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In this episode of The Van Wirdum Sjorsnado, Aaron and Sjors discuss Open Timestamps, a Bitcoin-based timestamping project from applied cryptography consultant and former Bitcoin Core contributor Peter Todd. Open Timestamps leverages the security of the Bitcoin blockchain to timestamp any type of data, providing irrefutable proof that that data existed at any given time.
Aaron and Sjors explain that virtually any amount of data can in fact be timestamped into the Bitcoin blockchain at minimal cost, as Open Timestamps uses Merkle trees, the cryptographic trick to concatenate data into a single, dense hash . This hash is then incorporated into a Bitcoin transaction, making any data concatenated in the hash as immutable as any other Bitcoin transaction.
Todd offered an interesting showcase of Open Timestamps earlier this week, proving that the public key Google used to sign “the email” to Hunter Biden did indeed exist in 2016.
Aaron and Sjors also discuss some of the other possibilities that a timestamping system like Open Timestamps offers, as well as its limitations. Finally, Aaron provides a little bit of context for the history of cryptographic timestamps, which was itself referenced in the Bitcoin white paper.