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Website: https://www.orchid.com
Funding: Simple Agreement for Future Tokens, mostly VC funding. No public ICO so far. Accredited Investors can invest by getting in touch using this email address: ir@orchid.com
Token: OCT, an ERC-20 utility token built on the ETH Blockchain.
In a nutshell: A peer-to-peer tokenized bandwidth exchange for a censorship-free Internet.


In many countries around the world, freedom of speech and that of the press are constitutional rights, often written in the blood and sweet of militants and activists. To quote the great Thomas Jefferson, it’s this fundamental right that goes hand in hand with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As times evolved, many barriers are jeopardizing our freedom of speech. Mostly in a digital area where we are more likely to express ourselves on social media, rather than public squares. The battlefield is nothing else but the Internet. The way Ștefan Tănase, a TedX Bucharest speaker- expresses it is the following:

“Less than three decades after the Berlin Wall collapsed and ended an era of division between the East and the West, the world seems on the brink of making the same mistakes over again, only this time we’re making these mistakes in the cyberspace”.

Citing morality, religious beliefs, and national security, many countries passed laws and bills to take control over the Internet. It’s indeed a polarizing subject, but the fact is, the efficiency of the “carrots and sticks” philosophy has proven worthless on many levels. Let alone the Internet where frontiers disappear, and the online community is closer than ever to unity.

This is the story behind the Orchid Protocol, an ambitious project with a great promise: it’s time to end Internet censorship.

Overview of the Project

The Orchid Protocol is an open-source project that aims to end Internet surveillance and censorship through Blockchain technology. The Company establishes a peer-to-peer tokenized bandwidth exchange, using an overlaying Network built upon the Internet itself. It also puts forth an incentive program for people to run relay and exit nodes allowing for anonymous browsing, hence ending censorship and access restriction.

The Network security is highly emphasized in the Whitepaper. According to Steve Waterhouse, the CEO of the Company, the Orchid protocol is resistant to Denial of Service attacks and Eclipse attacks through a “method for distributed inductive proofs in peer-to-peer systems.”

In fact, through Proof of Work, every network user has to create a “medallion” in order prove their realness and has to verify his neighbor’s behavior. Those verified peers create the Orchid market and can, therefore, use their OCT tokens to either buy or sell bandwidth. The bandwidth price will be agreed upon between buyers and sellers and settled on the Orchid market. It will be displayed as a per package price where sellers have various options of personalizing their offer.

Together with leveraging Blockchain technology and additional security features, they create an entirely decentralized and anonymous system that can settle payments.

How does the Orchid protocol work?

To understand the Project’s approach to internet browsing, one should first be familiar with the way internet works. Current internet traffic is routed through central servers, through ISP or VPN. Orchid Protocol will have it instead routed randomly through a network of bandwidth contributors, who sign up to share their excess bandwidth and activate their Internet-connected device as a “Node.” Users wanting to access an uncensored Internet – referred to as bandwidth consumers, pay the bandwidth contributors in Orchid tokens (OCT) through a peer-to-peer exchange.

Direct connection, VPN connection, Orchid connection. Source: The Orchid Protocol Whitepaper

Quickly put, bandwidth contributors are essentially providing access to consumers by selling their bandwidth. Anyone with a computer at home can provide access to the internet in an anonymous and encrypted format. In return, they will receive Orchid tokens paid to them by the bandwidth consumers. The consumers will be using a small piece of software which will either be a stand-alone software, like an anonymous and encrypted VPN, or software that can be integrated into an app. In order to make this work, different participants are needed:

  • A series of different Relay nodes (essentially same approach as The Onion Rider, Tor), and
  • Exit nodes or proxy nodes; The nodes that grab the internet resource whether it’s a website, a virtual reality resource, or an online game, then wrap it back up in layered encryption to returns it back to consumers so that they can access the desired content on the Internet.
Browsing architecture. Source: Token Summit II San Francisco, December 2017

An interesting feature available to bandwidth contributors is building whitelists and blacklists. Whitelists allow bandwidth sellers to specify on their exit nodes which kind of online content they are willing to run traffic to. Moreover, proxy routers can freely prevent access to specific sites or limit access to particular sites. Bandwidth consumers will also have the option to build lists to prevent or warn about access to particular websites.

Even though this can be seen as a sort of censorship, the company obviously preferred to hold the open-source community responsible for it, rather than establish the censorship themselves.

Funding structure and Token Supply

The Company started raising seed capital since March 2017 and has so far raised $4.7 M in the form of SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens). Big VC companies like Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, PolyChain Capital, and Blockchain Capital are among their impressive list of early investors.

No public ICO is scheduled. Consequently, the only way to invest will be through joining the private sale, which is only open to accredited investors.

OCT is a Utility token, that will be used for payments within the Orchid Network.

A total fixed Supply of 1 Billion ERC-20 tokens, the “OCT tokens” is created by the Company. The initial price of an OCT token is set to 0.5$ and 0.7$, depending on the vesting schedule, which can be either one year or 18 months.

The Team behind the project

The orchid co-founders. Source: press kit

While no information about the team is disclosed on the website, the project’s team is an obvious advantage. The co-founders are highly accomplished individuals in their respective areas of expertise with a proven track record in entrepreneurship, tech, and Blockchain. CEO Stephen Bell is the founder of Trilogy VC China (now Opus Logica), a startup accelerator that has been active in the Asia Pacific region for a decade.

Conclusion

Judging from the published whitepaper and the numerous pitching sessions I had the chance to assess, hosted by a brilliant Steve Waterhouse, I think of this project as one of the greatest use cases of Blockchain technology so far. As a matter of fact, having the biggest VC companies in the Bay area lined up for only SAFT agreements is rather telling.

However, the Orchid protocol team will have to be prepared for massive censorship of their software if not backed by regulators. Counting solely on word of mouth is an ineffective marketing approach for a project of this size. We might argue that it’s still in the ideation phase, but wide acceptance is paramount in these kinds of projects. And here we are longing for a version to try out, with hope in one hand and a too-good-to-be-true in the other.

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