Welcome back to our Project Deepdive series, where we share conversations with teams that are building compelling projects and protocols on Gnosis Chain. Our latest interview in the series is with HOPR, let's dive in!
The HOPR network is a decentralised incentivised mixnet, ensuring complete data and metadata privacy for everyone who uses it. Data is sent via multiple hops, so no-one but the sender and receiver know the origin, destination, or content of a data transfer.
HOPR’s unique proof-of-relay mechanism means every node runner is incentivised to correctly relay data in exchange for HOPR tokens. Anyone can run a HOPR node to earn HOPR tokens and contribute to online data privacy.
HOPR’s custom layer-two scaling solution is based on probabilistic payment channels. This ensures fully decentralised settlement without unnecessary blockchain transaction fees, all while protecting node runners’ metadata.
The HOPR project traces its roots back to early 2018. Members of what would become the core team, then part of a blockchain consultancy headquartered in Zug in the heart of Switzerland’s Crypto Valley, were approached about building a decentralised app for a use case that among other things required absolutely secure direct messaging between individual users. While the original project was cancelled after the bursting of the crypto bubble in the Spring of 2018, the core team remained intrigued by the problem of network-level privacy – a problem, the team soon learned, that interested a great many people in the blockchain and web3 development and academic communities, but which had yet to be solved. Increasingly convinced of the importance of network-level security, the team took the decision at the end of 2018 to formally found HOPR with the purpose of finding a workable solution.
Early work was mostly theoretical, with the project team taking a deep dive into the technical challenges, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing solutions, and sketching out their high-level vision and architecture for the new technology. The team also began implementing early versions of the protocol, and by Q1 2019 was ready to show it to the world, if only in a very early version. The team held the first-ever demo of the HOPR protocol at the EthCC conference in Paris in February 2019. From that point on, interest in HOPR began to grow exponentially.
HOPR’s goal is to change data privacy for good.
Whether it’s individuals, companies or institutions - the HOPR protocol provides full control over privacy, data and metadata. HOPR lays the groundwork for a more sovereign and safe internet.
The HOPR network is designed to provide network-level privacy both by the use of a messaging protocol that obscures meta-data so that individual data packets do not reveal trackable information, and a decentralised network that is managed by its users, so that there is no danger of a controlling entity abusing its power.
That said, while some – indeed, hopefully many – are motivated by altruism, we do not think that is enough to entice a sufficient number of people to participate. That is why HOPR also provides economic rewards for operating a node. Not only does it catalyse participation. It also aligns self-interest with the interest of the network by making cooperating for the good of the network the only economically viable way to behave. This differentiates HOPR from earlier privacy networks such as Tor, which is not incentivised.
RPCh leverages the HOPR mixnet to decouple individuals' RPC requests from their personally identifiable metadata, such as IP addresses. The use of HOPR makes it a much more complete solution than any other privacy middleware tackling this problem, such as VPNs or proxied RPC setups.
A few key advantages of RPCh:
With the above current feature set, RPCh is already the strongest privacy solution in this space, making your RPC interactions private from providers, observers and even the intermediaries relaying your data. But with future releases, RPCh will also offer protection against MEV and data tampering.
HOPR’s current focus is on fixing privacy within wallets
Wallets are fundamental to the crypto industry but are facing a dire and very public privacy issue, particularly when it comes to IP addresses, so they are our target customers. By integrating RPCh directly, they can give their users fully private transactions without needing to interact directly with the HOPR mixnet themselves. We believe this is the best way to tackle the wallet privacy issue and speed up adoption. Users want and deserve privacy, but they shouldn’t have to understand the infrastructure which provides it.
At HOPR we are committed to improve privacy for everyone in the web3 space - so that is hopefully every project and user! However, as a young project and with still a ton of work ahead of us, we are laser focused on our go-to-market. Currently, we focus on wallets and other apps that need EVM RPC providers and who want to prevent data harvesting of their users. With our first commercial product - RPC-over-HOPR, aka RPCh - we are providing that as a unique value to keep users’ IP addresses private while interacting with their favourite wallets and dapps. Anyone who’s interested in getting access to the first truly private RPC provider - lets talk! You can visit RPCh.net to learn more about our free alpha version.
Over the 3 year course of building incentivised privacy infrastructure at HOPR, we have tried several chains to find our best fit. We first started working on Gnosis Chain when it was still called xDAI Chain.
It was love at first sight.
But only after trying several other chains have we realised how big the differences between the marketing claims of other chains and the realities for us as developers were and how well Gnosis Chain works for us building the HOPR node which is running 24-7.
Many chains claim incredible scalability and cheap transaction costs. Then, when you start working on them, you realise that they are unreliable, have incredibly deep reorgs which are extremely challenging to deal with in automated software and gas prices fluctuate over many orders of magnitude. When building on L2s on the other hand, you get to experience what it means to work on bleeding edge alpha software. There are many kinks such as their ultra fast block times that are not worked out yet in many libraries, indexers and applications and which cause huge headaches for software developers. Gnosis Chain has none of that - it just works reliably, is always stable and never has huge gas price fluctuations.
Gnosis Chain has the best possible developer experience of any actual blockchain.
We love that Gnosis Chain just works. Gnosis does not rely on incredible marketing claims that then don’t materialise, it is a chain that we can rely on to just keep going and not go rogue on our developers and devops team.
The Gnosis ecosystem is extremely value aligned with HOPR’s mission to build resilient infrastructure to improve the web3 ecosystem at large and that obviously includes the strong commitment to privacy. We have also used Gnosis Chain to research privacy problems in Ethereum and to that end our entire team is running Gnosis Beacon Chain validator nodes. So we are deeply familiar with the technology and ecosystem and we made a conscious choice of calling Gnosis Chain our home.
About Gnosis Builders:
Gnosis Builders is a pioneering team focused on driving the adoption and development of the Gnosis ecosystem. With a mission to make blockchain technology more accessible and user-friendly, they actively contribute to the growth of decentralised applications, tools, and infrastructure.
About Gnosis Chain:
Gnosis Chain is an EVM compatible, community owned network that prioritises credible neutrality and resiliency, open to everyone without privilege or prejudice. Gnosis Chain is secured by over 140k validators around the world.
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