OpenTimestamps (OTS) is an open-source project that provides a standard format for blockchain timestamping. It uses blockchain technology to create a proof of the existence of documents. Users can verify these timestamps without relying on a trusted third party. This increases the security of the timestamps because malicious or careless third parties cannot compromise them anymore.
OpenTimestamps defines the rules and offers users the tools to create timestamps and later be able to verify them. OpenTimestamps supports Bitcoin timestamping but can also support other methods. Everyone can create a timestamp using the blockchain and by paying the fees.
What is a timestamp?
A timestamp is a system that allows keeping proof of the existence of data on a specific date and time. The term “proof” refers to the fact that no one, not even the owner of the timestamp, can change it.
Timestamps on the blockchain
It is not necessary to publish the data or its content on the blockchain to create this proof. Committing the data to the blockchain is enough. The commitment of data proves that it existed before a certain block. If the data changes, the proof becomes invalid.
There are several commitment operations on the blockchain, which the proof consists of. Some examples are sha256, append and prepend.
These cryptographic commitment operations prove that the data commits to a certain block header on the blockchain. The data causes the block header to have its value. If the data was different at that exact time and date, the block header would be different.
The cryptographic operations verify the commitment of data in sequence. The result should be the transaction Merkle root. They check if the result is the same as the one seen on the blockchain. The commitment passes the check if this is the case. One can then assert that the data existed before the block.
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