The Big Interview

Founder and CEO David Chaum says Elixxir will offer privacy at scale

As Elixxir announces its early access developer programme, Coin Rivet spoke with founder David Chaum to find out why his privacy-focused blockchain project is one to watch

There isn’t one person in the cryptocurrency space who hasn’t heard of Bitcoin’s anonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto. But while everyone knows the name, no one’s actually seen the face (at least, not that we know of). The same probably can’t be said of Elixxir founder and CEO David Chaum.

Yet Chaum’s footprint on this industry goes back a lot further than 2008. As an original cypherpunk, Chaum is the inventor of digital cash as well as the first blinding algorithm to grant people privacy with their payments. His thesis, which he penned at grad school in the ‘80s, also preempted almost every point of Satoshi’s infamous white paper.

Who is David Chaum?

David Chaum is larger than life and more humble than almost anyone else in this space. Towering over everybody at six-foot-four, I’ve had the chance to catch up with him several times in different locations. He’s always willing, available, and ready to talk. He’ll also make sure that you’re comfortable as well, offering a glass of water or coffee before you speak.

Steadfastly focused on the importance of privacy, it was Chaum’s belief that people must be in control of their informational lives that caused him to see the flaws with Bitcoin and other blockchains. “Privacy is really all about control,” he previously told me. “Once the information is out there, you have no possibility to control it.”

As far back as 1992, Chaum’s article Achieving Electronic Privacy (uncannily ahead of its time) appeared in Scientific American. He foresaw the potential problems of individuals entrusting their data to large corporations. The first paragraph simply reads:

“Every time you make a telephone call, purchase goods using a credit card, subscribe to a magazine, or pay your taxes, that information goes into a database somewhere. Furthermore, all these records can be linked so that they constitute in effect a single
dossier on your life.”

Now, he’s on a mission to bring back individuals’ control over their personal data and payments through Elixxir, a blockchain designed to provide privacy at scale.

What is Elixxir all about?

When Chaum decided to come back into the space, it was because he felt that blockchains were ignoring crucial issues. For a start, they were not scalable or capable of handling massive use. They failed to protect user privacy, and they had no messaging component.

Elixxir, then, is a metadata-protecting blockchain platform that allows for privacy at scale. After all, it’s logical that if you want to build a consumer product, you can’t just transparently and immutably display their payments online. Chaum explains:

“There’s a growing public awareness of and concern for digital privacy. Recent high profile testimony and commentary, as well as new laws extending privacy and data rights, show this.”

Elixxir, as an efficient, scalable platform intended for mass adoption and privacy at scale, is well-positioned to address these problems.

“Elixxir can support robust dApp ecosystems that offer privacy and security without requiring the current sacrifice of convenience. In addition, we see growth opportunities in enterprise and B2B blockchain solutions, as companies adopt new technologies to address information security and liability from data breaches.”

Elixxir opens up its early access developer programme this week

This Wednesday, Elixxir announced some exciting plans. It is launching its early access developer programme this week. This will offer third-party developers the chance to build on the Elixxir platform. They can submit their proposals by visiting this section on the Elixxir site.

They will use the Elixxir Arrow software development kit (SDK) to integrate metadata-protected communications seamlessly into their dApps. ArrowSDK is written in the Golang programming language, which is portable across many platforms and operating systems.

While that definitely sounds interesting, I was curious to know, considering the current state of dApps, what Chaum expects to see from these developers. Would the use cases extend beyond gambling, gaming, and DEXs? He said:

“We are eager to see what the developer community proposes. At the outset, the early access developer programme will be targeted toward creative or strategic applications of Elixxir’s unique privacy-protecting, metadata-resistant platform.”

So, we’re talking about applications that would benefit from high levels of privacy, such as medical, legal, political, and personal. He continues:

“Quick and secure transfer of private message content and data for dApps will be the most likely first round of applications built on the platform. In contrast, the early uses on other blockchains, as you suggested, often keyed off of gamification and economic incentives to drive use.”

How will dApps on Elixxir gain more users and traction than existing dApps?

Chaum recognises that current dApps suffer from a dearth of users, low latency issues, and a lack of relevant use cases. But he’s confident that Elixxir provides solutions to these problems. He reflects:

“It’s difficult to ask users to give up the ease of use that existing centralised apps offer. Because current blockchain platforms are not inherently scalable and therefore cannot support mainstream use, dApps on those platforms appeal to hobbyists willing to sacrifice utility to try something new.

“Elixxir has been designed to support the mainstream public’s desire for privacy and security while also meeting their more tangible needs of convenience and speed, all accessible on the smartphone mobile platform.”

With the developer programme launching today, and a scalable blockchain that can offer privacy for consumers and businesses, Elixxir certainly looks like one to keep an eye on – and its founder David Chaum is certainly worth looking into in greater depth.

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