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Blockchain Browsers — How DLT Could Affect Web Surfing

iOS also gets a blockchain browser in Opera. Freedom of privacy vs. corporate control: Users have to choose what is more important for them…

The appearance of blockchain technology can be compared with the emergence of internet at the initial stage of its development: Users were cautious about a decentralized system and failed to understand many of its subtleties. But just as firms opened up to the internet, almost all corporations are now working on integrating blockchain into their processes — at least as a trial. And there are some reasons for this trend: With the acceleration of data transfers, globalization and the amount of information, the security questions concerning personal data are becoming more acute for users. 

Personal information, in a way, is becoming valuable — and thus, monetized. Most can recall a series of scandals involving Facebook and Google, which have been plagued by allegations of misusing the data of millions of users. Therefore, the idea of ​​a “Web 3.0,” which would provide people with control over their content and digital identity, is gradually gaining popularity. Traditional internet browsers are still the gateway to internet for users, but will they retain their place in the new order? And what role will blockchain play in the future of internet browsing?

It all started with the notion of ​​decentralization, and Bitcoin became the embodiment of this phenomenon. Cryptocurrencies are designed to preserve the anonymity and financial independence of users. That is why the most active companies are already undertaking cryptographic developments in this area. 

Recently, the Opera browser officially launched a blockchain browser, called Opera Touch, for gadgets operating on Apple’s iOS software, as it was initially available for only PCs and Android devices at the end of 2018. A distinctive feature of the browser is the presence of all the necessary infrastructure to work with the Web 3.0. In particular, the program is equipped with a built-in cryptocurrency wallet and provides support services for decentralized applications (DApps) working on Ethereum. The Opera browser allows users to search blockchain apps via URLs and has a built-in virtual private network (VPN). However, multiple other platforms already have different and established solutions. A representative of the Opera browser, Julia Szynzielorz, explained what Opera Touch can give to its users:

“We believe that the Web of today will be the interface to the decentralized web of tomorrow (Web 3.0). With built-in crypto wallet, the browser has the potential to renew and extend its important role as a tool to access information, make transactions online and manage users’ online identities in a way that gives them more control. That’s why integrated blockchain technologies across our browsers — on Android, iOS (Opera Touch) and in the PC browser which accesses the crypto wallet in one of the mobile browsers.”

She added that blockchain can be used in the new browser not only for saving digital assets but also for helping users to ease their searches on the web, saying:

“Already now, we also have a dapp explorer and Web 3 integration, which means that, using Opera you can browse web 3.0 and use dApps seamlessly, by typing in or searching for their web address, and simply accessing them via the browser.”

Brave browser and BAT reward

The Brave browser was launched in 2015 by co-founder of the Mozilla Project Corporation and JavaScript creator Brendan Eich. It operates on the basis of Google’s Chromium engine and its source code is fully open. The browser removes ad banners and blocks pop-ups. In addition, it is integrated with a system by which users are compensated with BAT coins for watching ads that have passed the browser’s screening. For these purposes, a crypto wallet is integrated into the browser. In August 2018, the browser boasted on its Twitter page that, in just four months after its launch, the number of downloads of its app in the Google Play Store has doubled and exceeded 10 million downloads: 

“Thrilled that Brave for Android now has over 10 million downloads! For privacy and safer privacy protection!”

According to its developers, in January 2019, the number of users exceeded 5.5 million people. 

Brave is constantly growing and cooperates with different partners. The company has collaborated with the Dow Jones Media Group to test the usage of blockchain technology in digital publishing, and has established partnerships with Townsquare Media to monetize ad-blocking traffic and test digital advertising solutions on the BAT platform.

In September 2018, the company entered into an agreement with the search engine Quantum, which is the default search engine of Brave in France and Germany.

In December 2018, Brave joined the AdLedger blockchain consortium with Publicis, Omnicom, IPG Reprise Digital, GroupM, MadHive, Coindesk, Meredith, TEGNA and IBM to reform the future of digital advertising.

At the same time, in December, an agreement was made with the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC. Brave will be the default browser for the HTC Exodus, the world’s first integrated blockchain phone for decentralized applications.

