Last updated
Keybase logo official.svg
The Keybase logo
Type of site
Encrypted social networking service
Available inEnglish
Owner Zoom Video Communications (2020)
Created byChris Coyne, Max Krohn, others
RegistrationRequired for membership
Users 407,163 (as of 2019-08-22)
LaunchedFebruary 14, 2014;7 years ago (2014-02-14)
Written inGo, JavaScript, Electron, React [1]

Keybase is a key directory that maps social media identities to encryption keys (including, but not limited to PGP keys) in a publicly auditable manner. [2] Additionally it offers an end-to-end encrypted chat and cloud storage system, [3] [4] called Keybase Chat and the Keybase Filesystem respectively. Files placed in the public portion of the filesystem are served from a public endpoint, [4] as well as locally from a filesystem mounted by the Keybase client. [5]


Keybase supports publicly connecting Twitter, GitHub, Reddit, Hacker News, and Mastodon identities, including websites and domains under one's control, to encryption keys. It also supports Bitcoin, Zcash, Stellar, and QRL wallet addresses. [6] [3] [7] [8] [9] [10] Keybase has supported Coinbase identities since initial public release, but ceased to do so on March 17, 2017 when Coinbase terminated public payment pages. [11] In general, Keybase allows for any service with public identities to integrate with Keybase. [9] [12]

On May 7, 2020, Keybase announced it had been acquired by Zoom, [13] as part of Zoom's "plan to further strengthen the security of our video communications platform". [14]

Identity proofs

Keybase allows users to prove a link between certain online identities (such as a Twitter or Reddit account) and their encryption keys. Instead of using a system such as OAuth, identities are proven by posting a signed statement as the account a user wishes to prove ownership of. This makes identity proofs publicly verifiable – instead of having to trust that the service is being truthful, a user can find and check the relevant proof statements themselves, and the Keybase client does this automatically.


In addition to the web interface, Keybase offers a client application for Windows, [15] [16] Mac, [15] [16] Android, [17] [16] iOS, [16] and most desktop Linux distributions, [16] written in Go with an Electron front end. The app offers additional features to the website, such as the end-to-end encrypted chat, teams feature, and the ability to add files to and access private files in their personal and team Keybase Filesystem storage. Each device running the client app is authorized by a signature made either by another device or the user's PGP key. Each device is also given a per-device NaCl (pronounced "salt") key to perform cryptographic operations.


Keybase Chat is an end-to-end encrypted chat built in to Keybase launched in February 2017. A distinguishing feature of Keybase Chat is that it allows Keybase users to send messages to someone using their online aliases (for example a reddit account), even if they haven't signed up to Keybase yet. [3]

If the recipient (the online alias owner) has an account on Keybase, they will seamlessly receive the message. If the recipient doesn't have a Keybase account, and later signs up and proves the link between the online account and their devices, the sender's device will rekey the message for the recipient based on the public proof they posted, allowing them to read the message. Since the Keybase app checks the proof, it avoids trust on first use. [18]

Keybase Filesystem (KBFS)

Keybase allows users to store up to 250 GB [19] of files in a cloud storage called the Keybase Filesystem for free. There are no storage upgrades available, but paid plans allowing for more data are planned. [20] The filesystem is divided into three parts: public files, private files, and team files. On Unix-like machines, the filesystem is mounted to /keybase, and on Microsoft Windows systems it is usually mounted to the K drive. [21] Currently, mobile versions of the Keybase client can only download files from kbfs, and can not mount it. However, they do support operations such as rekeying files as necessary. In October 2017 Keybase brought out end-to-end encrypted Git repositories. [22]

Public files

Public files are stored in /public/username, and are publicly visible. All files in the public filesystem are automatically signed by the client. [5] Only the user who the folder is named after can edit its contents, however, a folder may be named after a comma-separated list of users (e.g. a folder /public/foo,bar,three would be editable by the users foo, bar, and three). [5]

Public files can be accessed by any user. Single user folders are displayed at and are also accessible by opening the directory in the mounted version of the filesystem. Multi user folders (such as /public/foo,bar,three) are only accessible through the mounted version of the system.

Private files

Private files are stored in /private/username, and are only visible to username. Private folders, like public folders, can be named after more than one user (e.g. a folder /private/foo,bar,three would be readable and editable by the users foo, bar, and three). Private files can also be read only for users after "#" (e.g. a folder /private/writer1,writer2,#reader1,reader2 would be readable and editable by the users writer1 and writer2 but only readable for reader1 and reader2). [5] Unlike public files, all private files are both encrypted and signed before being uploaded, making them end-to-end encrypted. [4]

Team files

Team files are stored in /team/teamname, and are publicly visible to team members. All files in the team filesystem are automatically encrypted and signed by the client. [5] Only users who are marked as writers can edit its contents, however, any readers can access the files stored there. [23]


In September 2017, Keybase launched Keybase Teams. [24] A team is described as "...a named group of people." [25] Each team has a private folder in the Keybase filesystem, and a number of chat channels (similar to Slack). Teams can also be divided into "subteams" by placing a . in the team name. For example, wikipedia.projects would be a subteam of wikipedia, while wikipedia.projects.foobar would be a subteam of wikipedia.projects (and therefore, also of wikipedia).

