The year 2014 has seen a heavy increase in Bitcoin awareness and adoption. With more and more companies accepting Bitcoin as a mode of payment, Bitcoin is slowly creeping up the path of gaining mainstream acceptance. There are many Bitcoin ATMs launching, growth in businesses accepting Bitcoin and even a surge of Bitcoin apps coming to the various mobile platforms. But all of them have one problem for individuals that seek a level of privacy in their financial affairs. Mainstream Bitcoin transactions are verifiable due to the public nature of the blockchain, the block chains a general ledger. All transactions can be verified back to the incept of the coin through the mining process. For some the fully transaparent nature of most common Bitcoin transactions is a bit too much of an invasion of privacy.
As everyone knows by now, Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto(a pseudonym) to add both layers of anonymity and transparency to every financial transaction. Bitcoin is designed to receive and send payments with an acceptable level of autonomy, not centralized checking of identity etc. Cash transactions offer a similar veil of privacy some would say that up until now cash offers more anonymity than Bitcoin. The block chain promotes privacy to the extent that usernames or real names are not associated to specific addresses or transactions. However most of these addresses can be traced back to the exchange through which the original Bitcoins were purchased. Almost all the services and companies that use Bitcoins nowadays, add an extra level of verification, thereby reducing your privacy, security and most of all their compliance with AML regulations.
ENTER: Dark Wallet
What is Dark Wallet?
Dark Wallet is an open-source free browser plug-in that is designed to be easy for all consumers to use. Like other Bitcoin wallets, it lets its users store, send, and receive Bitcoins, but it adds extra protections to make sure those transactions are secure, anonymous, and difficult to trace. This wallet will serve as a platform or a starting codebase to deliver a high quality Bitcoin that serves you, the users their mission to achieve greater privacy in their transactions.
According to The New Yorker, a famous US based magazine, “Dark Wallet is an easy-to-install plug-in that sits discreetly on users’ Chrome or Firefox Browsers”. Forbes describes it as “the vehicle that would make Bitcoin a truly untraceable form of digital cash.”
The Dark Wallet Philosophy
The crypto-anarchist team behind Dark Wallet has a very distinct philosophy. The Dark Wallet website extensively talks about and gives examples of how some Bitcoin developers are actively in collusion with the members of law enforcement and seeking government approval for Bitcoin and how the government and states are corrupted. The website even goes to the extent of saying that nothing good will come to Bitcoin from collaborating with US government and law enforcement.
The website also states that “We don’t need to cooperate with control freaks. Disobedience is the only way,” thereby strongly signaling Dark Wallet’s determination to make Bitcoin the world’s preferred mode of payment and to reduce the government hold on financial instruments. It is undeniable the current infrastructure has created a mesh of systems and controls that allow for every last time you spend to be tracked and logged digitally forever. Much of these systems and controls were generated as part of government legislation under the guise of the often nebulous “national security” or “anti-terrorism” etc
So, the basic philosophy to Dark Wallet is to give Bitcoin community the freedom of financial speech and to make all Bitcoin transactions anonymous. Most people think any anarchy is total chaos; however this couldn’t be further from the truth. In their philosophy, a lack of central government is replaced by a plethora of distributed, decentralized, self-organizing institutions based on voluntarism and non-aggression. This sounds more closely fitting to how the Bitcoin network and community has emerged today, it is certainly not chaos.
Developing Dark Wallet
Dark Wallet was started by Cody Wilson and Amir Taaki to ensure Bitcoin transactions are anonymous. The developers of Dark Wallet wholeheartedly subscribe to a Bitcoin-only mindset. The group, called UnSystem, is self-proclaimed crypto-anarchists led by Cody Wilson—who you may remember as the creator of the controversial 3D-printed gun. After getting himself in hot water with the government for making the digital files to print an unregulated weapon freely available on the internet, Wilson is now endeavoring to bring Bitcoin back to its anarchist roots.
Several other key people associated with Dark Wallet are Mihai Alisie (Editor in chief for Bitcoin Magazine, and project developer for Egora), Pablo Martin (Developer of first trustless mixer for laundering Bitcoins and developer of encrypted phone technology) and Kyle Drake (Author of Coinpunk, open source self-deployable web wallet with client-side encryption).
It was first launched on the crowd funding website Indiegogo last year, where a fund raising goal of $50,000 was set for an early 2014 release of Dark Wallet. However, due to large number of Bitcoin users who desire Bitcoin transactions to be completely anonymous, the goal was achieved well before the deadline. According to the Indiegogo web posting of Dark Wallet, it was launched in Austin, Texas, United States.
