BitClave is a decentralized search engine designed to solve the duopoly of Facebook and Google in the digital advertising market which is unfair to users and businesses.
The solution proposed is a protocol called BASE, which is the short form of the BitClave Active Search Ecosystem.
BASE is a decentralized system that connects end-users directly with businesses that are relevant to their needs and search queries, hence eliminating the need for external ad platforms like Bing Ads or AdWords.
With BASE, all you have to do is to perform a search on the BASE app and the platform will automatically connect you with businesses who can satisfy your need directly.
We recently sat down with Alex Bessonov, the CEO of BitClave to have a chat with him about the project as well as finding out his thoughts and insights.
Hi, Alex. Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us more about yourself and BitClave?
I have worked in cybersecurity for a long time, so data privacy has always been among my top interests. I was always very curious about data management and how people can monetize their data. This background, as well as my aspiration to build novel kinds of digital systems that solve open technical challenges eventually led me to the idea of a platform where users have full control of their data versus somebody reselling it. This is how I came up with the idea of BitClave.
BitClave is a blockchain startup headquartered in Mountain View, California. We are developing a decentralized network protocol called BitClave Active Search Ecosystem (BASE).
BASE provides a compelling alternative to the current walled-off garden of online advertising by prioritizing personal privacy and user control over data while supporting a transparent and streamlined process for businesses to reach customer audiences.
What do you think is the biggest problem BitClave will solve in the search engine or advertising industry and why is it important to solve?
If I had to capture the transformative potential of BitClave and decentralized search in a word, that word would be utility.
In terms of online privacy, achieving the benefits of engaging personalized services is often at odds with (or at the expense of) personal privacy. At BitClave, we asked how can we devise a platform that simultaneously enables the usefulness of data privacy and data sharing?
In terms of digital advertising, ads are generally the least savory part of our online experiences. For businesses, advertising is a costly and opaque process providing very little insight into the efficacy of their marketing dollars.
Here we asked whether we can transform the dynamics of digital advertising in ways that benefit both individuals and businesses. Can we transform online ads into an aspect of user experience people look forward to participating in? Can we provide a direct medium for promotion-to-purchase engagement that emphasizes the core function of advertising — to connect people with offerings that improve their quality of life. Can we unleash the locked up utility within the online ad network?
What was the decision behind using the blockchain for BitClave?
What can the blockchain do those other technologies cannot in building BitClave?
is addressing a very large problem of data privacy that affects everybody in the worldAlex Bessonov
Information asymmetry is the essence of exchange. One party has some information, capability, or asset that is valuable to the other party and likewise with the other party. And so, both sides, although perhaps mutually distrusting, would like to engage in a mutually beneficial exchange.
Within the cryptography space, this leads to the common requirement for a mechanism of establishing trust between the participants in a protocol. Traditionally this has been resolved using a central authority acting as a trusted third party. However, the costly overhead and risks associated with relying on central authorities to adjudicate trust decisions make decentralized trust models very appealing.
The blockchain is one such implementation of the decentralized trust model. What makes blockchain, in particular, a valuable protocol abstraction for the BitClave ecosystem, as well as quite relevant to many applications beyond cryptocurrency, is that its deployment overhead makes it a practical real-world solution for Internet-scale applications and its cryptographic consensus-based verification model extends well to the ad-hoc topology of the web.
Can you explain how a decentralized search engine actually works?
How does it work differently behind the scenes compared to traditional search engines like Google?
There are several differentiating features between traditional search engines and decentralized search on the BitClave ecosystem.
The primary searchable resources for traditional search engines is a web page whereas the primary searchable resource on BASE is an activity. An activity is any action recorded to BASE, including web-based events such as visiting a webpage, issuing a search query, viewing a personalized offer, or making an online purchase.
Whereas the primary user-facing tasks for traditional search engines include natural language processing and the retrieval of relevant web pages, the primary user-facing task for the BitClave search app is to rank services offerings based on a collaborative recommender system.
More broadly, BASE provides an open platform that supports many types of privacy-preserving search services in addition to the BitClave search app, and user has full control over personal data as well as earn each time a business-facing search service references their data.
Can you explain the process of a user earning CAT from search queries?
For example, let’s say that a user wants to look for a new phone, how would the search process look like from the user’s perspective and how does the user earn CAT?
Does this mean that users always earn CAT when they use BASE?
From the user’s perspective, the search experience is very straightforward. They simply enter their query (for example “best new smartphones”) and are shown a listing of offers based on this search. Users also earn simply by using the search app. All of this happens seamlessly behind the scenes while adhering to each user’s personal privacy settings.
There are at least two opportunities to earn for each search: indirectly from any previous searches that go into improving the current search results and directly through promotions offered by businesses. Collaborative recommender systems thrive on representative datasets. So anytime a user completes a search or uses any service connected to the BitClave ecosystem they improve the overall search experience for other users as well as increase their earning potential by indicating their preferences to businesses.
Editors Pick: BitClave ICO
A lot of the things you use on the Internet daily is free, but what does it actually cost you? Massive Internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Instagram let you do the things you like for free. Want to search for something? You get your query served instantly without having
Right now, advertisers can overcome the costs of things like Facebook Ads or AdWords by learning how to laser-target audiences, creating an effective sales funnel, as well as other things like copywriting.
If advertisers can already acquire users or customers effectively, what would be the advantage(s) of BASE compared to them and what can the platform do better?
The advertising market is a very large market with many options. Many businesses turn to Facebook Ads and Google AdWords as a cost-effective way to be seen by potential customers. Businesses can also incorporate other tools and techniques to finetune their sales funnel. However, customer acquisition and retention remain a key concern for all manner of business and there is certainly space for improvement.