The program is now available as a mobile app for iOS and Android, and there are also versions for Windows, MacOS and Linux. In addition to the crypto wallet, the browser has a built-in VPN service, an integrated Tor browser and a Bitcoin micropay system.

Anonymous orchid

The American blockchain startup Orchid Labs has been developing an anonymous browser since 2017, which could become an alternative to Tor and VPNs. According to data published on the website of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company has already managed to raise more than $43 million of the planned $125.5 million. 

Orchid’s main goal is to provide anonymous internet access for people all over the world, especially in regions and countries with excessive government censorship. In addition, the Orchid solution will allow internet service providers and users to exchange the Orchid coins. According to Stephen Waterhouse, co-founder and CEO of Orchid Labs, thanks to micropayments in the Ethereum blockchain, the Orchid network will be completely decentralized, unlike a VPN.

Open-source Beaker browser

One of the most recent examples of decentralized browsers is the open-source P2P browser Beaker. It was developed in 2018 in partnership with the team that supports the Dat Project and is based on Dat’s P2P protocol. The goal of the project is to provide the ability to create and host websites directly in the browser. To do this, a local folder should be created and shared through a corresponding URL.

Beaker allows visitors to copy their files into local folders that will appear as a torrent. Files will be transported with the P2P network instead of being locked away on a server, so everyone could explore all the files that make up a website or app. For a local copy, users can make forks and implement changes. The team behind the project also decided to link it with the real world, using its own Hashbase cloud service. This allows users to maintain constant access to Dat sites, even when its local copies are offline. Beaker does not offer the so-called “browsing privacy” — as all URL owners see the devices that hosts it or try to access it. One of the key features of Beaker is the secure file sharing using the Dat protocol.

And what about Google and Mozilla?

Google is working on a blockchain-based technology aimed at developing and supporting cloud business and a number of other projects, including plans to use blockchain to improve the security of user data storage — however, the company is not in any hurry to share the details regarding its blockchain products. Mozilla seems to be following a similar plan, as — for the moment — the browser supports plug-ins for the privacy and security of users, but no further information has been disclosed. In particular, Firefox blocks website owners from tracking the digital fingerprints of user devices, as well as scripts for the hidden mining of cryptocurrencies. The plan to introduce additional protection measures was announced in August 2018, but the use of blockchain has still not been mentioned.

Chrome vs. Brave

There are several key differences between the two types of browsers, perhaps best seen through the comparison of Chrome and Brave. The Chrome browser forces the user to confirm its account in order to make use of Google services, such as Google Docs or Gmail. This allows Chrome to collect and use the data of its users to synchronize with other devices, on which the browser and other Google services are also installed. Earlier, this required user consent; now, the corporation does it by default. This rule change was noted by cryptographer Matthew Green, who is a developer of the  Zcash anonymous cryptocurrency. In his blog, Matthew Green wrote that he was very worried about Google’s policy:

“If you didn’t respect my lack of consent on the biggest user-facing privacy option in Chrome (and didn’t even notify me that you had stopped respecting it!) why should I trust any other consent option you give me? What stops you from changing your mind on that option in a few months, when we’ve all stopped paying attention?”

Such an evolution of Google’s data protection policy opens the door for browsers such as Brave to protect the privacy of users. Brave also blocks advertisements by default and does not collect information about its users browsing history, which would usually be used for context advertising. Intead, it gives advertising content creators a larger share of its revenues. Users have an option in the browser’s settings to agree to view the displayed ads, for which they receive BAT tokens.

Speaking of efficiency, browsers always deliver obstacles, as most of the available test programs cannot be tied to real-world tasks. However, after conducting several tests, the Brave team claims its solution is significantly faster than Chrome. But Brave still has a number of significant problems: For example, some sites perceive Brave users as bots. Most likely, this is due to the function of tracker-blocking. Also, users regularly encounter additional security checks in comparison to when using Chrome.

Future for new browsers or not?

The era of the Web 3.0 promises to significantly change users’ experience. However, there are many unknown variables in this story: How will internet technologies like Big Data and artificial intelligence play a part? How exactly will the transition to decentralized data storage and processing occur? What will DApps’ structure look like and what role will browsers play in it?

