We recently spoke with Kristian Kielhofner, a developer and entrepreneur who’s on his third go-round as a startup founder and CEO after two very successful exits. He’s built a next-gen, crypto-centric media asset management platform, Tovera, which launched two days ago.
Developer customers are regularly choosing Backblaze B2 as the cloud storage platform that sits under their products and services. We feel lucky to learn about the innovations they are bringing to this world. Kristian found a clearer path to setting up CORS for B2 Cloud Storage and Cloudflare, so we asked him to share why he started Tovera, how he thought through his cloud storage options, and the exact steps he took to go live with his solution.—Backblaze
The Tovera Backstory: Fighting Deepfakes
One morning, this story really caught my attention.
Like many technology enthusiasts, I’m familiar with deepfakes. That said, the “Pennsylvania Cheerleading Mom” story told me something: As we’ve seen time and time again, technology rapidly evolves beyond its original intended use. Sometimes for our benefit, and (unfortunately) sometimes not so much…
I realized it would only be a matter of time before this incredibly powerful technology would be in the hands of everyone—for uses good or evil. With more research, I found that (not surprisingly) the current approach to stopping misuse of the technology utilizes the same fundamental machine learning approaches powering the deepfakes themselves. It seems that what we now have is a machine learning arms race: a new model to generate deepfakes, a new model to detect them. Around and around we go.
I began thinking of approaching the deepfake problem from the other side of the coin. What if, instead of using machine learning to guess what is fake, we prove what is real? Deepfake detection models can’t provide 100% certainty today (or ever), but cryptographic authentication can. This simple idea was the genesis for Tovera.
What Does Tovera Do?
Tovera takes digital media you upload and uses existing cryptography and emerging blockchain technology to create a 100% secure validation record. When published on our platform, we can confirm (with 100% certainty) that your digital media assets are yours and haven’t been tampered with.
After working through the initial proof of concept, I had another revelation: “Hey, while we’re hitting our API whenever and wherever digital media is viewed, why don’t we return some extra stuff?” Now, not only can our users validate that their content is really theirs and hasn’t been modified, they can use the features provided by Tovera Publish to dynamically update their released digital content from our dashboard. With Tovera, any changes you make to your digital media and online presence are updated across social media platforms, websites, and devices globally—instantly.
In keeping with our mission of ensuring everyone can protect, validate, and control their online presence, we provide this technology for free with a simple sign up and onboarding process.
The Tovera Storage Journey
To provide this service, we needed to host the digital media files somewhere. Of course, you have your go-to juggernauts—Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The problem is Tovera is a tiny startup. Having some prior startup experience, I know that spending your money and time wisely from the beginning is one of the most important things you can do.
I took one look at pricing from the “big three” cloud providers through the lens of someone who has experience buying bandwidth and storage (long story) and I thought, “Wow, this is a good business.” As has been covered on this blog and elsewhere, the storage and (especially) bandwidth markups from the big providers is, to put it mildly, significant.
Like some of you, I’ve also been a fan of Backblaze for a long time. Since it was announced, I’ve kept an eye on their B2 Cloud Storage product. So, one morning I took it upon myself to give Backblaze B2 a try.
Sign up and initial onboarding couldn’t have been easier. I found myself in the Backblaze B2 user dashboard up and running in no time. Creating application keys for my purposes was also extremely easy.
After deciding B2 Cloud Storage would work in theory, I decided to try it out in practice. As I integrated the service into Tovera, I ran into a few different vexing issues. I thought other devs might be able to benefit from my CORS troubleshooting, and so I’m outlining my experience here.
Checking the Backblaze S3 Compatible API
We make it simple for our users to upload their assets directly to our cloud storage provider. Because B2 Cloud Storage has the Backblaze S3 Compatible API, the use of presigned URLs fits the bill. This way, Tovera users can upload their digital media assets directly to Backblaze, securely, and make them available to the world via our platform.
In case you’re not familiar with the presigned URL process, the overall flow looks something like the structure laid out in this blog post.
Integrating Cloudflare and Setting Up CORS
Between the Bandwidth Alliance and having dealt with DDoS attacks and shady internet stuff in general before, I’m also a big fan of Cloudflare. Fortunately, Backblaze provides guidance on how to best use B2 Cloud Storage with Cloudflare to make use of their combined power.
Once I set up Cloudflare to work with B2 Cloud Storage and the Tovera API services were returning valid, presigned URLs for clients to do a direct HTTP PUT, I tried it out in our Next.js-powered user dashboard.
Uh-oh. Dreaded CORS errors. I’ll spare you the details, but here’s where things get interesting… I don’t know about you, but CORS can be a little frustrating. LONG story short, I dug in deep, feeling a little like I was wandering around a dark room looking for the light switch.
After fumbling around a bit, I was able to piece together the following with the Backblaze B2 command line utility:
With this usage of the Backblaze B2 command line utility, we’re setting the following CORS rules on our bucket:
- Allow users to download Backblaze B2 files from anywhere using the native B2 Cloud Storage interfaces.
With these rules, Tovera users can use our embeddable verification links across any site they provide them to—existing websites, social media networks, and more. In other applications you may want to limit these CORS rules to what makes sense for your use case.
Focusing on What’s Important
With Backblaze B2, we at Tovera can focus on our mission of putting our digital media security, validation, and publishing functionality in the hands of as many people as possible. Tovera users can take back control of their online presence and address the many threats posed by deepfake technologies that threaten their likeness, reputation, and brand.
Kristian Kielhofner works on overall technical architecture, vision, and strategy for Tovera when he’s not out buying yet another whiteboard to scribble on. Kristian previously built, grew, and exited Star2Star Communications—a leading provider of business productivity solutions.