The Cathedral(email) and the Bazaar(nostr)

I’m following the development of delta-chat on GitHub. And I saw a closed question with no official answer. I recently saw a question on GitHub whether or not it would make sense to have more network protocol support for delta-chat. Things like email have different types of protocol, I could name 5 types of protocol in email: smtp (to send a message), imap/pop (to receive the message), there are old things like rpop, apop and others .However, I see this as an answer:

“we don’t discuss such broad feature proposals on GitHub, for feature proposals we use our forum
“closing this here, see you on the forum if you want”

Since I didn’t see an official answer, I open a topic here. Even because, there may be people who have the same doubts as me. My question is similar to the question that was closed in GitHub. I would like to describe a conceptual perspective of my question. I would like to compare email as a cathedral and compare the new alternative network protocol as the bazaar. So, this comparison only makes sense if you’ve read cathedral and bazaar by Eric Raymond, who is one of the greatest programmers.

In general, “cathedral” and “bazaar” are terms that refer to software engineering and its complexity. There is high complexity as a great “cathedral” - where the software is very complex and difficult to understand. And there is on the other hand, less technical and more practical software with few resources something similar to the bazaar. As a curiosity, the linux kernel is bazaar, it’s something made by people for people. “And most proprietary kernels are made by contract programmers”, which makes its management more difficult, complex.

So, there is a technical limitation of development: “money paid”, “volunteers” or “financial donations”. These 3 forms present towards software development:

  • You can develop a paid solution,
  • a “libre/free” solution or
  • a “free” solution, which does not require payment to use.
  • It seems to me that old protocols like email, by their design, adopt something more “freepremium” or “premium” in most cases, than financial donations, “open-core”, “free/libre”.

I would like to say at the outset that: all these statements can be debated and verified here.

Recently, to compare email as a cathedral and the new network protocol as a bazaar, I must say what are the cons and pros of network protocols. So, I’ll tell you the pros and cons of email and its alternatives through Q&A:

  1. what are the advantages and disadvantages of email?
  2. what are the advantages and disadvantages of nostr?
  3. what are the advantages and disadvantages of nostr compared to email in delta-chat?
  4. why not use nostr in delta-chat instead of just email?
  5. what alternatives do we have to nostr for synchronizing messages?
  6. why compare e-mail as a cathedral and nostr as a bazaar?
  7. other questions
1. what are the advantages and the disadvantages of email?


  • E-mails provides faster and easy mean of communication. One can send message to any person at any place of world by just clicking mouse.
  • Various folders and sub-folders can be created within inbox of mail, so it provide management of messages.
  • It is effective and cheap means of communication because single message can be send to multiple people at same time.
  • E-mails are very easy to filter. User according to his/her priority can prioritize e-mail by specifying subject of e-mail.
  • E-mail is not just only for textual message. One can send any kind of multimedia within mail.
  • E-mail can be send at any hour of day, thus ensures timeliness of message.
  • It is secure and reliable method to deliver our message.
  • It also provide facility for edition and formatting of textual messages.
  • There is also facility of auto-responders in e-mail i.e. to send automated e-mails with certain text.
  • To write an e-mail there is no need of any kind of paper, thus it is environment friendly.
  • Email is a free tool. Once you are online, there is no further expense that you need to spend on in order to send and receive messages.
  • Email is quick. Once you have finished composing a message, sending it is as simple as clicking a button. Email, especially if an email system is integrated into the network, is sent, delivered and read almost immediately.
  • Email is simple. It is easy to use. Once your account is set up, composing, sending and receiving messages is simple. Also, email allows for the easy and quick access of information and contacts.
  • Email allows for easy referencing. Messages that have been sent and received can stored, and searched through safely and easily. It is a lot easier to go through old email messages rather than old notes written on paper.
  • Email is accessible from anywhere – as long as you have an internet connection. Whether or not you are in the office or on the field, or even overseas, you can access your inbox and go through your messages.
  • Email is paperless, and therefore, beneficial for the planet. Not only can you reduce the costs of paper, you are actually reducing the damage paper usage does to the environment.
  • Email allows for mass sending of messages. An effective medium to utilize to get your message out there, you can send one particular message to several recipients all at once.
  • Email allows for instant access of information and files. You can opt to send yourself files and keep messages so that you have a paper trail of conversations and interactions you have online just in case you may need them in the future.


