Many of you use Skype to chat with work colleagues in other countries, call family once a week, or handle the one-off video conference or seminar. Skype was an online revelation when it reached the market in the summer of 2003. You could text, chat or video conference anywhere for free, or for a lower rate than a gas station calling card. The only problem is Skype has been co-opted by The State with dreaded “backdoors” for at least four years, compromising user’s identity protection, removing privacy, and taking the few remaining civil liberties many have left, without consent. Skype lacks the encryption and privacy many have a right to expect from any conversation, online or offline. Can this injustice be corrected? Bitphone believes so with their fully-encrypted “Web Call” feature, launched last week.
Read the full story below.
DCE Brief sat down for an exclusive interview with Gavin Stevens, founder and CTO of Solid Cloud LLC, the provider of Bitphone’s online calling service. We wanted to find out if Skype has met its match, or is Bitphone’s new feature something altogether different. The truth may lie somewhere in-between.
You launched Bitphone last summer. How has Bitphone been received in the marketplace? What have you learned from its release?
“Bitphone has done pretty well since our Beta launch in July. We have gained over 1000 Twitter followers and many new customers. Calls have been placed to over 55 countries and users have paid for calls with a variety of crypto-currencies thanks to our ShapeShift.io integration. We listened to our customers feedback and have implemented several new features in our new Bitphone update.”
Bitphone has now expanded its reach with a new encrypted Web Call feature. What is your target market for such a feature?
“Many users remained concerned about their privacy due to calling the public switched telephone network that is susceptible to snooping and eavesdropping. Our new Web Call feature connects users Peer-2-Peer and enables full, end to end encryption of your audio/video conversations.”
“A Web Call can be an audio conference bridge, a streaming video platform, a paid video broadcast or a private conversation. Peer-2-Peer means your audio and video are only shared directly with the users in the conference. Your video never goes to any server, so it can’t be monitored or eavesdropped on.”
I understand there is a fair amount of flexibility in how call senders and recipients can use and be charged for Web Calls. Please explain how that can work for a new user.
“Bitphone allows you to host your own Video/Audio calls. You can even charge registered or anonymous users a per minute/call fee in Bitcoin to view your Video/Audio.”
“Bitphone can also act as a classic 1-900 service like the ones back in the 80s-90s. You can rent a phone number in minutes and route callers to your Web Call or Forward calls to your private number. You can specify if you want to pay for the minutes expense for each call or if you want your viewers a per minute/call fee.”
“Anonymous users can visit your Web Call Url and deposit bitcoin into a temporary wallet. Each user is then given a unique PIN code they enter when calling your phone number. It could also be a video game streaming platform. Users can share their desktop with remote callers and charge them to view by the minute/call.”
What makes BitPhone more secure than Skype or other VOIP services?
“Skype now has a backdoor that permits government surveillance of users' video and audio calls, according to a new report in the Guardian. Bitphone is completely secure and encrypted. Government surveillance is not possible due to our use of Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS). The protocol allows client/server applications to communicate in a way that is designed to prevent eavesdropping, tampering, or message forgery. The DTLS protocol is based on the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol and provides equivalent security guarantees.”
It seems that Skype would be your target competitor. Are there issues with using Skype that Bitphone can solve in 2016?
“Skype has a specific usage context. Most users use Skype to chat with their friends and family. Bitphone is geared more as a public/private communication tool. It’s both an easy to use phone and a powerful video conferencing platform. You don’t have a list of contacts like Skype, but rather a list of Urls that you can use to host various Video conferences. You can share your custom Urls. however you want: to get visitors, over email, social media, etc.. You can even reserve a private Url for your web calls.”
“You can also rent numbers and charge users to call you on the phone. This also lets you hide your real phone number and use a temporary number for your calls. You can’t do any of this with Skype.”
Can you give me an example of a Bitphone Web Call business application and a consumer application that cannot be executed currently by other online services?
“Possible uses include Private Conferences, Private Conversations, Private Video Calls, Public Gaming or Desktop Streaming, Call Forwarding, Doctor Visits, Educational seminars and more. We also added a Web Call widget that you can put on your website to enable users to call you using Bitphone technology from your own website. Your web visitors can simply click a “Click here to call me” link that will use their browser to call your private number.”
Do you have to have a Bitphone account, or own any Bitcoin, to benefit from this encrypted technology?
“No, you don’t need to register to join a Web Call. Anonymous users can join your public video conferences. All Web calls are encrypted, for all callers and the host.To host your own Web Calls, you will need to register for a free Bitphone account.”
Is Bitphone a better video phone than Skype?
“I still use Skype for talking with friends and family, but Bitphone can act as my own personal communications platform. Collecting Bitcoin from your Web callers is a great way to make money without subjecting your users to endless commercials and ads. For a limited time for our launch, all users that register and maintain a Private Url will get free Web Call hosting for life.”
Stevens took me on an encrypted Bitphone web call to do this interview, and the site performed flawlessly. As simple as receiving a hyperlink and clicking on it to begin. Ease -of-use, sound and video were at least as good as Skype, if not better. Previously, I have used Bitphone for encrypted international phone calls with no problems to report.
One thing is for sure: Bitphone doesn’t accept fiat currencies. Customized for the Bitcoin and altcoin communities, it’s either digital currency or nothing. Legacy calling options, like Skype, are further misaligned for the growing, tech-savvy digital currency consumer market. I was impressed with the low rates they charge for such a customizable and secure online calling service. Bitphone starts to make old dime pay-phone calls seem like a heist, in comparison.
It seems Skype has just found some video calling competition for the New Year, but will they find a way to integrate encryption or digital currencies? If you need these increasingly necessary online features, Bitphone may be your best option at unseating the state’s incumbent surveillance choice.