Orchid’s Privacy Network LaunchesDec 16, 2019
Today we are proud to launch Orchid, the first incentivized, peer-to-peer privacy network. We welcome you to get set up at Orchid.com and start using it today for trustless digital privacy.
The network features components designed to work together: the Orchid app (for download on Android), the Orchid VPN client that runs in the app, and the Orchid digital currency, OXT (available on Coinbase) that powers the network, connecting buyers and sellers of bandwidth in an open marketplace.
But the most important part of the network, what will enable it to offer users unprecedented digital privacy, is you. We built a privacy network because we believe that by bringing people together who value digital privacy in a world where it’s becoming scarce, and by pooling resources like Internet bandwidth — not just as altruists, but as fairly incentivized market participants — we can simultaneously protect ourselves and our communities.
We’re all familiar with social networks, as platforms that claim to promote human connection and sharing. However, it has become apparent that most of our social networks do the opposite, collecting value from communities in the form of personal data and siphoning it to a small, centralized group of individuals. In contrast, our privacy network is intended to provide the growing global community that cares with a way to free ourselves from the net of surveillance.
As we built Orchid, we spoke to many people in this community. We learned that our fellow Internet users consider their often involuntary participation in this massive data collection experiment as a short- and long-term threat to their wellbeing. We heard concerns about how corporations and governments are committing our communications, search histories, and other potentially harmful information to permanent record. Our community told us they believe anyone in the world should be able to pursue their curiosity, and confidently seek knowledge, play, connection, and culture on the Internet.
That’s why we designed Orchid as a special new kind of privacy tool that we hope will help grow the privacy ecosystem and encourage more Internet users to take responsibility for themselves and their communities by protecting their data. Rather than competing with existing VPN providers, we welcomed VPN providers that share our values, such as never collecting or selling user data, to provide their services on Orchid. It’s a win-win: bringing new users to values-aligned VPN providers, and making sure users who are happy with their services don’t have to switch providers to use Orchid. It also means Orchid has bandwidth to make the network usable immediately at launch.
Thank you to Private Internet Access, VPNSecure, LiquidVPN, and BolehVPN, and Bloq for partnering with us from day one. To everyone else who wants to sell bandwidth on Orchid, we welcome you too, to join our open marketplace as a seller. We will be releasing detailed information on how to get set up and incentivized for selling bandwidth.
The Orchid app is a VPN client and privacy tool designed to give users insight and control over their device’s connection. Users can pay for VPN service with OXT on the Orchid network for more privacy than they had before. The app also supports OpenVPN, so users can login with existing credentials and try the Orchid network later. Users also can monitor their phone’s traffic and see any insecure activity, a feature that is built into the app and also free to use. Like all of Orchid’s software, the VPN client is Open Source, so users don’t have to trust that Orchid isn’t collecting or selling user data; they can verify it for themselves.
Another feature that makes Orchid special is the ability to configure multi-hop circuits, a first in the world of VPN clients. Instead of using only one provider, which would be single-hop, Orchid users have the option to route through multiple providers. The benefit of using multiple providers is that no provider can get the full picture of the user’s activity. To compare this benefit to the world of physical privacy, it’s like throwing sensitive paper mail in the trash where it could be recovered, versus shredding it first, so that the pieces could not be reassembled. Users who choose multi-hop configurations can achieve next-level digital privacy on Orchid, but should be aware that it is an advanced feature, and is ‘use at your own risk’. Read more details at our FAQ.
Part of what inspired us to build Orchid was admiration for the Tor project and its ability to provide users with a high degree of privacy. The community running Tor nodes is full of altruists driven to offer privacy protection to others. At Orchid, we seek to further the mission of providing networked privacy by incentivizing bandwidth providers, rather than relying on altruism alone, in the hope that incentives bring more providers into the network over the long term and produce something that is better hardened against takeover attacks. Incentives also produce a better result for users, giving them more options which provide better speed and throughput.
We wanted to offer buyers and sellers the opportunity to make peer-to-peer micro-transactions. It was important for us to allow users to pay directly for just the bandwidth they actually use. It was also important to allow users to pay their bandwidth providers without disclosing extensive personal information to them, as is the case with credit card and traditional payments. That’s why the Orchid digital currency, OXT, powers the Orchid network, that users of the app currently need in order to pay for bandwidth from providers. (In the future, we anticipate our network always utilizing OXT to pay for bandwidth, but with a user experience that masks Web3, so Orchid is usable by a broader community beyond those versed in using digital currencies.)
Bandwidth providers are incentivized with OXT, which is distributed to them based on how much bandwidth they provide according to our system of probabilistic nanopayments. In order to become a provider and start being incentivized, potential providers must stake digital currency. To learn more details about how probabilistic nanopayments, Orchid’s layer-two scaling on top of Ethereum, works, please check out this blog. To learn more about staking, read this one.
In our FAQ we explain the privacy tradeoffs associated with our choice to use the Ethereum blockchain, and why we made it. We hope to spread awareness among users of all privacy tools that privacy is a spectrum, not a black-and-white binary. There are different degrees and definitions of privacy out there, and it’s important to us at Orchid to provide users with the information they need to make the right privacy decisions for themselves based on their individual privacy goals and use cases.
We care about your privacy when you use our network and app, and when you visit our website Orchid.com. For this reason, we do not use any third-party trackers, such as the typical Google Analytics or a Facebook pixel, on our site. Your personal data is not known to us or stored. The same goes with the app; we’re not tracking you as you use it. It’s an unavoidable truth that collecting information on who our users are and how they’re using the product would save us time and money, but as a privacy tool, that would be against our values. We invite other organizations that share these values to join us and abstain from third-party tracking.
At Orchid, we believe the Internet can be reclaimed by its users. It’s a shared resource that we should be able to explore freely, with the confidence to pursue our curiosity. To spread this message we’re tweeting about our launch with the hashtag #staycurious. We invite you to join us, and to spread the word about Orchid. We also welcome your contributions on GitHub as well as your feedback and ideas. Please feel free to email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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