At the moment, the so-called Web 3.0 browsers are hybrid structures, which are based on the software we are used to — but with the addition of extensions that support decentralized apps and crypto wallets. And this postpones the “third coming” of the internet.

Thus, various platforms and services can be developed on the basis of blockchain, and their potential could lure users from centralized companies — and possibly completely replace the services of major technology giants in the future.

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Opera Releases iOS Version of its ‘Blockchain-Ready’ Mobile Web Browser

Opera has released the iOS version of its Ethereum-friendly mobile browser, with an Ethereum wallet and support for Ethereum-based dApps.

Norway-based internet browser company Opera has launched the iOS version of its mobile web browser, Opera Touch, according to a press release shared with Cointelegraph.

Opera Touch reportedly supports the Ethereum (ETH) protocol and the Ethereum Web3 application programming interface (API). This means that the browser accommodates Ethereum-based decentralized applications (DApps) and all ERC-20 tokens, stablecoins, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The browser also is said to feature a cryptocurrency wallet for storing Ether, the “Opera Crypto Wallet.”

Opera released the Android version of its mobile browser at the end of 2018, which offers these same Ethereum-related capabilities. Opera Touch, however, purports to be the first mobile browser on iOS with ‘Web 3’ support and a crypto wallet

The Head of Crypto at Opera browsers, Charles Hamel, commented on the release of Opera’s latest browser iteration, saying:

“We believe that all modern browsers should integrate a crypto wallet. This will enable new business models to emerge on the web. Opera is the first browser to make using crypto on the Web seamless and easy. Following a strong demand from the crypto- community, we are now making this experience available on iOS.”

For this new release, Opera says it has partnered with the crypto collectible dApp “Marble.Cards.” This application reportedly turns website URLs into unique collectible cards that are registered as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, a crypto collectible released in a promotional auction for the blockchain-based game “F1 Delta Time” sold in May for 415.9 ETH—$110,600 at the time of the sale.

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BitMEX Observes Increase in Attacks on Accounts, Stresses Security Measures

Crypto exchange BitMEX cautions users to follow security best practices and enable two-factor authentication following an increase in attacks on user accounts.

Hong Kong-based peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptocurrency exchange BitMEX has reported an influx of attacks on user account credentials, according to an official blog post on June 11.

In addition to covering a litany of best practices for user security, the cryptocurrency exchange stressed the importance of using two-factor authentication (2FA) in particular. The report summarizes 2FA as follows:

“2FA, sometimes referred to as ‘two-step verification’ or ‘multi-factor authentication’, adds an additional layer of security to your account by requiring not only your username and password at login, but also the input of a unique, time-based token. Tokens can be stored on a cell phone within a software-based authenticator app such as Google Authenticator or Authy.”

According to BitMEX, research at Google has shown that virtually all attempts to steal account credentials can be prevented by enabling 2FA. BitMEX concurred that 2FA is the best way to prevent such attacks, and is considering making 2FA authentication mandatory on its platform.

BitMEX also noted that compromised accounts on the exchange are typically associated with weak or reused passwords, hacked emails, or computers infected with malware. Additionally, the exchange discovered some new tactics being deployed in these account hacks, and have updated its policies accordingly.  

First, there is no longer an option to disable email notifications about account logins, since hackers were disabling these notifications in order to further hide their tracks. Second, withdrawal requests must now be verified by email, since attackers were making API keys with the hacked accounts, which could be used on their own to authenticate withdrawals.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, United States-based crypto exchange Kraken made 2FA mandatory for its platform at the end of March. According to Kraken’s announcement, 2FA has been optional on the platform since its inception in 2013. The exchange particularly supports 2FA programs Google Authenticator and YubiKey, as per the announcement.

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Report: Nearly $10 Million in XRP Stolen in GateHub Hack

Hackers have reportedly compromised nearly 100 XRP Ledger wallets on cryptocurrency wallet service GateHub.

