Bitfinex and Tether launch peer-to-peer video calling app Keet

Quick Take

  • Bitfinex and Tether have launched Keet: a peer-to-peer video calling app.
  • The two companies have invested $10 million to date in the new project and plan to invest up to $100 million more, CTO Paolo Ardoino told The Block.

Sister crypto companies Bitfinex and Tether have entered a new area of business: building peer-to-peer (P2P) applications.

The two firms — along with P2P infrastructure developer Hypercore — have created a new company and protocol called Holepunch and the trio has launched its first app Keet: a peer-to-peer encrypted video calling app (currently in alpha).

Keet will allow users to schedule audio and video calls, send text chat and share files for free, Bitfinex and Tether said in a statement shared with The Block on Monday. The Keet app is powered by a technology called Distributed Holepunching (DHT) that allows users to locate and connect to each other "using only cryptographic key pairs upon authorization."

Ardoino compared Holepunch to BitTorrent, a P2P file-sharing system, which is now owned by crypto company Tron Foundation after its 2018 acquisition. But with Holepunch, many apps can be created besides file sharing, said Ardoino. "You can rebuild the entire world wide web experience in a fully P2P way," he said.

Five years of effort

Bitfinex, Tether and Hypercore have been building this technology over the last five years, Paolo Ardoino, CTO of the two companies and now also the chief strategy officer of Holepunch, told The Block in an interview.

"So what we have been working towards is to create a platform that would allow users to access applications that are unstoppable and provide freedom of speech," said Ardoino.

"In many places around the world, freedom of speech is extremely more limited than what we are used to say in the US or the UK. And freedom of speech is not just going to sit there and say whatever you want, but it's like sharing and talking with the people you want all the time without having concerns that big tech is listening to you or using your data, is collecting your data, and potentially either monetizing your data or using that against you."

Besides devoting five years to the project, Bitfinex and Tether have also invested around $10 million to build Holepunch and Keet, Ardoino said. He added that the two companies are open to investing $50 million to $100 million more in the future as they build out more P2P applications.

The Holepunch protocol is currently closed source and plans to move to open-source code in December. Once open source, anyone can build applications on the protocol and make money, Ardoino added.

Holepunch will also integrate the Lightning Network in its protocol and the tether stablecoin (USDT) to support a default payments system.

"Some apps and features are inherently better when paid," Mathias Buus, CEO of Holepunch, told The Block in the interview. "Payments as primitives are super important for us, which is why we're adding them. And surely it's going to create a big marketplace, a business that's very exciting for us as well."

Buus is a self-taught JavaScript hacker from Denmark. He has been working on open source and P2P projects for years and has been associated with Node.js, an open source server environment, since its early days.

Buus said that Keet is 10% of Holepunch's offerings and that the latter will be building "great apps without any strings attached."

Update (8 am ET): This story has been updated with more information from the interview with Ardoino and Buus.

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