Cloudflare Courts Ethereum Devs, Buterin Interested In CAPTCHA Privacy


Cloudflare, one of the largest web service providers, may soon begin working alongside members of the Ethereum development community. Cloudflare’s head of cryptography, Nick Sullivan, reached out on Twitter last week with the following message:

“Dear Ethereum researchers, Cloudflare is very interested in working with you on how to bridge the gap between the traditional and decentralized internet.”

So far, the company has received responses from a number of prominent developers, including Nick Johnson, who has proposed integrating DNSSEC with Ethereum’s on-chain proofs, and Virgil Griffith, who has offered assistance with Cloudflare’s IPFS gateways.

The most notable response, however, comes from Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, who has expressed interest in a particular Cloudflare project that deals with CAPTCHA privacy and user tracking.

Buterin Interested In Privacy Pass

In his reply to Sullivan, Buterin praised a Cloudflare product called Privacy Pass. Buterin exclaimed, “This is awesome!” and endorsed the product’s privacy model, then expressed interest in integrating ETH tokens with the platform.

Cloudflare’s Privacy Pass essentially tokenizes CAPTCHAs, which are currently used to distinguish humans and bots. Bots are blocked or limited in order to prevent DDOS attacks that could force a website offline. This sort of DDOS protection is one of the major services that Cloudflare provides.

Unfortunately, CAPTCHAs put heavy demands on end users, who may have to solve several CAPTCHAs each day on various sites. Cloudflare’s Privacy Pass eliminates this problem by allowing users to solve a single CAPTCHA and gain tokenized approval for several sites — 30 passes are issued for each CAPTCHA that is completed.

As the name suggests, Privacy Pass is implemented in a private manner. Privacy Pass makes use of zero-knowledge proofs, thereby allowing sensitive data to be verified without being exposed. In cryptocurrency, a derivative of zk-proofs is often used as the basis of untraceable privacy coins. Although Privacy Pass uses zk-proofs somewhat differently, it similarly prevents users from being tracked.

Apart from endorsing the privacy aspects of the project, Buterin also suggested that Ethereum microtransactions could be used to purchase Privacy Pass tokens. Sullivan replied that he was “open to the possibility” of allowing “distinguished wallets” to purchase tokens. Finally, Buterin suggested that anonymous reputation burns could be used to revoke an attacker’s reputation without knowing their identity.

Suggested Reading Learn about the most secure Zcash wallets

Cloudflare and Centralization

Privacy Pass and other projects could unite the decentralized blockchain world and the traditional web industry. However, Couldflare’s image has been at odds with the values of decentralization advocates for some time now. The company’s DNS and CDN services are used by a large fraction of websites, with 15% and 21% market shares respectively.

In the eyes of its critics, Cloudflare has accumulated too much control and has abused its power. In recent years, Cloudflare has suffered major security exploits and data leaks and has been criticized for its censorship practices—all fairly worrying problems given the company’s significant market share.

But over the past year, Cloudflare has been reshaping its image: the company has introduced IPFS gateways that provide decentralized, uncensorable web hosting. This new product has been embraced by some parts of the crypto world, although others remain skeptical of Cloudflare’s dedication to the IPFS platform. Nevertheless, it seems that leaders from the decentralized and traditional web are genuinely interested in working together.

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