BitPay Project Aims to Do for Networks What Bitcoin Did for Currency

Daniel Cawrey
Oct 28, 2014 at 12:01 UTC
Updated Oct 28, 2014 at 16:52 UTC

BitPay took to the stage to announce an intriguing new project called Foxtrot at the San Francisco Bitcoin Developer Meetup yesterday.

BitPay CEO Stephen Pair made the presentation, explaining that the open-source effort is designed as a simple, secure and decentralized communications network based on bitcoin cryptography.

The company describes Foxtrot as a decentralized routing network that enables easy peer-to-peer (p2p) communications, with built-in mechanisms for peer discovery, creation of services addressable by public keys and establishing encrypted connections.

Pair explained:

“Foxtrot is a network that allows nodes to communicate with one another.”

Enhanced security and privacy

Like bitcoin, Foxtrot is based on elliptic curve cryptography and enables a trustless p2p network of nodes specifically for networking and communications.

“This works in a very similar way to bitcoin itself,” Pair told the meetup.

If they were to gain traction, p2p connections on the scale of the Internet could bring greatly increased security and privacy.

In order to bring this about, BitPay is using some of its other technologies to build Foxtrot, including Insight, an open-source stack that interfaces with a full bitcoin node, and Copay, the company’s own multi-signature wallet.

Pair explains the similarities of Foxtrot to bitcoin.

Pair explains the similarities of Foxtrot to bitcoin.

The BitPay CEO made the proclamation that while Foxtrot is currently in its early stages, he could see the project as a way to replace TCP/IP, although he conceded there would need to be a lot of work done in order to accomplish that goal.

Monetizing network connections

In addition to practical applications BitPay is planning to use Foxtrot internally; for example, in protecting its own network from attacks by utilizing distributed peer connections.

Pair suggested that networks in general could incentivize themselves with Foxtrot, saying: “The idea here is that nodes would charge money for a data connection,” he said.

The concept could include Internet service providers (ISPs) automatically transacting with each other with stores of value via nodes. This could simplify some aspects of the Internet, as ISPs often compensate one another for network traffic by using complex peering agreements.

Pair said:

“I used to work in networking, and I think it is really interesting to think about how ISPs can charge each other for connections. It could totally change the economics how the Internet works.”

Additionally, he said, a p2p scheme like Foxtrot could innovate networking by securing systems with cryptography and end-to-end encryption, which Foxtrot also provides.

Ultimately, Foxtrot could provide protection against hacking, so the project is being built to protect BitPay’s own systems.

Pair said:

“We’re building something that [for example] allows our accounting system to be secured by the bitcoin network.”

Additional features planned

Pair cautioned that the Foxtrot project is in its infancy and explained that BitPay wants to add many more features – such as stealth addresses to better protect nodes – to the project.

Pair added that the technology would need to be used on the outer edges of networks to begin with, then move inwards to more complex networks, such as those run by ISPs.  “You would want to start small at the edges, like with wireless mesh nets,” he explained.

Starting today, Foxtrot is openly available on GitHub.

Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.

Nodes image via Shutterstock

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