  • It is source of viruses. It is capable to harm one’s computer and read out user’s e-mail address book and send themselves to number of people around the world. So, It’s best to be aware of this possibility so that you are careful when opening messages from people you don’t know, or when downloading attachments.
  • It can be source of various spams. These spam mails can fill up inbox and to deletion of these mail consumes lot of time.
  • It is informal method of communication. The documents those require signatures are not managed by e-mail.
  • To use facility of e-mail, user must have an access to internet and there are many parts of world where people does not have access to Internet.
  • Sometimes, e-mails becomes misunderstood as it is not capable of expressing emotions.
  • To be updated, user have to check inbox from time-to-time.
  • Email could potentially cause information overload. Some messages may be dismissed or left unread, especially if there are a lot coming in and the network has not integrated some sort of email alert system into the computers at work.
  • Email lacks a personal touch. While some things are better off sent as written and typed messages, some things should be verbally relayed or written by hand in a note or letter.
  • Email can be disruptive. Going through each email can be disruptive to work as it does require a bit of time. This disruption is decreased through the utilization of an email alert system.
  • Email cannot be ignored for a long time. The thing with email is that it needs constant maintenance. If you ignore it, more and more messages will enter your inbox until it gets to the point that your inbox is no longer manageable.
  • Email can cause misunderstandings. Because email does not include nonverbal communication, recipients may misinterpret the sender’s message. This is particularly true of senders fail to go through their messages before they send them.
  • Email should be kept short and brief. This is especially difficult if you are one to send messages that are too long.
  • Email requires timely responses. While some people tend to disregard messages, those that require responses should be replied to as soon as they are received and read. If not, urgent and important messages may be left untended.
  • Email is still among the most widely used[communication tools in the workplace today. However, while email is still the go-to medium for a lot of people, companies find that its disadvantages overtakes its advantages if they don’t take steps for improving email communication.
  • Although email is just a set of protocols for sending and receiving messages: rpop, pop2, pop3, jmap, smtp, etc. in a decentralized and distributed way. Even so, because there are few known players such as Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, Protonmail, Tutanota etc - it turns out that the “set of protocols that make up the email in a decentralized and distributed way” becomes centralized.
2. what are the advantages and the disadvantages of nostr?


  • Simple: The protocol is based on very simple & flexible Event objects (which are passed around as plain JSON) and uses standard public-key cryptography for keys & signing. This makes it easy to run relays and build clients and ensures that the protocol can be extended over time.
  • Resilient: Because Nostr doesn’t rely on a small number of trusted servers for moving or storing data, it’s very resilient. The protocol assumes that relays will disappear and allows users to connect & publish to an arbitrary number of relays that they can change over time.
  • Verifiable: Because Nostr accounts are based on public-key cryptography it’s easy to verify messages were really sent by the user in question.
  • You are in control: Built on open internet protocols, there is no platform that can ban or censor you. You are in control of your data & speech.
  • Encrypted: End-to-End encrypted private messaging. Keep big tech out of your DMs.
  • No registration required: Creating an account doesn’t require a phone number, email or name. Get started right away with zero friction.
  • No servers required: Messages are distributed via decentralized relays. No need to run any infrastructure and there are no single points of failure. Simple!
  • Programmable: Easily integrate bots that automate your life or business. Get notified when your servers go down, repost to your team and collaborate in realtime
  • Without spam: To mitigate spam, relays can implement quotas, speed limits, and payment requirements for posting content. As each message in Nostr is uniquely identified by its ID (which is a hash), it is possible to require that each message be mined in a way that meets a certain established difficulty (Proof of work). The difficulty required for each message can be adapted according to global factors such as traffic and congestion or the size of the content. Customers will choose to connect to relays that offer quality checks and will individually subscribe to identities known for producing quality and genuine content. In the future, Nostr will have one or more trusted networks (Webs of Trust), with which it will be possible to discriminate trusted from untrusted content.
  • Usually the “free email” charges ads as is the case with gmail so that the user can create an email. But in the case of nostr, most of the nostr applications are free, there are no paid advertisements. Although there are some proposals in nostr for paid advertisements.
  • “Unlimited”: In principle any application or social network that uses the nostr protocol network is unlimited, there are no message limits. Although any app or social network with nostr network protocol may or may not add a restriction to the message limit.
  • Content moderation and content sharing: The contents are moderated according to the retransmission server by the nostr network protocol, in addition, there are proposals for methods or ways to denounce content that violates copyright, constitutional, civic or human rights.