We’ve also reached a saturation point in terms of the effectiveness of simple exposure advertising when banners, sponsored posts, and product placements follow people everywhere they go. Broken advertising is a key reason why ad blockers are among the most popular browser extensions and why subscription services are increasingly a very successful business model for content publishing platforms.
We aim to improve the relationship the average person has with online ads by prioritizing data privacy and user control. Instead of ads that are shown out of context and grudgingly tolerated as the cost of using free services, our users see offers on their own terms and are actively involved in establishing the connection with businesses. And they’re compensated for contributing the data that makes all this possible. We believe this improved dynamic will elevate the role of ads from simple exposure to enthusiastic engagement and provide a competitive edge for the businesses that adopt.
How is relevance determined in BASE?
Let’s say that a car dealership wants to promote the latest Honda cars.
Are leads generated for the car dealership solely based on search queries from users e.g “honda accord 2017 USA” or do you have other factors to determine relevance?
We’re aware that smart contracts are used to help this process but how does it work behind the scenes?
The primary task on BASE is to create direct connections between businesses and customers. Relevance for users refers to search results containing the best recommendations for a service given a user’s search query, ledger activities, and data use preferences. Relevance for businesses refers to search results containing user audiences most likely to purchase a given offering. So in addition to providing the most relevant search results for users, the activity of search on BASE needs to maximize the advertising budget for business.
Each search service on the network is characterized by how it operationalizes relevancy. For example, one search service provides recommendations based on the buying decisions and reviews of users with similar attributes as the user in question. Another search service may operationalize relevancy based primarily on an assessment of the relative popularity and reputation of the businesses providing services. Still, another search service may prioritize marketing campaigns that offer the best rewards matching a given user’s interests like “travel” or “restaurants.”
Traditional search engines rank results either based on PPC campaigns (AdWords) or other ranking factors which can be manipulated with SEO. How are results ranked in BASE? Is there such a thing as SEO?
Yes, there are elements of BASE that are decentralized analogs to the pay-per-click and bidding-based advertising models. There are also opportunities for businesses to improve their rankings and potentially increase traffic through SEO techniques.
What has been your happiest moment so far working on BitClave?
On the flipside, what has been the most painful, or perhaps the most regretful decision you’ve made with BitClave?
There were many highlights, but the moment we launched the alpha version of our first product www.matchico.com was one of the most remarkable. MatchICO is a decentralized platform, which aims to connect new ICO projects with purchasers who wish to make an investment in them. We’ve been working on it and testing it internally for a long time. We launched the alpha two weeks ago and we already have almost 150 projects and thousands of purchasers, so the future looks promising.
I would say, the most painful decision was rescheduling the token sale, but it was done for the best of our community, so it was the right decision for sure.
How would results look like if users are not looking to buy, or as we call it the bottom-of-the-funnel users?
For example, if a user were to search for something general like “how to write a good essay” or “how to cook steak”, how would this work in BitClave?
The initial BitClave search app will focus exclusively on product search and act as a virtual wallet users of BASE. However, the data residing on the decentralized search ecosystem is user-controlled and can be readily extended to support many other search services. It’s likely we will see general purpose knowledge engine and social graph implementations on BASE in the near future.
Why did you make the choice to use the CAT token as the backbone of BitClave?
Can you also explain more about the process of designing CAT to specifically fit in BitClave’s ecosystem?
One of the unique aspects of BASE as compared to other blockchain projects in online ad space is the way we utilize the protocol token. The Consumer Activity Token (CAT) is a protocol token used by customers, businesses, and service providers who contribute activity data and services to the BitClave ecosystem. Whereas many projects have protocol tokens that function as cryptocurrency used to reward users for looking at ads, CATs quantify the value of data on the network.
What do you think is the biggest challenge or obstacle BitClave will face? How do you plan to tackle that challenge?
Raising money while building a product is a challenging thing for any startup, but we’ve coped with this task pretty well I think. The next big thing is scaling the business, next year we will focus primarily on building out the full network both in terms of software development and business development. We don’t want to build yet another startup, we want to change the huge market and what is more challenging – people’s minds and views on data privacy. It’s a very ambitious goal, but we are ready for it.
Where do you expect BitClave to be in a few years?
BitClave is addressing a very large problem of data privacy that affects everybody in the world. So, in a long-term period, we hope to see massive adoption of blockchain technology and expansion of our product to include millions of users along with tens of thousands of small, medium and large businesses. We hope to provide an alternative approach to digital advertising and to create a paradigm shift in people’s view of their data.
Moving on to more personal stuff, what does a typical day in your life look like?
Lots of emails, calls, and meetings. We have an international team, and some of the team members are based out of Europe and Asia. We need to be in touch, so my day starts around 7 am and ends very late. Also, there are lots of business trips and events we participate in. Last week I was in Korea and Japan, where I was speaking at the meetups and had lots of business meetings.
Can you express one personal opinion of yours about the blockchain? It doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive, we just want to hear your thoughts on it.
I’m absolutely sure that blockchain is a revolutionary technology, that will no doubt change many industries. It has huge potential. However, as with any new, emerging technology, there are those who are understandably skeptical. The blockchain is still in its toddler age. Much more should happen before it becomes mainstream technology. Many of the projects that we see today will fail, but those that will succeed will undeniably move us closer to our goal – decentralization!
Finally, what other personal goals (besides your career) do you have in life? Is there anything else in life you want to achieve?
I’m a very lucky man since I love my career and I’m truly passionate about what I’m doing. The more you love your job, the harder you work, but I’m trying to achieve the work-life balance and spend more time with my family. One ambitious goal I have in the back of my mind is to write a book about the blockchain technology, based on my cybersecurity background and the BitClave’s team experience.
That concludes our Interview with Alex Bessonov
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