BitTorrent Inc. is expanding the trial of its server-less peer-to-peer messaging app Bleep to pretty much anyone who wants to try it. Bleep entered an open alpha period late Wednesday with apps for Android (Google Play), Windows, and Mac. BitTorrent says an iOS version is coming at a later date.
The public availability of Bleep comes after the app was launched as an invite-only affair exclusively for Windows users in July.
To sign-up and get chatting with friends, you can identify yourself with an e-mail address or mobile phone number. Anyone who wants a little more anonymity can also try Bleep's incognito mode, where no personally identifying information is required.
BitTorrent says the app uses end-to-end encryption for sending messages and all message histories are stored locally on your device--no third-party server necessary.
The company also says Bleep is resistant to metadata tracking, so you shouldn't have to worry about online snoops figuring out who you're talking to.
That said, as this is an alpha release it's probably unwise to consider this software as bullet proof in ultra-sensitive situations, such as for communication in a country with an oppressive regime.
Using the app
As the app is in its early stages, it's unlikely many of your friends are using Bleep, so you'll have to add them. Like with any other modern app, this is pretty easy. Just click the plus icon at the bottom of the screen and enter the user's phone number, email address, or public key.
Once you've added friends and they've approved connecting with you, you can use Bleep to send instant messages and make voice calls--but only when the other person is active on Bleep. Sending messages to offline users is not possible at this point.
Make it Wi-Fi only
BitTorrent warns that there are still a number or critical issues to be worked out with the new messaging platform, which is to be expected during an alpha period.
One issue that Android users will want to take note of is that unless you have an unlimited data plan, you should restrict Bleep to using Wi-Fi only. The company says this is just a temporary measure as it figures out issues that could impact battery life and data usage.
Unfortunately, the Bleep app doesn't have an easy checkbox buried in the app's settings to make it work on Wi-Fi only. So to do this an Android 4.0 and above, you'll have to turn off Wi-Fi and let Bleep access your data connection for a few seconds.
Then open the Settings app and select Wireless & Networks > Data usage. Now scroll down the list of apps until you see Bleep and tap it. On the next page, scroll to the bottom and tap the checkbox next to Restrict background data. A pop-up window will appear with a warning, just click OK to dismiss it and you're done.
Now Bleep will only work over Wi-Fi connections.
Another drawback on Android is that you can't yet transfer your identity from a mobile device to a PC. But you can transfer from a PC to an Android smartphone or tablet via your private key stored in Settings > Add New Device.
In other words, if you're planning on using this app on both Android and Windows or Mac, make sure you sign-up with your identity on a PC first.