Tuesday, September 26, 2006

VaporStream Does Not Matter

Void Communications' VaporStream software is a "recordless" "email-IM hybrid." Although there are no technical documents or real demos on the site, VaporStream claims to send messages back and forth without ever leaving a record of your communication.

This is a cool idea. While corporate IM and email networks still leave the possibility of end users or peeping toms preserving messages that you'd rather not propagate, a VaporStream-like technology forces both parties to relent and accept a "stream discussion." One could consider this a true Internet-based substitute for personal conversations; if you need to hear what someone said again, you have to ask them to repeat it.

On the other hand, this is a silly idea. VaporStream claims that the message "never exists" on either end. How do you view it? The message is stored in your video buffer, and unless you're using hardware overlays, screenshots can preserve communication, and OCR will make it parseable. How about on the sender's side? Same problem, and the presence of keyloggers pose the possibility of third parties snooping in, too.

So, if this communication isn't as ephemeral as they're claiming, what's the benefit? It's not secrecy from network traffic analytics; encrypted email has been around for ages, and works fine. The only problem is that headers still let people know that Person A is talking to Person B. If this is really a problem, VaporStream could potentially serve as a mediator. At that point, snoopers will only be able to tell that Person A and Person B are using VaporStream (and not necessarily communicating with one another). For $39.99 a year, this may be an acceptable price, but something tells me a direct communication between users over pre-established lines of communication aren't going to be obviated by VaporStream.

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