A new Austin startup wants to put an end to fake news, fake profiles and “alternative facts” online.
Authenticated Reality launched its product, a browser called “The New Internet,” in private beta testing this week.
The browser essentially sits on top of every webpage its users visit, letting them authenticate stories they believe are real by placing their digital signature on them as an endorsement.
“With the latest plague of fake news, fake comments, fake advertising, fake everything, we know the time is right for this,” said Chris Ciabarra, co-founder and chief technology officer for Authenticated Reality. “Our platform puts power into the hands of the people to call out falsehoods and maliciousness on the internet. We’re doing this by ensuring all users in the community are real people who have been properly verified in order to be active on the platform.”
Here’s how it works: Users create an account on Authenticated Reality’s website by logging in with a social media account and scanning the barcode on their driver’s license.
When approved, users download the company’s browser onto their device and surf the web as they ordinarily would. Users can also rate and comment on every web page through a pop-up sidebar, which lets you see the actual identity of others who are commenting.
Downloading the browser will cost $19.99 per user for personal accounts, according to the company’s website.
Authenticated Reality is also pursuing business and government customers. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed for those users, the company said.
“All businesses need e-mail authentication. A lot of people are impersonating other people right now. It’s like ‘Is this person real who’s coming through my door or not?’ ” Ciabarra said. “Our email platform adds a layer of authenticity to all online business interactions.”
Prior to founding Authenticated Reality, Ciabarra was co-founder and chief technology officer of Revel, a San Francisco-based iPad point-of-sale startup. Ciabarra left Revel earlier this year, following a change in the company’s top management.
But Ciabarra said he was already laying the foundation for Authenticated Reality while still at Revel. He looked at cities including San Diego before choosing Austin for the company’s headquarters.
“In San Francisco, everybody already has a good job and it’s real hard to find talent,” he said. “I’ve been to Austin many times, and it seems to be a better place to run a startup.”
So far, Authenticated Reality has 12 employees at its offices at 600 Congress Ave. The company, which Ciabarra said has raised seed money from undisclosed investors, is hiring in engineering, marketing and finance.
As the company prepares to launch its browser to the public, among the challenges will be getting people to try it out, said co-founder and CEO Darin Andersen.
“A lot of people are sort of worn down by security, so it’s hard to put out yet another product,” he said. “But at a time when people are looking for something fresh, this is an opportunity for them to take their security back and control it themselves. We’re excited about that.”