HOPR is a data privacy protocol looking out for your personal information. Like the TOR network or a VPN, the blockchain-powered project is more than just another transaction obscurer like Monero or Zcash. Instead, it allows you to browse and exchange information privately. But how can HOPR provide this kind of privacy at scale? Through incentivization.
As is the case with most blockchain networks, HOPR relies on a decentralized set of users, or nodes, to function. To privatize information, HOPR takes your data, stores it in packets, and bounces it between multiple nodes, each of which mixes it up with other packets. This makes it impossible for anyone - even HOPR node runners themselves - to link you to your data.
Of course, nodes are incentivized to mix via HOPR's cryptocurrency. Participating in the network and becoming a node rewards you for each data packet you help scramble. Rewards increase with network activity, incentivizing users to participate even more.
HOPR will also provide holders with staking rewards. Mixnets like HOPR need what's known as "cover traffic" to ensure constant privacy. Cover traffic is meaningless data that obscures how many people are using the network at any given time. By linking cover traffic to staking, HOPR achieves the Holy Grail of consistent returns which are fundamentally linked to the operation of the protocol, rather than being an arbitrary gimmick.
However, HOPR is not just focused on token rewards. The team is placing a strong emphasis on community. To emphasize the user-run mantra, the project recently took its first steps towards building a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).
As you may know, a DAO is essentially a government for a decentralized network - and a vital part of the technology's future. Decentralized networks are entirely autonomous. While this is good because there's no central authority to take fees or tell users what to do, it also means there's no clear responsibilities when it comes to ownership, liability or essential upgrades and maintenance. This is where a DAO comes into play, allowing the community to collectively reach and implement decisions.
Generally, those who hold more tokens get more voting power. However, in the case of HOPR, the development team is running a few DAO experiments to see what works best. Advanced mechanisms such as quadratic voting can strike a balance between rewarding investment and preventing the centralization of voting power. HOPR is also keenly focused on building a system which can operate in the real world - while most crypto governance is limited to on-chain decisions, HOPR is trying to build a system which can transact and negotiate with off-chain entities, all without exposing DAO members to liability. This is uncharted territory, so it's understandable that HOPR is taking a step-by-step approach.
HOPR's governance model is based on the semi-direct democracy of their home country, Switzerland. Proposals are made in a discussion forum and then signed by community members to signal support. The entire process is incentivized, with 50,000 HOPR tokens allocated as rewards in the first experiment.
After one week of discussion, proposals with sufficient support are then voted on by token holders. What's interesting here is anyone who holds HOPR can vote. Most projects require you to stake, or lock in, assets to have a say. Not asking this is a great way to open up the vote and welcome in more participants. Also, for the sake of community, neither the HOPR team nor the overall HOPR Association Treasury will have a vote.
This isn't HOPR's first foray into decentralized governance. The entire launch of the HOPR token in February 2021 was handed to the community via the HOPR Genesis DAO, in what the HOPR team claims is one of the fairest launches in crypto history. Not only did the community get to determine the process for the eventually $30m launch, but the HOPR team and HOPR Association received none of the proceeds from the launch, which instead went to providing liquidity to support the HOPR Token. It's the distribution of this liquidity, currently locked in the Uniswap exchange, which will form the topic for the latest governance experiment.
HOPR plans to hold monthly sessions such as this one, each with its own incentive pool. The community will increasingly control the future of the HOPR project, which hopes to become a full DAO by the time of the Association's first annual meeting in late 2021.
While there's still a long way to go, HOPR appears to be one of the more balanced blockchain-based projects. It's one where participants truly own the network and where smart, fair changes are put into play. One can only hope other projects adopt such an open model.