In this Blockwatch, I speak with Simon Harman, project lead at Loki, who provides a refreshing, honest, and realistic perspective on Blockchain and privacy.
Hear the full interview in the audio version, but here are the highlights to whet your appetite.
What is Loki?
Loki is an intertwined, decentralized privacy ecosystem that allows users to take advantage of a P2P network of service nodes to browse, transact, and communicate online as anonymously and securely as possible.
The team chose the name Loki as it reflects the trickery of the implementation; one of the aspects that resulted in an anonymous, private, and secure solution.
The Loki mixnet, Lokinet, is so secure and anonymous that even the servers handling messages don't know where they are going.
The goal of Loki is to enable Internet users to send end-to-end encrypted messages and voice calls without exposing their identity or IP address. Therefore, personal information can never be compromised, and metadata cannot be used to place ads.
Unlike Tor - where anyone can spin up a server and become a relay - Loki requires relays to have a stake in the network (it's how they are authenticated). Plus, network users can vote relays off the network if they act against the network interests.
According to Simon's calculations, it would cost around $40,000-$50,000 a month to launch a Sybil attack on the Tor network. Simon says figures like these make it economically viable to monitor a single Tor user's activities.
Loki hopes to create a network that a single entity cannot manipulate, and is effectively Sybil attack resistant. Something that places it ahead of Tor and other privacy mixnets.
Protecting the freedom of speech
Loki stands for absolute privacy by default.
For a start, Node operators cannot see the content of transactions and interactions. Furthermore, they either know where information has come from or where it's going (never both), which makes censorship difficult.
The entire Loki project team has been keen on Monero, Tor, and other privacy projects for a long time. One of the reasons for this is because they are some of the few platforms still seeking to defy censorship and protect the freedom of speech.
As Simon explains, while some of the things content creators say aren't always popular, what right do large corporations and oppressive regimes have to censor and de-platform them?
The Internet - something that was once free and beautiful - has become controlled by large organizations, and it's a case of following their ideals or be silenced, Simon says.
Why Loki Messenger will (probably) never be a mainstream app
Loki Messenger is in active development, but as Simon points out, one of the difficulties when developing a messaging app is that users want it fully-featured from the offset.
Adoption of a bespoke privacy messaging app is a slower process than mainstream alternatives, but if it lacks features, then Loki starts at a massive disadvantage.
As Simon says, instant messaging users expect to fully control their messages, with their conversations synced across multiple devices and emoji support as a minimum. That's why the Loki team is reluctant to release Loki Messenger until this functionality is in place.
Add your application to Loki with SNApps
You can host any web application on Lokinet as a SNApp, enabling users to host a suite of private hidden web applications. Find out how to get started with the process in the SNApp documentation.
Simon told me that Loki developers have come up with a challenge to find something that doesn't run as a SNApp. In contrast to other decentralized networks, this opens Loki to a world of existing applications that need little or no modification to run on their network.
If you have an application that needs privacy and anonymity, then Loki is a new option for you to try and I'd welcome hearing your experiences in the comments below.