  • It is an unknown or little known network protocol, there are few solutions available in nostr
  • Many email features are not present in nostr. For example not all nostr apps have message filters
  • There are few servers, relays to send and receive messages, which is a danger to data protection and security for many users
  • Although nostr is an alternative to Twitter, there are still no “official measures” to control content sharing or moderate content. This can be dangerous, as each country, region or state has certain laws, rights, duties, obligations or responsibilities that are different in legal terms
  • Although the nostr protocol has a theoretical model for preventing spam with paid content, this is not applicable in most cases
  • Deleting a certain content that you wrote wrong is something that is not possible in nostr. For example, let’s assume that you wrote a message with some misspelling, as the message was sent, it is not possible to re-edit the message and send the spelling correction, as most nostr clients could have sent the message with the misspelling, which makes it impossible for you to cancel a message already sent
  • Privacy, anonymity, security is complicated in the nostr protocol. For example, there are no proposals for tor-like networks, vpn, proxy or firewalls to make the encapsulation of message routes in nostr even more secure, transparent, private and anonymous. It may be that a nostr server registers the number of ips or regions from which you most access
  • There are no media types in nostr. This is bad, because when you write messages in emails, you could send .pdf, .txt, etc. files. There are proposals in nostr+ipfs to solve the problem of multimedia files in nostr, but nostr+ipfs is not an official proposal yet
  • Not all nostr protocol improvement proposals are accepted. There are proposals for improvement in the nostr protocol that have not yet been accepted
  • Things like PGP(Pretty Good Privacy), GPG(Gnu Privacy Guard), OpenPGP are used in email to encrypt the content of messages. However, nostr only has public and private keys, usually the message content in nostr is not encrypted, it will depend on the solution that uses nostr to encrypt the message content or not
  • trust: as it is a new network protocol, people may be suspicious of its use
  • if you lose your private key, someone can impersonate you or you will never have access to the account again. Things like email, you can recover your password.
    *email security and content moderation is very easy, you usually only receive emails from people you trust or want. One problem with nostr is that the public key is replicated to different servers, so you may receive messages from unknown people you have no contact with.
3. what are the advantages and the disadvantages of nostr compared to email in delta-chat?


  • Even if there are big players, big techs or big companies in general that use the nostr protocol, the nostr is still decentralized. This is an advantage of nostr over email
  • you could use the nostr network protocol to synchronize certain messages before sending the e-mail
  • you could use the nostr network protocol as a publicly backup message server in case you lose access to your email


