BitPay’s CEO Stephen Pair recently announced an innovative new program that could very well change the way the internet works on several levels. The new program, called Foxtrot, was designed to give internet users the security and privacy offered by the Bitcoin blockchain technology in everything they do online. While the new system is still in the early stages, foxtrot is currently available for download and BitPay plans on using it to empower their own systems.
Cointelegraph reached out to Tony Gallippi, BitPay’s Executive Chairman for comments about the new project as well as on the addition of Arthur Levitt, Former Chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) as an advisor to BitPay.
Cointelegraph: Can you explain to our readers the genesis of Foxtrot? Was the idea first developed as a protection layer for BitPay or did you originally plan to expand to the internet as a whole?
Stephen Pair: Foxtrot was created to solve a specific need to link Insight nodes with one another in order for participants in a multi-sig Copay wallet to be able to coordinate and sign transaction proposals.
CT: In your presentation you explained that Foxtrot had the potential to replace TCP/IP. Can you explain how this would work? Will adopters have to choose between one and the other or will they integrate?
SP: A router could support both IP and Foxtrot concurrently (so, no, it would not be necessary to choose between one and the other).
CT: How will a network like this affect functions such as messaging and email as far as privacy is concerned? Will users be able to rest easier about government programs such as PRISM?
SP: Each link between nodes is encrypted much like an SSL connection, with multi-hop connections encrypted from end to end. The key privacy enhancement that Foxtrot offers over IP+SSL is that the intermediate routing nodes cannot determine the identity of the originator or destination of the connection.
The economic tradeoff is that connections can be made more cost effective with the some loss of privacy. However, systems like BitMessage are likely to be better when privacy is of utmost concern. Foxtrot nodes do leak information to their peers, thus when privacy is important, the nodes with which you connect must be trusted to a certain degree to maintain your privacy.
CT: There are many concerns about net neutrality and the ability of ISPs to control web content through overcharging and eliminating competition for larger websites. If Foxtrot is adopted by ISPs, how will these concerns be addressed?
SP: This issue is symptomatic of the centralization of network infrastructure on the Internet. Future releases of Foxtrot will add bandwidth billing based on Bitcoin's payment channels. To the degree that makes it profitable to operate a router, it may create conditions that ultimately lead to less centralization and more competition. That should impose a market limitation for ISPs to control web content.
CT: The US government has already expressed concerns about Apple’s new IOS encryption. Does BitPay expect a similar reaction to Foxtrot and, if so, how will you address these concerns?
SP: Foxtrot is an experimental open source project and not a mass consumer service, so we wouldn't expect such a reaction. Privacy on the Internet is essential to preventing many types of criminal activity.
Privacy tools can be used by criminals to evade law enforcement, but they are also essential for preventing information from falling into the hands of criminals. How to strike a balance between these competing concerns is a complex subject.
CT: Does BitPay have an expected launch date for Foxtrot?
SP: The current code is available on github.
CT: Is this now usable and does BitPay support it?
SP: While it is usable, it is a very early prototype. We plan to evolve it enough to be usable for linking Insight in the next few weeks. Beyond that we will continue to evolve it as we have needs and will encourage other contributors to participate. Foxtrot is not a commercial product but we do want to be responsive to issues that people face while trying to use it in order to encourage its adoption.
CT: How will issues such as scalability and stability be addressed with Foxtrot?
SP: We have a lot of ideas about how Foxtrot could be evolved to scale and will incorporate them as usage demands. For its use with Insight, we will need to make sure it is mostly stable. Foxtrot has some unit tests and we will continue to expand that suite to try and maintain the stability on the master branch.
[Editor’s note; the next part of the questions were answered by BitPay’s Executive Chairman, Tony Gallippi]
CT: How long has Mr. Levitt been advising BitPay and has he made contributions?
Tony Gallippi: Mr. Levitt has been advising BitPay for several weeks and yes he has already made contributions to us.
Cointelegraph: What is Mr. Levitt expected to bring to the table that will help BitPay better serve its customer base and the Bitcoin community?
TG: His expertise in the areas of regulation, securities, banking, and policymaking can be beneficial as the bitcoin industry evolves.
Cointelegraph would like to thank both Stephen and Tony for their help and rapid response to our questions. We look forward to future innovations.
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