Bleep, an encrypted text, picture and voice chat app built on peer-to-peer architecture by the P2P company BitTorrent, has picked up over 200,000 users on Windows, Android and Mac while in its alpha version. To take things up one more notch, today BitTorrent is bringing the product out of alpha, launching a version that will work on iOS and adding new features, such as a new “Whisper” mode, which people can use to send messages that can self-destruct after 25 seconds and are impossible to save or copy, even with screenshots.
The news comes at an interesting time for BitTorrent: the company has been on a steady path over the last couple of years, launching a range of products like its Bundles, Sync and Maelstrom built on its P2P architecture that move BitTorrent away from its older, earlier image as a hotbed of piracy and illicit content sharing, and closer to an idea of presenting a credible (and possibly more secure) media business platform.
But at the same time the company has been firming up its business in other, more difficult ways: specifically, it laid off around 40 employees in April.
“We’ve realigned resources based on a regular evaluation of the business,” the company told TechCrunch in response to questions about the events. “Regrettably, this did include some employee departures. The business however, remains healthy, profitable and growing.”
BitTorrent describes the full release out today as “more stable” especially in relation to battery issues with the earlier version that led the company to advise people to use Bleep on WiFi only.
The Whisper mode, meanwhile, is meant to distinguish Bleep from the likes of Snapchat, with most ephemeral messages never truly deleting messages from their servers, even when they have been removed from people’s phones.
Whisper — which you activate by clicking on a small eyeball in the corner of the screen — lets a message live for only 25 seconds. As with the alpha version of Bleep, the non-Whisper texts do get stored but only on the device. In both cases, the messages are delivered only when the recipients are online.
Bleep lets people remain as incognito as they would like to be. Because it’s based on P2P architecture, to register for the service the company identifies you by your device, not name. Friends, meanwhile get added by way of your address book, email, mobile number or Bleep key.
The company says that the logo it’s designed for Bleep — a folded note that looks a bit like an origami bird — is meant to evoke how people used to send messages to each other in the old days. But for those who are privacy minded, even analog alternatives come with a catch. Voice conversations, the other service offered in Bleep, may appear inherently more ephemeral, but it seems the company has not yet figured out a way to prevent them from being recorded.