Proof of existence is an online service to anonymously & securely store an online distributed proof of existence for any kind of document.
In this way, the blockchain technology can be used as a notary service. Yes, this notary system has a difference. The difference being that the ‘proof’ which is basically an ‘acceptance’ by someone with authority to accept or reject, is decentralised in nature.
Consensus as a service
This creative application of the bitcoin technology can revolutionise the intellectual property rights landscape for artists, legal systems, journalists and authors.
I have always disagreed and continue to do so, that the profitable realm in the Bitcoin investing is not in the financial applications of Bitcoin tech, but rather in the non-financial applications of the Bitcoin Blockchain technology. The investors and venture capitalists are starting to see the value in blockchain tech, which acts as a universal ledger that holds the Bitcoin transactions.
But what if the ledger could store more valuable information? Like, for example, Healthcare data? An even better use case is proving to the world, with a timestamped public proof, that the document is indeed yours. That’s what proofofexistence.com envisions.
Proof of Existence
We must first congratulate Manuel Aráoz for having chosen this name — Proof of Existence. There is a certain existential twist and religiously mythological aroma to it.
Digressions and appreciations aside — Proof of Existence is opening up creative solutions for the world of Intellectual Property Rights.
Here is a question that can help us understand the problem of our interest — How can you verify the integrity and ownership of a document, without reading or revealing the information that the document holds?
Let’s ask another question. How can you timestamp a document and add proof that the document was created or existed at one particular time?
Use Case Scenario
Proof of Existence is better explained as an imaginary story
The year is 2024. Leonardo Da Vinci creates a masterpiece, again. Only this time he saves the png file of the masterpiece on his MacBook Air (strange choice, as one would expect a man of that caliber to use an iMac) and uploads the png document to proofofexistence.com.
Months have passed. One fine day, while doing a Google search Da Vinci discovers that his art piece now has Salvador Dali’s sign on it. Probably a good photoshop work was involved in the process. The system readily identifies the mismatch, based on timestamps and the cryptographic digest of the file.
Da Vinci was elated. Dali, infuriated.
How it Works? How did Da Vinci do it?
Da Vinci uploaded a file to proofofexistence.com. He had to pay a minimal transaction fee for the service. “This is cheaper than availing a lawyer,” he thought to himself quietly.
The document was anonymously uploaded and a hash was generated. This hash then stays in the blockchain ledger, forever.
For verifying this transaction and to establish the proof of existence, ownership, & identity of the document (which is now an encrypted hash), the nodes of computers (miners) end up including the hash of the information on the bitcoin blockchain.
“This is pure democracy at play”, Da Vinci thought to himself loudly. “This is nefarious”, cried Dali out loud, twirling his moustache.
Author Note: Of the two I like Dali better. It is this sense of ownership that gives me the liberty to use his name with discretionary shamelessness. Artists don’t copy. Art cannot be copied, even by the artist himself. There is only one masterpiece. Thinking of Dali stealing from his predecessors is almost… surreal.
But that was before .png and .pdf. So this story doesn’t hurt the people’s names I used anyway. Also, I don’t think they both lived in the same time frame.
Images from Proof of Existence.