Orchid Protocol ICO: “Welcome To A World Where Users Own The Internet”

“This is about anti-surveillance and anti-censorship, the ability to not be tracked. We see this not just in China or the Middle East, but in this country, in states that are considered to be free. If you go back in history, there was a lot more concern about privacy on the internet before Facebook.” – Steve Waterhouse, Pantera Capital

The Orchid Protocol: decentralized, open-source technology for an Internet free from surveillance and censorship.

Who and what is Orchid?

  • At Orchid Labs, we believe:
    • The internet should be decentralized and free of censorship and surveillance. As we see online censorship around the World, a lot of websites and programs are blocked, especially to Western social networks. People like the goverment say they do this for peoples’ best interests, but this can be argued.
    • Everyone deserves access to the internet, regardless of nationality.
    • That everyone should be able to control their own personal data.
  • “We’ve created an open-source protocol to open the internet to the whole world. By developing a decentralized protocol that uses an overlay network built upon the existing internet, which is driven by a peer-to-peer tokenized bandwidth exchange, we’ll create a more inclusive, liberated internet.”
  • The orchid protocol is an open-source overlay network that runs on top of the internet.
  • Orchid is fully decentralized, because rather than traffic being routed through central authorities?—?your ISP or your VPN?—?it’s instead routed randomly through a network of bandwidth contributors who sign up to share their surplus bandwidth and activate their internet-connected device as a “node.”
  • Users that want to access an uncensored internet (bandwidth consumers) pay the bandwidth contributors in Orchid tokens through a peer-to-peer exchange.
  • Because neither the traffic nor the payments can be monitored by central authorities, both contributors and consumers of bandwidth enjoy a fully anonymous, surveillance-free experience.
  • “We believe that as a community, we’ll finally be able to create an internet free of monitoring and personal data harvesting.”
  • The economic infrastructure of the Orchid network is a free market economy, driven and owned by Orchid users.
  • We’re 100% open source.
  • “While not very well described in the whitepaper, the system actually uses token commitments to verify source nodes. Relay and exit nodes verify that the connecting source node has enough token committed (locked up in an Ethereum smart contract) before and after accepting connections / payments.”
  • “All of our work is to be released under the AGPL3; and, while we have filed for a patent, we will be licensing the patent to the world in a manner similar to how Mozilla manages their patent portfolio.”
  • Ochid: “An internet for everyone.”
  • For those of us with unrestricted access to the internet, Orchid is a chance to safely and securely share your bandwidth?—?and get paid for it?—?which helps bring internet freedom to the rest of the people on the planet.
  • Orchid combines its protocol with surplus bandwidth, state-of-the art-encryption, and a decentralized infrastructure to bring users surveillance-free access to the existing Internet.
  • Orchid Labs Inc. was founded in 2017 by leading technologists and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.
  • To support Orchid Labs and its mission, the company has raised $4.7M seed SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) from investors including Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, DFJ, PolyChain Capital, Metastable, Blockchain Capital, Crunchfund, Struck Capital, Compound VC, and several other funds and angel investors.
  • How do you know it works? Right now we don’t.
  • Our initial release operates with a threat model of an authoritarian government’s internet censorship, such as that seen in China, Turkey, or Russia.
  • Orchid vs VPNs: Unlike traditional VPNs, Orchid proxies and relays do not know the identity of their customers, nor do the know the IP address their customers are using.
  • We are working on techniques involving “traffic steganography” that will make the the traffic used by Orchid look like “normal” internet traffic (such as web requests and video calls).
  • Orchid: “Enabling Decentralized Network Formation and Probabilistic Micro-Payments.”
  • “We are implementing bandwidth burning (and are even discussing some interesting extensions of this scheme involving both Turing-complete-w/-limited-execution-time programmable bandwidth burning as well as a form of global bandwidth burning).”
  • The Orchid Protocol is built around tokens – These tokens will allow, through price discovery, for graceful handling of a change in balance between buyers and sellers.
  • “We have no business model and no plans to ever have one.”
  • Broadly, there are three parts to the Orchid Protocol:
    • Ethereum-based payments.
    • Manifolds.
    • The Orchid Market.

The Orchid Market:

  • The Orchid Protocol organizes bandwidth sellers into a structured peer-to-peer (P2P) network termed the Orchid Market.
  • The core operations of the Orchid Market are based on the well-studied Chord DHT.
  • Customers connect to the Orchid Market and pay bandwidth sellers in order to form a proxy chain to specific resource on the Internet.
  • The Orchid Market is the foundation on which the Orchid Protocol is build.
  • Fundamentally, it is a distributed P2P network that facilitates the purchase and sale of bandwidth among Relays, Proxies, and Users.
  • The Orchid Market’s network a structure is similar to a Distributed Hash Table (DHT) and can be thought of as an extension of corrected Chord.
  • At a high-level, the operations provided by the Orchid Market are:
    • A method for Peddlers to join the Orchid Market.
    • A method for asking Peddlers what services they have for sale.
    • A method for selecting a subset of all peers, randomly weighted by computational resources.
  • In The Orchid Market, Peddlers serve as buyers and sellers of bandwidth that also may be Relays or Proxies.
  • Entry to and continued participation in the market is gained by presentation of proof-of-work which we call a Medallion.
  • Medallions on The Orchid Market:
    • Medallions are tokens of proof-of-work and are closely tied to the etherium block digest, a holder’s public key, and other quantities.
    • Within The Orchid Market, Medallions are used in two ways in The Orchid Market:
      • To prevent trivial entry into the market resulting in attacks.
      • To prevent attackers from choosing their location in the market.
    • In order to prevent an attacker from running more Peddlers than is proportional to their share of the Orchid Market’s total computational power, every Peddler checks the validity of all its connections’ Medallions every Medallion cycle.
    • In the event that a valid Medallion is not supplied, it is disconnected from the network.
    • Each Medallion contains data that cryptographically demonstrates the generator possessed a sizable computation resource at a given time.
    • As computation is an expensive resource, the use of Medallions places budgetary limitations on a given attacker’s ability to impersonate multiple users.
    • Medallions are cryptographically tied to an Ethereum block digest which changes on the order of 10s of seconds.
    • Medallions form the bridge between our core security assumptions and the network as a whole.
    • “Since our fundamental security goal is to limit a well-motivate attacker from gaining control of the Orchid Network, our choice of Medallion creation must meet the following conditions”:
      • Medallion creation must be easy for a non-malicious node to create.
      • Medallions must be easy to verify.
      • Medallions must be difficult to create in bulk.

Tokenized Tor?

  • With the fears that states have infiltrated the Tor network, the Orchid Protocol will provide a new opportunity for users to avoid surveillance and censorship.
  • How is Orchid differentfrom Tor?
    • “Tor actually is a centralized service where nine directory servers are able to decide the state of the network; we are accepting nothing less than a fully-decentralized system.”
    • “It seems intended to be more anonymous and decentralized than Tor, and safer thanks to the strength of numbers.”
    • “It seems like it’s like Tor, except instead of just paying my ISP, I also now get to pay more money to use this new POC protocol with a subset of Tor’s features.”
    • “Like Tor, but with capitalism. Financial incentive for running relays.”

The Team:

  • The Orchid founders, an established group of technologists, entrepreneurs, and blockchain experts, have been working in stealth since early 2017 to bring the technology to life.
  • Orchid Protocol is a technical project, so the development experience the team members have will be important in the years to come.
  • Stephen Bell
    • Steve started companies in Europe, the U.S., and China before founding Trilogy VC China, where he spent 10 years backing Chinese seed stage startups.
    • Managing director at Trilogy for 9 years.
    • Founder, and CEO of ShangBy for 2 years.
    • Founder of Weixing Holding Co.
    • Founder, and CEO of “SupplySolution” for almost 3 years.
  • Brian J Fox
    • Brian is an entrepreneur and open-source advocate, the first employee of the Free Software Foundation, and the author of the GNU Bash shell.
    • Co-Founder, and CTO of Vworldc for 4 years.
    • Founder/Technologist at Retail Inkjet Solutions for 4 years.
  • Steve Waterhouse
    • Dr. Steven Waterhouse is an experienced investor and entrepreneur, having co-founded RPX Corp, led cryptocurrency projects at Fortress and Pantera Capital, and the Honeycomb product at Sun Microsystems.
    • Partner at Pantera Capital for almost 3 years.
    • Partner at Koru Ventures for half a year.
    • Managing Director at Pebble Partners for over 2 years.
    • Various board member and advisor positions e.g. at the Web3 Foundation.
  • Brian J Fox
    • Experience garnered from his time as the CTO of Vworldc.
    • SVP Device development at 4dk for 4 years.
    • Technology Partner at The Okori Group for 4 years.
    • Founder/Technologist at Retail Inkjet Solutions for 4 years.
    • CTO at netCelerant for a year.
    • CTO at Roaming Messenger for almost 4 years.
    • CTO at SupplySolution for over 3 years.
  • Jay Freeman
    • Jay Freeman: Jay is a software engineer and the developer of the Cydia software distribution platform used on millions of jailbroken iOS devices.
    • Developer of the Cydia software used on millions of jailbroken iPhones.
    • CTO at Let’sCram.com for over 2 years.
    • Technology Partner at the Okori Group for 4 years.
    • Software consultant at Vetronix Corporation for 2 years.
    • Software consultant at Roaming Messenger for a year.
    • CTO at Gnostic Labs for 3 years.
  • Steve Waterhouse
  • Gustav Simonsson
    • Gustav Simonsson: Gustav is an engineer and developer who helped launch Ethereum in 2015, working with core protocols, clients, and security auditing.
    • Core developer at Ethereum with focus on blockchain security and the Golang client during the beginning of Ethereum.
    • GitHub account.


Final Thoughts:

From the forums…

  • “This project has a great potential to succeed and can bring the current VPN industry to the next level. It’s important to beware of these VPN services as many VPN services aren’t as good as they seem”
  • “The concept of Orchid seems nice but the actual implementation seems very hand-wavy.”
  • “Raising money from venture capital firms has implications that I find hard to reconcile with the stated goals of this particular project.”
  • “Unfortunately, some practical and political problems cannot be solved with improved cryptography.”

Due to the difficulties with adoption, and the very early stage of this project, I’m sitting this one out.

Thanks for reading!

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