Dark Wallet has a bigger vision, but its team members have to think extensively on how to integrate and properly combine all these disparate features in a user friendly package. They want to explore distributed identity, distributed reputation systems, encrypted messaging (ala BitMessage), private asset issuance, decentralized trading and semi-persistent storage systems. All these tools can be combined to create decentralized markets.
How does Dark Wallet make a Bitcoin transaction anonymous?
Information about each and every Bitcoin transaction is stored in the Transaction Block Chain which is constantly updated and shared with each Bitcoin wallet user. Each transaction is given a transaction ID which is a 16 alpha-digit combination which is encrypted. This transaction ID usually contains some information from the previous transaction’s ID, thereby making all transactions a chain. So, the entire Bitcoin community that has access to Bitcoin Transaction Block Chain can theoretically track your Bitcoin transaction. So, how do you make your transaction anonymous? This is where Dark Wallet is handy.
Being a web browser plug-in, Dark Wallet runs like a traditional Bitcoin wallet, but with an additional layer of security that makes it practically impossible to trace your transaction. The added layer of security contains several mixers or combinations that prevent you from being able to see any Bitcoin transaction. Dark Wallet safeguards these transactions with a combination of encryption and a ‘CoinJoin’ protocol that mixes users’ Bitcoins together before encoding it into the ledger or Bitcoin Transaction Block Chain. Due to this encryption, the transaction becomes almost impossible to trace even if it has elements of the previous transaction in its transaction ID. This is basically how Dark Wallet adds complex encryption to Bitcoin transaction and makes it almost impossible to track a Bitcoin transaction, thereby increasing the anonymity and privacy.
Limitations of Dark Wallet
Dark Wallet is designed based on the mixing and encryption of the transaction ID. It adds a layer of security by mixing and encoding the transaction details before they are stored in the Transaction Block Chain. However, it is important to note that mixing and concealing coins in such a way while not explicitly forbidden could be crossing the line in some legal grey areas. Therefore, one should know the legal aspects of using such mixing services before using them. Such services also require you to trust the individuals running them not to lose or steal your funds and not to keep a log of your requests. Even though mixing services can break traceability for small amounts, it becomes increasingly difficult to do the same for larger transactions.
How does Dark Wallet ensure a good future for Bitcoin?
There is so much untapped power in Bitcoin. You know the saying “we only use 10% of our brain’s power”? We probably use less than 1% of what is possible with Bitcoin! Dark Wallet brings to us a new and dynamic way to use Bitcoins. Dark Wallet not only introduces a new and innovative concept of making a Bitcoin transaction anonymous, but also lays foundation for a greater research in the expansion of Bitcoin lifespan and its core building structure.
The untraceability of Bitcoin transactions that Dark Wallet introduces, would add another reason(privacy) for users to migrate towards Bitcoin and away from traditional fiat.
Although, the Dark Wallet team’s philosophy may sound a bit extreme, their ideas for the future sound very promising. Some of their ideas include:
Auto-anonymizer for your Bitcoins.
Broadcasters to avoid triangulation of your financial transactions.
Automatic fee discovery. Ability to set a tradeoff between confirmation time and fee size.
Decentralised market discovery mechanisms.
Private asset issuance.
Semi-persistent storage mechanisms. Such things could lead to an uncensored fast encrypted web. The holy grail of cipherspace.
Time Stamped proof of ownership.
Contracts, escrow, cooperatives, alternative ownership models
Decentralised market places (like Silk Road).
Uncensorable crowdfunding platforms, stock platforms and information black markets.
Highly scalable block chain infrastructure.
The Dark Wallet team wants to not only make prototypes for the above mentioned software and services, but also plans to turn the prototypes into scalable working models for Bitcoin community to use. Their ideology of turning Bitcoin into a more usable product in our day-to-day lives is very promising.
Until now, we have been using Bitcoin as a mode of payment only, but can there be other uses of Bitcoins? Could we someday use Bitcoins for gaming or for ratings?
The fact that Dark Wallet and all other services of its team are essentially free to use (Open-Source), makes their work something to look forward to. The future of internet is Open Source and the Dark Wallet team thrives on this. Combining Bitcoin with open source innovations can lead to a whole new world of possibilities and Team Dark Wallet is the latest team tapping into them. Let’s wait and see what more Bitcoin can do!