Amid Fake News, Authenticated Reality Launches “The New Internet”
Austin—At a time of fake news and “alternative facts,” it makes sense that a tech entrepreneur would try to find a way to innovate to ensure our encounters on the Internet are real.
Chris Ciabarra, co-founder and CTO of Authenticated Reality, says the startup’s new browser—one that would require users to prove they are who they say they are—is the right way to mend what’s wrong with the Internet. With his product, “everyone knows who everybody is,” he says. “When you do something, you’re putting your reputation behind it.”
Authenticated Reality’s browser, which launches a beta today, works like this: Users sign up for an account on the startup’s website, then scan their driver’s license, and take a photo in order to be authenticated and registered. On approval, the user can download Authenticated Reality’s browser onto their device and surf the Internet as usual. Users can also rate and comment on each Web page through a pop-up sidebar, which further holds people accountable, Ciabarra says.
Ciabarra says the startup’s browser “sits on top” of the Internet, which creates what he calls “The New Internet.” “Others are doing this on a site-by-site basis,” he says. “We’re giving this feature for the entire Internet.”
Users must be over 17 years of age with a valid driver’s license. Passports can be used but they require a manual check that takes about 10 minutes, Ciabarra says. If the passport is deemed invalid, the user would be kicked off the browser. (To sign up, click here.) Eventually, the company says an app will be available for purchase for an annual fee of $19.99 per user for personal accounts and $99.99 for each business account.
Jon von Tetzchner, who led browser development at Opera Software (a company he founded in 1995), says he understands the impulse to create a browser like Authenticated Reality. When I asked him for his thoughts about the product, he said the key in developing a product like this is to avoid solutions that are worse than the problem you are trying to solve.
“We have seen the misuse of these fantastic tools that we’ve built, but do we want to go to a system where everything is monitored?” asks von Tetzchner.
Angel investor and former PayPal Media Networks COO David Chang says authentication is an area of increasing interest, and opportunity. He points to a startup called Confirm.io, which last year raised $4 million to support a private beta test of its software, which is designed to integrate with mobile and Web apps and help authenticate users’ identities. (Chang is also not involved with Authenticated Reality.)
For example, Confirm.io’s technology is being used in Austin during the TNC driver background check for ride-hailing services such as Arcade City and Get Me, according to the Austin Business Journal. Chang says these types of technologies typically have great value in specific communities, like those pertaining to healthcare or finance—as opposed to the Internet broadly. Also, he says one challenge at the start for companies like Authenticated Reality is simply getting a critical mass of people to sign up.
Prior to starting Authenticated Reality, Ciabarra was the co-founder and CTO of Revel Systems, a San Francisco maker of point-of-sale software that raised $130 million. He and his co-founder were dismissed last week and the company taken over by one of its major investors, according to a BuzzFeed News report.
Ciabarra says one Revel investor has provided Authenticated Reality a seed round of funding and that the startup is in the process of raising a Series A investment. He declined to provide specific amounts.
“The users want this,” Ciabarra says. “I want to get every single person in the world on this platform.”