Powered by the IPFS technology and the Graphene Blockchain, Echo aims to deliver a full-feature decentralized chatting app. It is everything you’d expect from a regular messenger: free and easy to use, but also secure, private and encrypted. The project is still in development, with 4 proof-of-concept versions already released, and a Kickstarter campaign in preparation.

The team behind Echo, a P2P messaging and digital payment app, has set out with the goal of delivering a solution which could be conveniently used by people who have never even heard about cryptocurrencies before.

Live encryption and data storage

Echo is planned to be capable of sending multimedia (which is stored with the use of IPFS), and also support live encryption of all audio and video streams.

Christoph Hering, Echo’s CEO, says:

“Echo will use IPFS for the multimedia data storage. So all information is decentralised and encrypted. We will send the IPFS hashcode via the Blockchain ‘memo’ field, so that only the receiver can read the message. Echo will be able to live encrypt all audio and video streams too: you can call your friends over a IPFS video stream etc.”

In order to receive and interpret messages for the user, a decentralized messenger has to access the Blockchain, which can be a very resource-intensive, nearly unsolvable task for mobile devices. This is a major problem for all such applications.

Hering comments on this:

“We have developed a specific light client for the Bitshares platform. So you just download the user specific data, not the whole chain. That saves battery, data and time.”

Christoph Hering, Echo’s CEO

Centralized vs. decentralized

Instant messaging is one of many industries, where Blockchain could be employed to produce an undeniably positive effect.

The most popular IM apps today are centralized: WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, Telegram - they all use corporate servers to send messages across the network.That means that the respective apps suffer all the deficiencies associated with centralization: downtime, security breaches, zero anonymity/privacy - you name it.

The result is a market waiting to be taken over by a secure, efficient, private chatting app powered by Blockchain. There have been several attempts so far, such as CoinSpark or Blockom. The trend is so prominent, that even DARPA and the Commonwealth of Nations are considering building Blockchain messengers for their own use.

However, none of the decentralized solutions presented so far have managed to reach a degree of popularity enjoyed by the biggest legacy players in the industry. That can mostly be explained by the fact that none of them have been aimed at the general public: the projects by government agencies are being developed in complete secrecy; even the solutions which come from the private sector are largely geared towards experienced cryptocurrency users.

Simpler money transfers

In addition to sending traditional messages, the app wants to solve the headache of bank money transfers. In a bid to support seamless money transfers via the Blockchain, Echo is planned to support simple transfers in such currencies as Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, USD, EUR, JPY, and others.

The users won’t have to remember the receiver's addresses for different currencies, or any other specific data: they will be able to send to a username or via a QR-code. Businesses will also be able to accept payments via Echo by setting up an enterprise account.

Cointelegraph spoke to Christoph Hering about the project.

Cointelegraph: When will your crowdfunding begin? How soon do you plan to release a working app?

Christoph Hering: We are currently preparing the crowdfunding and will publish a short video clip to answer the most burning questions of our early adopters, introducing the team and sharing our long term vision with ECHO within the next weeks. Moving forward, we will announce our crowdfunding campaign on multiple websites, forums and over social media.

The crowdfunding will start early August 2016. We have a very dedicated and passionate team and I plan to release the first alpha version of ECHO 6 months after the succesful crowdfunding. We also have a newsletter where we share the latest updates and news around the ECHO team.

CT: Who are the closest competitors of Echo? How do you stand out?

CH: The closest competitor would be WeChat, the Chinese social messenger giant that provides an omni platform for messaging, payments, shopping, social media and so on. I was blown away the first time I used WeChat in Shanghai. I really liked their easy to use interface that welcomes every new user immediately. However, 700 Million WeChat users suffer from censorship, non-encrypted communications and the centralized financial system WeChat Pay.

After I came back from my exchange year in Shanghai my dream matured to build ECHO, a new social messenger that protects and encrypts user data and gives everybody the freedom over their money thanks to modern Blockchain technologies. Imagine if we could use the best known interface on a phone, a chat window, and give everybody the power to share any kind of currency, asset or loyalty rewards with a single text message. Finally, you can share your deepest thoughts and concerns with your family and friends in total privacy. It is my vision to combine the best of social messaging and digital money transfer in one app, which is intuitive for anybody to use.

CT: Why do you think no decentralized messenger has become really popular so far?

CH: Because first, most people are not passionate about security, privacy and decentralization enough yet. We in the modern world are trading privacy for security and every conversation, interaction or opinion will be recorded for eternity. That is a dangerous development. I suggest we all should have a right to forget, a right to delete our foolish mistakes from the past so that we can mature in the future.

Second, with an ever-faster growing world, people will discover new demands and passions for more privacy and security. After the WhatsApp shutdown in Brazil December 2015 and the active censorship of social media in China and Europe people realize that their right of free speech has been compromised. The are hungry for a new decentralized messenger that cannot be shut down, cannot be censored, and is very hard to hack. Thanks to modern Blockchain and IPFS technologies ECHO will live encrypt and decentralize all voice-, video-, chat messages and wallets to protect our users.

Privacy needs to be a default setting for all our apps. Even today WhatsApp new strong encryption is an option, not a default. Why?

CT: Ethereum’s integrated programming language can allow someone to build a similar app on top of their already popular Blockchain. Why did you choose to build yours almost from scratch?

CH: Ethereum has its market, but it is not suitable for scaling operations such as a instant chat or a global financial platform. We decided not to use Ethereum because it does not provide the features we need. We are looking for a Blockchain that can handle more than 50,000 transactions per seconds, does not cost anything in transaction fees, can manage multiple digital assets and has advanced privacy and account management features already built in the core.

We decided to build ECHO on top of the BitShares Blockchain which has proven its speed, security and scalability over the time. ECHO will connect to the BitShares Blockchain API´s so that users can use the full potential of price stable digital assets like (EUR, USD, CNY), digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin etc, plus a build in loyalty reward system for purchases at stores. In short, ECHO is connected to the new global SWIFT network, BitShares, that unites multiple corporations around the world and offers one global trading book for exchanging currencies, assets, stocks, bonds, ICO tokens and more.