Dust is a free Android, Windows Phone and iPhone app to communicate privately via ephemeral messages, the app tries to appeal to the simple texting market and it is being funded by entrepreneur Mark Cuban, a selfmade billionaire who become aware of his digital trail when the US Securities and Exchange Commission falsely accused him of insider trading using some of the messages he had sent as evidence.
The app download is over 30MB and I had to grant it access to my location, camera, contacts, photos and Wi-fi connection. You are also asked the date of birth to make sure that you are over 13 years of age, this can be easily made up like I did. Password recovery can be set up with an email address but it is not compulsory, I managed to open my Cyberdust account entering no email address and no phone number, the only information I provided was a nickname and a password.
You can use Dust to send text, photos and videos, everything is sent encrypted but there is no specific information about how encryption in Dust works. Messages are erased 30 seconds after somebody opens them and there is a warning system that tells you if the receiver has taken a screenshot of your message. Data is always dealt with adopting volatile memory, the messages you open never touch your Android solid state disk and Dust servers don’t store messages in the hard drive either, any message you send will be kept for a maximum of 12 hours in the server and then purged regardless of if it has been read or not.
The app has a wide range of emojis that can be added to make texting more fun, I found the choice of emojis bizarre, they consist of different monkey faces, it is open for debate how amusing they are but I personally do not identify myself with a monkey and this is meant to be an app for adults, not children.
I liked that Dust has a complete interactive tutorial for new users. There is also a social element that allows you to interact with other Dust users adding them to groups and creating ephemeral group chats that send “blasts”.
One of the major differences in between Dust and other self-erasing messaging apps like Snapchat, is that the Dust list addresses of celebrities and famous entities in their network you might want to follow, from day one, you already have somebody to dust with. Since the main problem with new messaging apps is to find friends that are also using it, having a premade list of people you already know from the media sorts that out, however the practical implementation of that idea did not work as expected.
I joined as a follower of a famous tech journalist and all I received was her RSS feed for me to visit her website, another celebrity I followed sent me a pasted message with a pitch for an investment in her company and BusinessInsider Dust account was nothing else than messages with links to their site, basically, all these famous people with a public Dust address, all they do is to send you a headline with a link, don’t expect any kind of interaction or exclusive information that can not be found in Twitter.
Despite the celebrities failure, I didn’t think that Dust was a bad app for the problem it is meant to fix, I loved how little information is required to open an account with them and that the app does not store data on the hard drive as well as the automatic erasing, however, at times, you might want to actually store those messages and you can’t do that in Dust. In another app I have installed, called Telegram, you can have it both ways, messaging somebody keeping the conversation or choose an optional private chat that is ephemeral like Dust.
I found Dust conversations very hard to follow and I am sure that some people will want to record their messages to remember what it was about, I can’t see myself advising family members to install this app, on top of that it remains a huge problem convincing anybody to install yet another app that few people use in their phone.
I ended up using the delete account feature in Dust, I can confirm it worked flawlessly, I got rid of the app and I will be sticking with Telegram to send ephemeral messages given that millions of people are already have it and mostly because I will not have all messages set to ephemeral by default.