The official ScatterChat User's Guide is available in the following formats:

Technical specifications are also available for the underlying cryptographic protocol and the API interface for the cryptography engine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why isn't ScatterChat a Gaim plugin?

ScatterChat contains several security features that cannot be implemented using Gaim's API. For example, to frustrate traffic analysis, typing notifications are turned off when encryption is enabled, file transfers are encrypted when the conversation is in secure mode, and integrated Tor support was added. More advanced features are forthcoming.

ScatterChat is a friendly-fork of Gaim such that periodically it will be re-synchronized with the upstream sources. The ScatterChat project does not do any general development on the Gaim sources, and so it is not competing against Gaim.

The project maintainer is very open to the idea of merging ScatterChat back into Gaim, though this task is not prioritized. Please contact him if you are interested in doing this. Maintaining a fork is lots of hard work!

What is the difference between ScatterChat and OTR?

ScatterChat aims to be a complete integrated package for non-technical users. A big emphasis was made on documentation and ease of use. ScatterChat supports secure file transfers, and integrated support for Tor; OTR's advantage is message deniability.

This world is indeed big enough for both ScatterChat and OTR to co-exist peacefully. In fact, these two projects may collaborate in the near future...

OTR is an excellent alternative!

Why is ScatterChat's encryption module licensed under HESSLA?

HESSLA is a derivative of the GPL which essentially places a restriction on usage by human rights abusers and oppressive governments. For that reason, it is not compatible with the GPL. This is why SourceForge refused our project request, and why some Linux distributions decline to package ScatterChat.

Although it is currently unknown how practical this license is, it nevertheless reflects upon the spirit of the project. It has also opened up a new dialog within the open-source world: namely, should everyone should enjoy their hard work no matter what? Is it right that the Chinese government is developing Red Flag Linux? Should totalitarian dictatorships have access to the excellent array of software packages so as to make their twisted goals more attainable?

Even if the open-source community rejects HESSLA, it will already have proved a success by opening this dialog and getting developers to review their beliefs. And it surely draws attention to hacktivism in general, which is yet a growing and developing idea (and exciting too!).

If HESSLA restricts human rights abusers, is the United States government allowed to use ScatterChat?

(This question is answered by the project maintainer:)

Because of the current Bush administration's lack of respect for basic human rights, agents of the United States government are not allowed by default to use ScatterChat.

HOWEVER, I will grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis with respect to its various departments. Below are the departments that have permission to use ScatterChat (this list is not exhaustive. Please contact me if your department is not listed and you believe it should be):

  • The Department of Education
  • The Department of Justice (including the FBI): Yes indeed! This may come as a surprise since I am a paranoid privacy freak, but I actually have a lot of respect for the FBI. Too often they aren't given the credit they deserve. The overwhelming majority of FBI agents are honorable people who work hard, and act as true pillars of society. The FBI's 4th & 5th overall priorities are the investigation of public corruption and civil rights abuses. Rock on!
  • The Department of Commerce
  • The State Department: they work hard to press other countries into respecting human rights. Sadly, the White House tends to compromise their recommendations...
  • The Department of the Treasury: the IRS robs me blind each and every year. I'm hoping that putting them on this list get me on their good side. =P

The following organizations are EXPLICITLY DENIED permission to use ScatterChat:

  • The Department of Defense: for their ongoing mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and their policies supporting torture. I don't know how you guys sleep at night.
  • The Central Intelligence Agency: for abducting foreign nationals in Europe and transporting them to oppressive countries for the purposes of torture. Great example to set, guys!
  • The White House: for failing to revise the DoD and CIA's unacceptable policies and violating the Constitution by spying on peaceful citizens without warrants. Way to destabilize democracy, Mr. President!

Note: whistleblowers within any department are encouraged to use ScatterChat.