.
Download a wallet (like Wallet of Satoshi), tap receive, add a custom amount, and paste the URL into Damus. Jack might even pay your invoice…
To add the lightning bolt tips icon to your profile: go to Wallet of Satoshi, tap "Receive," tap the "Lightning Address" button and tap the QR code to copy your LNURL. Then on Damus, tap "Edit" on your profile and paste your copied LNURL address into the "BITCOIN LIGHTNING TIPS" section, then save.
What do I do now?
Start using Nostr! Follow Nostr developers like @fiatjaf and @jb55 (on Twitter and on Nostr), and send them some sats to support the incredible work they’re doing. You can also use this list of people involved in Nostr projects to find other developers.
Why does Nostr matter?
There’s a reason people like Jack and Snowden are such vocal supporters of Bitcoin and Nostr: open protocols are our best shot at a free future.
With the increasing restriction of speech and control of content on centralized platforms, Nostr provides a refreshing change as a tool for free expression.
When you follow someone, you’ll see everything they post. There’s no algorithm behind the scenes to decide what you see and what stays hidden; you see what you want to see.
Mobile clients, Damus (iOS) and Amethyst (Android), and web clients such as snort.social and iris.to, provide open access to Nostr to anyone with an internet connection.
There are even folks like Daniele Tonon working on sending notes via SMS.
In a world dominated by Big Tech’s centralized social media platforms subject to corporate overreach and government capture, Nostr offers an alternative for those seeking open communication and true freedom of speech.
Besides that, Nostr is just plain fun. People are experimenting, helping each other, and working together toward a future that’s not as bleak as Twitter often makes it seem.
It’s exciting to be an early adopter. You can feel you are a part of something big. As Jack said in December:
One thing is certain, Nostr definitely has more than 5000 users now…
Find me on Nostr at npub1cj8znuztfqkvq89pl8hceph0svvvqk0qay6nydgk9uyq7fhpfsgsqwrz4u
You can follow BTC Times on Nostr (@BTC): npub13tctmes9ug5gcj4huj92ryw2ky600l62xwmkssdn9mmkf8y0u6jq5g7qx7
Nostr Resource List: