The bitcoin community’s favorite social networking protocol, Nostr, now has millions of users worldwide and is quickly becoming an integral part of the digital economy. Primal, an emerging player in the Nostr industry, has secured $1 million in funding from Ten31, Hivemind Ventures, and others, making it the first venture capital-backed startup solely dedicated to developing bitcoin-infused Nostr applications.
This funding comes at a pivotal moment, coinciding with the debut of Meta’s Threads, a social media app aiming to compete with established social apps like Twitter. In contrast to that corporate competitor, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been offering more than $10 million in grants to open source Nostr developers, which complement startups like Primal. The Nostr ecosystem offers a variety of players, not competitors like Threads and Twitter, due to its decentralized nature. Primal will enable users to instantly send zaps, small amounts of bitcoin, to other users and their posts, anywhere in the world.
A couple of other user-friendly iOS Nostr apps with built in zap functionality are ZBD and Plebstr. It is worth noting that incorporating zap functionality has proven challenging for some Nostr-native social apps, such as Damus, due to restrictive policies imposed by Apple’sAAPL App Store. Damus came from an independent developer, while ZBD came from my employer, ZEBEDEE, which raised $35 million in venture capital for a variety of bitcoin applications.
When asked about the significance of the funding of wholly Nostr-focused startups and the integration of bitcoin-powered zaps into the mobile app, Primal Founder and CEO Miljan Braticevic told me in an interview that “with Nostr, we now have a global publishing protocol with an open social graph that anyone can build on, as well as a monetary network attached to it in the form of zaps. I think that everyone will be surprised by how quickly Nostr-based products will reach, and then surpass the capabilities of the closed legacy platforms.”
Primal’s suite of social apps combine a Twitter-like interface with the open source Nostr protocol, which prioritizes censorship resistance, account ownership, and decentralization. The Nostr protocol has already attracted over 30 million users and continues to grow.
As a daily user of the Primal web app, in addition to many other Nostr apps, I am personally excited about the company expanding into mobile apps too. Nostr is all about having the freedom to choose the app that works best for you, and the more apps there are that are built on Nostr, the more freedom users have to choose.
In the midst of this competitive landscape, the emergence of Meta’s Threads adds an intriguing dimension to the decentralized social media arena. Threads, a new app integrated within Meta’s Instagram network, aims to introduce conversational elements reminiscent of Twitter. However, I’ve found that I’d rather share my thoughts on Nostr and receive real, tangible value, than share them on Threads for random likes. Likes can’t buy you anything.
In stark contrast to Meta’s Threads, where the company owns all of your data, Nostr applications let users own their identities and move seamlessly across apps, rather than needing to rebuild an audience on each separate app. The ability to cross-post across multiple Nostr apps without the need for multiple accounts provides users with the flexibility to choose the app that works best for them.
Max Webster, Founder of Hivemind Ventures, used a useful analogy in the interview, “say we have approximately 500,000 users with access to a Nostr Twitter-style client. Tomorrow, a new music player launches and each of those 500,000 users can now instantly log into the music player. And whatever new users the music player signs up can now also use the Twitter services.”
As the competition between Twitter and Meta illuminates the importance of more diverse, open protocol options, like Nostr, bitcoin-focused social media startups are even better positioned to help users directly support creators and friends, all while reshaping the future of digital interactions.