Hackers have reportedly compromised nearly 100 XRP Ledger wallets on cryptocurrency wallet service GateHub. The incident was announced by GateHub in a preliminary statement on June 6.

In the statement, GateHub reveals that it was notified by some of its customers and community members that funds on their wallets had been stolen. The company estimates that hackers managed to compromise around 100 XRP Ledger wallets.

Although the company did not initially identify any nefarious activities on its platform, it began an investigation on the matter, wherein it discovered increased application programming interface (API) calls coming from a small number of IP addresses. This could purportedly be the way the culprit got access to encrypted secret keys.

Community member Thomas Silkjær —  one of those who warned GateHub about the breach — published a report on the hack, revealing that:

“On June 1 we were made aware of a theft of 201,000 XRP … and immediately started investigation. It turned out that the account robbed was managed through, and that the offending account (r9do2Ar8k64NxgLD6oJoywaxQhUS57Ck8k) had stolen substantial amounts from several other XRP accounts, likely to be or have been managed through”

Silkjær states that as of June 5, approximately 23,200,000 XRP (nearly $9.5 million at press time) were stolen from 80–90 victims, of which around 13,100,000 XRP ($5.37 million) had already been laundered through exchanges and mixer services.

GateHub notes that it is still conducting the investigation, and thus cannot post any official conclusions.

As reported earlier this month, blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis claimed that 64% of ransomware attack cash-out strategies involve the laundering of funds via cryptocurrency exchanges. Among other ransomware cash-out strategies analyzed, 12% involved mixing services and 6% involved peer-to-peer networks, while others went via merchant services providers or dark web marketplaces. 9% of ransomware proceeds reportedly remain unspent.

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Blockchain Firm Digital Asset Integrates Smart Contract Language With Hyperledger

Digital Asset will integrate its smart contract language DAML with modular platform for distributed ledgers Hyperledger Sawtooth.

Blockchain software firm Digital Asset will integrate their smart contract language DAML with Hyperledger Sawtooth, a modular platform for distributed ledgers. Digital Asset announced the development in a blog post on April 16.

In the post, Digital Asset revealed that it has begun working with Hyperledger members, Blockchain Technology Partners (BTP), in order to integrate the Digital Asset Modeling Language (DAML) runtime with Hyperledger Sawtooth, which is a modular platform for building, deploying, and running distributed ledgers like blockchains.

The company explained that a number of the Hyperledger Sawtooth characteristics already comply with the DAML team expectations. “Hyperledger Sawtooth’s Transaction Processor has a very flexible approach towards roles and permissions, for example, and is based on a very natural DLT network topology of fully distributed peers. DAML is based on a permissioned architecture and Hyperledger Sawtooth can be configured to be permissioned without requiring special nodes,” the post details.

DAML removes smart contracts apart from the ledger by defining an abstraction over implementation details like cryptography and data distribution, which purportedly provides a ledger model accessible through a clearly defined application programming interface (API). DAML applications can be moved from platform to platform without complex rewrites.

Digital Asset first introduced DAML in April 2016, describing it as an expressive language designed for financial institutions to model and execute agreements through distributed ledger technology (DLT). Earlier this month, Digital Asset open sourced the DAML, making it freely available under the Apache 2.0 open source license.

Subsequently, the firm partnered with major cloud computing company VMware to integrate the DAML on VMware’s blockchain platform. The development will purportedly “allow for broader reach and support as a combined offering.”

Digital Asset also announced a collaboration with the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) to develop a new tool that can support the use of smart contracts for derivatives trading.

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Google Adds Ethereum Blockchain Dataset to Its Big Data Analytics Platform

The Google Cloud team has officially made the Ethereum (ETH) dataset available in BigQuery, the company’s big data warehouse for analytics, according to a post published on Google’s official blog August 29.

The Ethereum blockchain data is posted in the dataset and updated on a daily basis. As the team explains, the tool was created to help make business decisions, prioritize improvements to the Ethereum architecture itself (for example, to prepare updates), and balance sheet adjustments, e.g. how quickly a wallet can be rebalanced.

