Two of the most important things the internet gave us are anonymity and cat pictures. While you do have the choice and many methods to remain anonymous on the internet, being so doesn’t necessarily mean you’re entirely untraceable. Cryptocat is a web service that works via its browser extensions to provide you with a way to have truly secure and private conversations, and the service has just released its first desktop app for the Mac platform. Cryptocat is a free app available on the Mac App Store that lets you initiate a secure private conversation, join one initiated by someone else, or chat with many people in a public lobby.
Launch Cryptocat, and you will see two fields to fill in: a ‘Conversation Name’ and ‘Nickname’. Both fields must have unique names i.e. the conversation name must not match any other conversation currently active and similarly, your nickname must not match that of any other member in the conversation. Once you’ve filled both these fields, click ‘Connect’. The initial connection process will take a few seconds.
Once a connection has been established, anyone who knows the name of your conversation can join it; they will simply have to enter the name of that conversation in the ‘Conversation name’ field’.
The conversation works like a group chat. You see yourself and all other active members listed at the top. Just type in the text input field and hit enter to send your message to everyone in the conversation. If you want to have a private conversation with one of the members of the group, double click their nickname on the right.
At the top-right, you will see five red buttons. The first button with a smiley face lets you change your status. The app offers only two status options: Available and Away. The key button shows you your OTR key for both group and private conversations. The chat bubble button toggles desktop notifications, the speaker button toggles sound alerts, and the eject button allows you to log out.
Having conversations works perfectly well, but both desktop notifications and sound alerts didn’t work in our testing. The app doesn’t work with Notification Center either, though that might be for obvious security reasons. Do keep in mind that while Cryptocat will keep the conversations themselves encrypted and secure from prying (tracking) eyes, any information you exchange within the conversation with you can’t trust can still put you at risk.
Overall, the app works well at what it does, and it’s a new release, so its quirks will hopefully be ironed out in future updates.