Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Applications

This paper was written around 2000 and submitted as an abstract to the Financial Cryptography (FC) Conference in Anguilla. It was, unfortunately, not accepted as it was too far removed from the core focus of the conference, i.e. cryptography and has sat gathering dust ever since. It was inspired by a variety of influences, however, it was substantially affected by the rantings of Robert Hettinga et al who formed the FC community all of to whom I owe a debt gratitude for a sound education in applied crypto. I'm in the process of updating it so welcome comments and collaboration.


I present an novel application development paradigm enabling applications to be built from a collection of web services sourced from a community maintained marketplace of open source and commercial web services, consumed via anonymising proxies and remunerated by anonymous, bearer electronic cash.

It is proposed to combine the power of community maintained hierarchical web service directories with open source software development to create a marketplace for granular software services.

These services will be delineated by cost, reputation/quality of service and paid for by a variety mechanisms ranging from pre-arranged contract to microcash payment mechanisms. The community will determine and maintain the directory ontology organically.

The Death of the Desktop Application

In the late 1990's, there was a focus towards hosted internet applications labelled the Application Service Provider (ASP) model. In 2007, this market is maturing fast and credible enterprise class services (such as have become popular and ability to fill market niches by configuration as proposed in [7] in 1999 has becoming a business reality.

The ASP market has now fragmented and rebranded to Web 2.0, enabled by technologies such as AJAX on the server side and Adobe Flash on the client side.

Many people struggled to understand the ASP concept, equating it to the days of mainframe bureau computing provided as vertical, single vendor solution. Then, the balance was firmly with desktop applications and thier up-front licensing model with annual maintenance fees. Now, the hosted application model is poised to annihilate the traditional desktop and supplement the licensing model with pay-per-use-per-seat.

Open Source Business Model

The Open Source community has succeeded in developing high quality, robust and technically innovative software applications quickly. However, no one is quite sure how to turn this phenomonen to commercial advantage and there are several theoretical business models asproposed in [7] and [9].

As an attempt to fund Open Source development, there also exists several collaborative task markets for development such as Cosource ( as proposed in [5]. Incentivised expert markets are also emerging as in . These have failed to attract significant numbers of developers to make them economically viable. In 1999, Cosource had $60,000 dollars of outstanding development and a total of 11 projects completed.

I propose a transactional model whereby developers can earn realistic incomes by anonymous subscription or micropayment for functionality which they sell to anonymous consumers via a community maintained directory based on the same operational principles used by the Open Directory Project ( and outlined in [10].

The Open Directory project presents an excellent example of the "Bazaar" effect as outlined by Raymond [11] whereby the power of the distributed community is harnessed to build a resource beyond the reach of commercial efforts.

After the initial failure of internet currency pioneers like Digicash et al, fungible micropayment currencies like E-Gold ( filled the void. We are again seeing a resurrection of micropayment mechanisms from a variety of companies but few offer anonymity. Anonymity of identity is a preferrable as it means you only have to trust the ethics and technology of one organisation rather than many. Combined with persistence of psuedonym and the integrity of a chained blinding architecture detailed in [4] and we have a solution which is credible to the internet community.

Meta service providers are currently setting up content peering and rebranding functionality to leverage their content delivery infrastructure as outlined in [3]. It is these providers who we perceive as adapting to carry application service components.

Real time bandwidth bandwidth exchanges

ADSL's influence

Possible applications

Military Uses

Data Security

Information Assurance

Commercial Uses

The future

Anonymous Applications Overview

The ability to deliver applications composed of discrete components exists today. By combining the benefits of Open Source development, global community-maintained directories persistent psuedonyms, anonymous payment mechanisms and dynamic bandwidth acquisition we predict a new market place for applications

The Developer

Developers sit at home and write applicationette's/components/applets whatever. They host these on their own hardware connected permanently to the internet via adsl. They sell services these on the open marketplace for ecash and have adaptive pricing algorithms to ensure that the things earn money. They use persisten nyms to hide their identity (for a variety of reasons).

The Consumer

Consumers have a front end application designer tool which allows them to pick services and design web applications using compoents/services which
are found by reading a global directory (see below). They also have the choice to route this content over an anonymising infrastructure (like zeroknowledge). It also would allow the user to pay for these services via subscription or per use and to control quality of service requirements, persistence and alternatives.

The directory

At the heart of the system is a global directory (much like where vendors advertise their wares (in human readable format). This is important because it is a mechanism whereby consumers can request new functionality/classes of application to be written. The directory
is heirarchal and organic: cooperatively managed by the developer/consumers/intermediaries.

The intermediary

I see a strong market for intermediaries here to provide:

- dynamic bandwidth management - using things like rateXchange to dynamically purchasing bandwidth
- rebranding services
- consumer application hosting
- fan-in/concentration services for service suppliers - not everyone is going to have/desire services running on their home hardware.
- biling/credit control
- quality of service

Potential Customers

This has obvious use for the military who are increasingly being driven to use commercial static and wireless networks.

Persistent Psuedonyms

Anonymous identities have been widely used on the internet for both good and bad purposes. The biggest drawback is that it's not easy to communicate bidirectionally. Initial efforts were pioneered by the mixmaster remailers [Bacard] but there are vulnerabilities[Cottrel] which could be used to track messages to their originator. In answer to this problem, the Zero Knowledge Systems offered a robust anonymising service based on the work of Dr Stefan Brands, however, due to the issues post 9/11, the demand for this service disappeared overnight, leaving the door wide open for identity theft.

Open Source Component Providers

Cooperative Web-based Services Using XML


The main use of XML is as a vendor, platform and application independent data format that will be used to connect autonomous, heterogeneous applications. Building on this XML will enable a technology shift in computing whereby personalised business solutions will be constructed dynamically from distributed, cooperative applications (services) hosted by different classes organisations. XML will be successful in this area, where other technologies have failed, due to its simplicity, the fact that it has been designed from the outset for use on the Web, and most importantly, because it has across the board industry backing.


1. Bacard, A. Anonymous Remailer FAQ, Feb, 2000.

2. Cottrel, L.Mixmaster & Remailer Attacks, Feb, 2000.

3. Dyson, E. Zero Knowledge: It's freedom, baby!, Release 1.0, 12-99,15th December 1999.

4. Freedom Network 1.0 Architecture, I. Goldberg, A. Shostack, Zero-Knowledge Systems, Inc.,29th November 1999.

5. Using Electronic Markets to Achieve Efficient Task Distribution, I. Grigg, C. Petro, 28th February 1997.

6. The Role of XML in Enabling Business Solutions Built from Collaborative Web-Based Services, G. Burnett, M. Papiani, 16th December 1999.

7. The Power of Openness, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, various, 1999.

9. The Magic Cauldron, E. Raymond, 24th June 1999.

10. Linux meets Yahoo!, D. Pink, The Fast Company, 2000.

11. The Cathedral and the Bazaar, E. Raymond, 26th October, 1999.

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