  • Implementing a new network protocol in delta-chat is boring, very technical, difficult and takes some time to develop, plan, create, maintain
  • Some nostr developers like bitcoin. But some developers don’t like anything related to bitcoin in the delta-chat community, so implementing nostr may lead some developers to leave the delta-chat community, which may compromise the creation, development of certain functionality in delta-chat, which may lead to some delta-chat users leaving the community because it doesn’t have more features or differentials that users expect to have
  • Perhaps nostr is a different use case for delta-chat, it is a feature that implemented causes more problems in maintenance than it would if it had not been implemented
  • Some disadvantages we mentioned related to email like virus and spam can be found in nostr if nostr is very popular as email
  • nostr for some should not be an alternative to email, as it is only used in decentralized social media
  • would it be possible with nostr to follow updates of delta-chat resources
4. why not use nostr in delta-chat instead of just email?
  • this brings the delta-chat development community closer to the nostr development community, which makes a mutual support between different types of software development community with a general objective that is the internal and external communication of updates of certain resources
  • delta-chat could be a “killer-app”, a popular app with a new network protocol
  • you could use the nostr network protocol as a means to have external storage. Using the nostr network protocol to be an external media is interesting, because in delta-chat there are discussions about using google drive as a backup. The nostr network protocol would be a standardized form of backup, alternative to google drive
5. what alternatives do we have to nostr for synchronizing messages?
  • “there is no network protocol for synchronizing messages that I know of other than something like:” nostr or localsend.
6. Why compare e-mail as a cathedral and nostr as a bazaar?
  • As a network protocol is widely used, such as http, imap/pop, smtp, ftp, various scenarios can occur that differ from a technical specification. This in turn makes it difficult to specify or manage commonly used network protocols. This is similar to that described in a cathedral, where its construction is very grand and full of details.
  • In network design principle: nostr is just a decentralized message sending and receiving protocol by default - nothing more or less than that. So, in theory it’s something less complex to manage than email.
  • Although email and nostr have the same problems: spam, viruses, it can be very popular (making it a little more or less insecure, since when something becomes popular, centralized technological solutions grow). What differs from one to the other is its architecture and software engineering.
  • As I said earlier, the way nostr is done differs from email, but it is still conceptually speaking part of what an email is. Also, it seems to me that nostr is a balance of something “money paid”, “volunteers” or “financial donations”. Each nostr server can be paid or managed by volunteers on a non-paid basis, paid at the same time as there can be financial donation servers.
  • Also, you don’t need to manage email providers, just list which providers or replicators the user wants to communicate with nostr.
7. other questions
  • Is there some general problem with the nostr or mail that I didn’t mention?
  • Is managing e-mail more difficult today than it was in the 80’s?
  • Are there alternatives to email today to avoid excessive data volume?
  • Can we compare the complexity of network protocols with software engineering methods, as suggested by the perspective of Eric Raymond in Cathedral and Bazaar?

It’s a lot of topics and text – could you maybe answer these questions succinctly to help my and others’ contextual understanding?

  • are there store-available apps for end-users that make use of Nostr? (just link some)

  • does Nostr care for end-to-end encrypted private message transport? Is there any app on top of Nostr that implements e2e messaging?

  • In what ways is Nostr development tied into blockchain/coin funding and mindsets?

Please be mindful that reacting to support posts (let alone github issues) takes attention from contributors and is a limited scarce resource. Thanks! :slight_smile:

1. I compare “philosophically”, “abstractly”, “logically” the difference between a very complex network protocol like email with a simpler protocol like nostr.

2. I make this initial comparison through the process of dialectics and from a cost-benefit, cost-complexity perspective with based on the principle of the cathedral and the bazaar. Another thing I use is the idea or principle of analyzing logical propositions too.

3. In dialectics or dialectical process, in a very generic sense, it is the opposition or conflict originated by the contradiction between theoretical principles or empirical phenomena.

4. I have established in a general way the advantages and disadvantages of two network protocols for sending and receiving messages because my goal is to analyze the conditions where email and nostr can be useful, functional or usable. And because: as much nostr (which is a networking protocol) as email (which is a set of networking protocols) are protocols that have very similar general use cases.

5. It is worth mentioning that my analysis is focused on helping with a possible final or partial resolution of a question that was closed without an official answer. And this analysis in material, real, substantial aspect is made or is in accordance with certain propositions or logical statements.

yes, for example: - here quotes all applications that were made with nostr.

