HOPR is a data privacy project that aims to secure user data and information, as well as erase digital footprint.
One of the biggest dangers of our increased dependence on the internet is the lack of privacy. All of our activities on the web can be tracked by our ISPs, browsers, apps, as well as the websites we visit. Any individual with the proper skillset can gain access to (and keep a record) of our lives’ most private aspects by simply tracking our digital footprints. Yet, it is impractical to abandon the internet.
But what if each of our interactions on the net is encrypted? And the only other party who could access our data or information are those we send it to?
That is the idea with which HOPR was designed with. But unlike a VPN, there is no company guaranteeing our security and privacy. Instead, it is an independent, peer-to-peer, decentralized network managed by its users. Hence, it cannot be influenced by any individual or corporation.
Dr. Sebastian Burgel, a tech entrepreneur who has been heavily involved in the blockchain industry in Switzerland, had founded HOPR. He also co-founded and served as CTO for Validity Labs and Sonect.
Together with a team of highly skilled innovators – who share the dread of the lack of privacy and security in our online activities – Burgel decided to leverage blockchain technology to build a secure, decentralized privacy network.
In early 2019, the project came to the attention of the Binance team. And it was funded with $1 million in mid-2020.
What is HOPR?
HOPR, pronounced “hopper”, is a data privacy project that aims to secure user data and information, as well as erase digital footprint. It is based on blockchain technology and utilizes the “HOPR token” to exchange value.
HOPR intends to provide a truly private internet experience using several different means, all based on blockchain.
First, the HOPR protocol is an alternative infrastructure on the internet that makes it impossible to track metadata.
Then there is the HOPR network, a decentralized blockchain independent of any singular influence. It is managed by its users’ collective effort – who get rewarded for performing activities within.
HOPR leverages several different existing technologies in its journey to create a decentralized privacy network. Some of its essential features include:
The word “mixnet” is a portmanteau of two words, “mix” and “network.” It is a number of routing protocols that make it difficult to track data exchanged on the internet. The structure uses proxy servers to mix up data and messages from different sources and shuffles them together. The shuffled data are then individually delivered to their source.
The point is to break the direct link between the sender and the receiver so that data and messages are difficult to track.
Cover traffic is random data sent through the mixnet. These data have no intrinsic value of their own, but they function to add more to the traffic within the mixnet. The more data in the mixnet, the more effective it is and the harder it is to track each data packet.
When traffic is low within the mixnet, other users get incentivized by the HOPR token to send arbitrary data packets into the mixnet.
Cover traffic effectively provides anonymity makes it difficult, almost impossible, to link metadata to its sender.
HOPR token ties all aspects of the HOPR protocol together. It is the medium of exchange and is used for incentivizing users to perform activities on the node. The HOPE token has three major functions; these are pay, stake, and vote.
The number one function of the HOPR token is to reward node operators for their roles in forwarding metadata privately.
HOPR token holders relay data as a member of the network. So, when a user needs to send a secured and private data through the network, he opens a node.
His node would pay the network (HOPR) in tokens for each packet he sends. And each relayer in the node would be entitled to a share of the payment.
The second function that the token performs is to help node runners earn. This is through HOPR’s staking mechanism.
Users can lock tokens up in their nodes, and this serves as their stake. The more data they relay through their node, the more tokens they earn. The earnings come both from the pay feature as well as through providing cover traffic.
HOPR is a decentralized network that aims to put the control and management of the infrastructure in the users’ hands. To this end, anyone who holds an HOPR token will be able to vote on matters that affect the protocol. This includes the network, definition of parameters, and other proposals.
Holders would also be able to apply for membership of the HOPR association. The HOPR association is a Swiss not-for-profit legal entity. It provides legal cover for HOPR whenever it interacts with the real world – in order to protect the identity of its holders.
The association is essentially a DAO – Decentralized Autonomous Organization.
The current internet structure works in a way that requires private information about us – before we can interact with others. This information can be accessed legally and illegally by other parties.
Our internet service providers (ISPs), browsers, websites we visit, etc., can access our IP address (possibly by extension, location, and names). They can see people we are in contact with, our browser history, how much data we send, and the time we sent it.
Malicious parties can also hack into these data packets and extract all this private and personal information about us. And they can do with it as they please.
HOPR aims to build an infrastructure that cloaks your metadata so that your data packets do not reveal a piece of trackable information about you. It also breaks any link between the data you send to you.
HOPR vs VPNs
Many internet-savvy users might point out that VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) already perform these functions. However, VPNs are still hosted by private organizations – whose goals we cannot exactly guarantee. Even when VPN providers do not have dishonest intentions, they can still be bullied or compromised in several ways as they are private and trackable entities. And if a government agency demands them to surrender user information, they have to oblige, or else face dire consequences.
On the other hand, the HOPR network leverages blockchain technology to provide a decentralized and self-sustaining system. HOPR would be managed by its users, who will be anonymous and untrackable.
By being rewarded by HOPR tokens, each user in a node is naturally incentivized to relay data and cover traffic.
At launch, a total of 1 billion HOPR tokens would be available. This is a lot, but only a small percentage would be available for circulation.
A huge number of the tokens would be locked in stakes. Also, a lot of the token allocation categories would be released gradually released over four years. Through various channels, such as the treasury, pre-sale, bounties, cover traffic, public distribution, etc.
By the time HOPR launches, only about 130 million would be in circulation, most of which would still be locked through staking.
Internet usage has penetrated most aspects of our lives. It is unthinkable that all this information and data about us is available to be taken by malicious parties. Yet, this is the reality we are in.
We deserve to be able to protect our data and to have our privacy restored. With HOPR infrastructure, we can become a part of the very network that ensures our privacy.