As Google explains, the Ethereum blockchain contains APIs for random functions such as checking transaction status, looking up wallet-transaction associations, and checking wallet balances. Still, the API endpoints cannot be easily reached. For that reason, BigQuery’s OLAP features help aggregate such types of data and and visualize it.

Ethereum transfers and transactions costs in 2018

Screenshot of Ethereum transfers and transactions costs in 2018. Source: BigQuery

Furthermore, the software based on Google Cloud synchronizes the Ethereum blockchain to computers running Parity — a UK-based provider of infrastructure software for interacting with the Ethereum network, which performs a daily extraction of data from the Ethereum blockchain ledger and stores date-partitioned data to BigQuery for exploration.

Google also shows some examples of the uses of the new tool. One of them relates to CryptoKitties — a game based on the Ethereum blockchain that is the most popular ERC-721 smart contract by transaction count. BigQuery collects data on accounts that own at least 10 CryptoKitties (a color on the graphics indicates owner) and their mascots’ reproductive fitness (size).

CryptoKitties infographic of owners and CryptoKitties’ reproductive fitness

Screenshot of CryptoKitties infographic of owners and CryptoKitties’ reproductive fitness. Source: BigQuery

Google has already expanded into blockchain-based tools and services this year. In February, the company created a similar tool for the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain to visualize transactions, detect anomalies, and extract necessary data from the blockchain ledger.

As Cointelegraph wrote in July, Google also partnered with two blockchain-focused firms, Digital Asset and BlockApps, to offer new distributed ledger technology (DLT) solutions on Google’s Cloud Platform.

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New Ripple-Based Decentralized Exchange Launches in San Francisco

A new Ripple (XRP)-based decentralized crypto marketplace, DCEX, has now opened registration for retail and institutional accounts, according to a press release published July 30.

The new San Francisco-based platform runs on technology developed by blockchain firm AlphaPoint, and will initially offer 15 crypto-crypto trading pairs, all against Ripple as a base currency. These include Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), EOS (EOS), IOTA (MIOTA), and ZCash (ZEC), among others, with further altcoins to be listed in the future.

DCEX will also reportedly make all of the assets included in the Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index (BGCI) — which tracks the top ten “most liquid” crypto assets and presents itself as an “institutional benchmark” for the crypto market — available in one location for investors.

According to the press release, DCEX believes that using XRP as a base currency will allow for “high-speed transfers” that can help investors to better take advantage of “price inefficiencies” in their arbitrage among currency pairs on different exchanges.

The marketplace claims in the release that its network will facilitate “up to one million transactions per second,” and will also enable participants to connect to APIs to facilitate “high frequency” crypto trading strategies, as well as to margin trade.

DCEX, reportedly registered with FINCEN, is taking “initial steps” towards becoming a fully compliant and regulated operator under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulatory agencies, the press release notes.

As a Cointelegraph analysis outlined this spring, decentralized exchanges (DEXs) are gaining traction in the cryptosphere, both on ideological grounds and due to perceptions that centralized platforms are more vulnerable to thefts, such as the industry record-breaking hack of $532 mln in NEM from Coincheck earlier this year.

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Huobi Strategic Partner HBUS Launches API for Large-Scale US Traders

HBUS, the U.S. “strategic partner” of Chinese cryptocurrency exchange Huobi, confirmed the release of its API for “experienced traders” in some U.S. states, according to a press release shared with Cointelegraph.

HBUS highlighted that the API was geared to high-volume users who required live pricing data and other tools. In addition to price tracking, the API will also offer historical price data, support for margin trade customization support, setting buy and sell limits, and retrieving trade history.

Due to the difference in regulation across the U.S. HBUS noted that residents of Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Hawaii, Vermont, and Washington would be unable to use its services.

The move marks the latest in Huobi’s continued expansion this month, which in addition to launching HBUS has included the release of a separate platform geared to the Australian market.

Fellow Chinese operator OKEx and Hong Kong’s Binance have also recently made international commitments. Earlier this week, OKEx announced a partnership with the Malta Stock Exchange to create a new institutional grade security-tokens trading platform, and Binance revealed plans to back a decentralized, tokenized bank also in Malta.