There are proposals in nostr to encrypt messages, the problem is that it depends on the application and the solution.

As I said earlier, it depends on the application and the solution. Some have, and some don’t have e2e feature. But since your question talks about which app - in short I could say it’s or

To answer your question, I’ll make 11 comments that can be initial, final, partial or complete here.

1. To be honest and didactic, nostr is inspired by bitcoin. When I say “nostr is inspired by bitcoin”, there are conceptual features in network design that are very similar. Nostr, for example, has the idea of a public and private key.

2. The idea of public and private key is used a lot in things like email, and also blockchain to authenticate file, text, message etc. In this sense, “nostr is inspired by bitcoin”, that is, it has the idea of a public key and a private key, similar to the blockchain, which is the network protocol that makes the idea of bitcoin work in theory.

3. The difference from the nostr protocol is that there is no “blockchain”. Let me be as brief as possible to say: “the difference between nostr protocol and blockchain”. The idea of bitcoin, is a decentralized currency through the network protocol called blockchain. The idea of nostr is a decentralized social network, through servers called “replicators” or “retransmitters”. These servers called “replicators” or “retransmitters” are responsible for sharing, delivering, sending, storing messages through public and private keys along the way.

4. In a way this idea of ​​servers called “replicators” or “relays” are responsible for sharing, delivering, sending, storing messages through public and private keys along the way looks like a blockchain network.

5. These servers called “replicators” or “relays”, look like “blockchain”. Notice it said in quotes: “nostr servers look like blockchain”. You could say, what do you mean by that: “nostr servers look like blockchain”?

6. I could say, that “servers look like blockchain” in the sense that servers called “replicators” or “relays” use public and private key to sign messages in a decentralized way. The blockchain does the same process, but has an idea called “proof of work”, which is a security mechanism to validate the blockchain. In turn, the nostr network protocol does not have a “proof of work”, although there are proposals in nostr for proof of work. That’s why I said that nostr looks like blockchain, actually like bitcoin. The idea is very similar, but in practice it works or is implemented differently than what a blockchain would be.

7. When I say: “that’s why I said that nostr looks like blockchain, actually like bitcoin”, is that in most cases people associate blockchain with bitcoin, in fact they are different propositions. The blockchain is a network protocol, bitcoin is a technical conception of a decentralized currency that uses the blockchain to function. But in theory, bitcoin could use any network protocol to function, not just the blockchain. But in the conception of bitcoin, the idea of a blockchain was or made more sense than any network protocol. Therefore, bitcoin adopted from the blockchain, instead of http, ftp, etc. In fact, I even find it curious that even http is becoming part of the blockchain, there are proposals for http to be similar to blockchain, but that is another subject that we can talk about in another topic.

8. As I said earlier, I would briefly and generally talk about the aspects of nostr with bitcoin, blockchain so that it is easier to understand the network protocol design compared to email (which has several network protocols for work: imap, pop, smtp, rpop, apop etc). Your question refers to: what ways is Nostr development tied into blockchain/coin funding and mindsets?

9. Now that I have briefly explained it, I would say that some nostr developers work on blockchain solutions, bitcoin. Note that I said “some nostr developers work on blockchain solutions, bitcoin”, I didn’t say that all nostr developers work with bitcoin. I said some nostr developers work with bitcoin.

10. This is the case with the application, which uses bitcoin or sats to register your username. nostr is a network protocol for sending and receiving messages, how can we authenticate users on the nostr system? A thoughtful way would be the idea of offering an account verification through payment. This means of payment is usually bitcoin.

11. Answering your question, bitcoin is present as a means of payment in the protocol of the nostr network, when some validation or personalized username is required. But this kind of feature is not present in all nostr apps, but some are. In fact, nostr’s design is similar to blockchain, but not just blockchain, it’s similar to things like network protocol: matrix, ActivityPub.