Team administration

Teams are largely administered by adding signatures to a chain. Each signature can add, remove, or change the membership of a user in a team, as well as when changes are made to subteams.

Each chain starts with a signature made by the team owner, with subsequent actions signed on by team admins or users. [26] This ensures that every action is made by an authorized user, and that actions can be verified by anyone in possession of the public key used.

Related Research Articles

The Encrypting File System (EFS) on Microsoft Windows is a feature introduced in version 3.0 of NTFS that provides filesystem-level encryption. The technology enables files to be transparently encrypted to protect confidential data from attackers with physical access to the computer.

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. In principle, it prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation.

Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE) is a software interface for Unix and Unix-like computer operating systems that lets non-privileged users create their own file systems without editing kernel code. This is achieved by running file system code in user space while the FUSE module provides only a "bridge" to the actual kernel interfaces.

Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) is a cryptographic protocol that provides encryption for instant messaging conversations. OTR uses a combination of AES symmetric-key algorithm with 128 bits key length, the Diffie–Hellman key exchange with 1536 bits group size, and the SHA-1 hash function. In addition to authentication and encryption, OTR provides forward secrecy and malleable encryption.

EncFS is a Free (LGPL) FUSE-based cryptographic filesystem. It transparently encrypts files, using an arbitrary directory as storage for the encrypted files.

Disk encryption is a technology which protects information by converting it into unreadable code that cannot be deciphered easily by unauthorized people. Disk encryption uses disk encryption software or hardware to encrypt every bit of data that goes on a disk or disk volume. It is used to prevent unauthorized access to data storage.

Filesystem-level encryption, often called file-based encryption, FBE, or file/folder encryption, is a form of disk encryption where individual files or directories are encrypted by the file system itself.

This is a comparison of notable free and open-source configuration management software, suitable for tasks like server configuration, orchestration and infrastructure as code typically performed by a system administrator.

dm-crypt is a transparent disk encryption subsystem in Linux kernel versions 2.6 and later and in DragonFly BSD. It is part of the device mapper (dm) infrastructure, and uses cryptographic routines from the kernel's Crypto API. Unlike its predecessor cryptoloop, dm-crypt was designed to support advanced modes of operation, such as XTS, LRW and ESSIV, in order to avoid watermarking attacks. In addition to that, dm-crypt also addresses some reliability problems of cryptoloop.

This is a comparison of online backup services.

Cryptocat Open source encrypted chat application

Cryptocat is a discontinued open-source desktop application intended to allow encrypted online chatting available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. It uses end-to-end encryption to secure all communications to other Cryptocat users. Users are given the option of independently verifying their buddies' device lists and are notified when a buddy's device list is modified and all updates are verified through the built-in update downloader.

Wickr is an American software company based in New York City. The company is best known for its instant messenger application of the same name.

Tox (protocol) Distributed protocol for telephony and instant messaging

Tox is a peer-to-peer instant-messaging and video-calling protocol that offers end-to-end encryption. The stated goal of the project is to provide secure yet easily accessible communication for everyone. A reference implementation of the protocol is published as free and open-source software under the terms of the GNU GPL-3.0-or-later.

Surespot is an open-source instant messaging application for Android and iOS with a focus on privacy and security. For secure communication it uses end-to-end encryption by default.

Threema Instant messaging smartphone app

Threema is a paid open-source end-to-end encrypted instant messaging application for iOS and Android.

Signal (software) Encrypted communications app

Signal is a cross-platform centralized encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Technology Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. It uses the Internet to send one-to-one and group messages, which can include files, voice notes, images and videos. It can also be used to make one-to-one and group voice and video calls, and the Android version can optionally function as an SMS app.

Peerio was a cross-platform end-to-end encrypted application that provided secure messaging, file sharing, and cloud file storage. Peerio was available as an application for iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux. Peerio (Legacy) was originally released on 14 January 2015, and was replaced by Peerio 2 on 15 June 2017. The app is discontinued.

The Signal Protocol is a non-federated cryptographic protocol that can be used to provide end-to-end encryption for voice calls, video calls, and instant messaging conversations. The protocol was developed by Open Whisper Systems in 2013 and was first introduced in the open-source TextSecure app, which later became Signal. Several closed-source applications have implemented the protocol, such as WhatsApp, which is said to encrypt the conversations of "more than a billion people worldwide". Facebook Messenger also say they offer the protocol for optional Secret Conversations, as does Skype for its Private Conversations.


Mailfence is an encrypted email service that offers OpenPGP based end-to-end encryption and digital signatures. It was launched in November 2013 by ContactOffice Group, which has been operating an online collaboration suite for universities and other organizations since 1999.

Wire is an encrypted communication and collaboration app created by Wire Swiss. It is available for iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, and web browsers such as Firefox. Wire offers a collaboration suite featuring messenger, voice calls, video calls, conference calls, file-sharing, and external collaboration –all protected by a secure end-to-end-encryption. Wire offers three solutions built on its security technology: Wire Pro –which offers Wire's collaboration feature for businesses, Wire Enterprise –includes Wire Pro capabilities with added features for large-scale or regulated organizations, and Wire Red –the on-demand crisis collaboration suite. They also offer Wire Personal, which is a secure messaging app for personal use.


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