Cypherpunk Guild Launches on NEAR

Cypherpunk Guild
Feb 24 · 6 min read

Privacy Advocates, It’s Time To Pay Attention

“We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.” — The Cypherpunk Manifesto

Privacy is a topic that has become more prominent in recent years, as awareness surrounding unwarranted data collection has increased. An entire generation of Silicon Valley products, starting with Google, inaugurated what has been aptly coined Surveillance Capitalism. These products, unlike traditional software services, offer users an experience in return for their personal data. Complex partnerships between intelligence agencies, financial institutions, and tech behemoths have resulted in a march towards dystopia that few would deny, and that Cypherpunks have long foreseen.

On the NEAR Protocol, the Cypherpunk Guild has officially launched as the largest community funded initiative to date. This launch is one of the most exciting events in all of crypto. For the first time, a group of privacy minded developers, marketers, and entrepreneurs, are jointly collaborating to pioneer a future built around private transactions on NEAR, and private applications on the Open Web. It could not be more timely, more necessary, or more in line with the original mission of Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies.

Cypherpunks Write Code

An excerpt from the Cypherpunk Manifesto

Cypherpunks are not well known today, because they have largely been forgotten or deplatformed. Arto Bendiken, the leading force behind the creation of the Cypherpunk Guild, explains the long and rich history of cypherpunk software contributions in the Cypherpunk Guild Proposal:

“Cypherpunks are advocates for the widespread use of strong cryptography and technologies that enhance privacy and self-sovereignty. Cypherpunks invented/created the EFF, PGP, SSL, SSH, BitTorrent, Tor, WikiLeaks, Bitcoin, smart contracts, Zcash, and Signal, among other notable achievements.”

The Cypherpunk Guild is continuing that tradition today, by incubating a next-generation of privacy solutions on the Open Web.

May/June 1993 cover of Wired (source)

When Eric Hughes wrote the Cypherpunk Manifesto, he spoke to the need for privacy in a free society:

“Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been the primary such system. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. An anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy.”

Open-Source protocols, building in the Metaverse, are equally relevant to the same demand. If NEAR wishes to successfully birth the open, decentralized, and permissionless digital society that it aspires to create, then including privacy is a fundamental and essential component of that vision. That is why the Cypherpunk Guild matters.

The Mission and Activities of the Cypherpunk Guild

The Cypherpunk Guild has applied for funding of 100k $NEAR for the next 18 months, to start building the future of privacy on NEAR. The first, and overarching priority of the Guild, will be to Get Private Transactions built into NEAR. In parallel to completing this milestone, the Cypherpunk Guild will work to recruit the next generation of privacy minded entrepreneurs, developers and Cypherpunks to launch privacy minded and user-first solutions.

An unencrypted transaction.
Encrypted transaction.

What is important to note is that these initiatives come at a time when other Layer 1s are only starting to take privacy concerns seriously. As Arto writes in the proposal, launching Cypherpunk Guild today gives NEAR a first mover advantage in the space, and a high likelihood of attracting other Cypherpunks and privacy minded developers to the protocol.

In summary Cypherpunk Guild aspires to bring the following to NEAR:

  • Private Transactions to NEAR Smart Contracts.
  • Developer, Entrepreneur, and Enterprise Support for Privacy Solutions in Web3
  • A hub for new and existing Cypherpunks, at a time when privacy concerns are increasing significantly.
  • Starting new conversations, hosting events, and enabling the next-generation of Cypherpunks through meetups, forum discussions, and online events.

Who Sits on the Council of Cypherpunk Guild?

Image source

An important indicator of the seriousness and future potential of the Cypherpunk Guild, are the founding council members involved in growing the guild over the next 18 months.

  • Arto Bendiken: An original member of the Cypherpunk movement dating back to the 1990s. Outspoken privacy advocate. Digital Nomad, Hacker, public speaker, and software engineer with more than 20 years of experience working in entrepreneurial ventures. For a general overview of Arto’s past experience and beliefs see his Humans of NEAR Interview.
  • Frank Braun: Doctor in Computer Science (PhD). Seasoned Software Engineer and Cypherpunk Activist. Host of the Cypherpunk Bitstream Podcast, featured in the Down the Deep Dark Web Documentary. For a more detailed overview of Frank’s life and previous ventures see his Humans of NEAR Interview.
  • Jon Matonis: Director and Chief Economist of Cypherpunk Holdings (the 9th largest Bitcoin wallet in the world). Founding Director of the Bitcoin Foundation. Over the course of his professional career Jon has held senior positions at Sumitomo Bank, Hushmail, VISA and VeriSign.
  • Evgeny “Eugene The Dream” Kuzyakov: ICPC gold medalist (2008). Eugene brings a career of software development experience starting at Google, moving onto Facebook, and since focused on Machine Learning and blockchain research. He currently works for NEAR.
  • Yulian Lavysh: Business Development and Marketing Expert at NEAR bringing over 5 years of experience working at high growth startups at the intersection of data, software development, marketing and business growth strategies.
  • Dani Osorio: Dani brings over 12 years of experience to high-growth startups. Previously having worked for Infura, as Director of Global Partnerships and Marketing, and ConsenSys as Executive Director of developer tools, Dani is intimately familiar with a diverse array of stakeholders across the crypto industry. She currently works on the NEAR Developer Relations team.
  • Ozymandius: Founder of 4NTS Guild, the first guild in the NEAR Ecosystem.

From what is publicly available, there is no better group of Cypherpunks and privacy advocates working jointly to advance the Cypherpunk mission in the Web3 space. From IPCC Gold Medalists, to serial entrepreneurs, monetary economists, Computer Science PhDs, and long-time business development and management experts, the Cypherpunk Guild is uniquely positioned to incubate and develop a host of privacy solutions on NEAR over the long term.

Get Involved In The Cypherpunk Guild

Learn more about Cypherpunks on the Cypherpunk Bitstream podcast hosted by founding guild member Frank Braun

The Cypherpunk Guild is a new guild. It needs passionate and committed guild members to advance the cypherpunk mission and vision of bringing privacy and freedom to the Open Web and beyond. As Eric Hughes originally wrote:

“For privacy to be widespread it must be part of a social contract. People must come and together deploy these systems for the common good. Privacy only extends so far as the cooperation of one’s fellows in society. We the Cypherpunks seek your questions and your concerns and hope we may engage you so that we do not deceive ourselves.”

To get involved you can join the discussion on the Cypherpunk Community Chat or follow the Cypherpunk Guild on Twitter.

“We have to make privacy profitable.”Jon Matonis, Director and Chief Economist of Cypherpunk Holdings

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