Proof of Existence using Blockchains

One prominent feature of blockchains, the underlying technology behind Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies is that their decentralized and distributed nature makes it difficult to tamper with data once it gets validated and accepted in the blockchain. Blockchains are designed to make it very difficult for anyone without a substantially huge amount of computational resources to forge data, several copies of which are cryptographically secured on a public blockchain. As blockchain technology becomes more secure and widely adopted, it’s opening up possibilities for several other use cases besides digital cash transactions. One such use case is Proof of Existence services.

What is Proof of Existence?

A Proof of Existence is a blockchain powered service that verifies the existence of digital documents at a certain point in time. Proof of Existence service providers usually provide an online platform for users to submit their digital documents such as birth certificates, wills, ownership/transfer of properties, business or other documents.

The service cryptographically converts the contents of the documents to a hash value in a blockchain. The original document is disposed off and only its hash value is stored. It is highly unlikely for different documents to have the same hash value, and it’s impossible to reverse engineer a hash to obtain the contents of the original document. Thus, a document’s hash value together with the timestamp of the blockchain acts as a proof that the document existed at that given point in time.

What are the benefits of a Proof of Existence service?

Some benefits include:

  1. Provides a convenient way for users to prove that they own a certain document, without needing to disclose the actual contents of the document.
  2. Provides a mechanism to check the integrity of data – a document when uploaded every subsequent time would generate the same hash value which would prove that the document has not been modified.
  3. Saves on expensive third party notary fees. Proof of Existence services in comparison are quite inexpensive.
  4. A Proof of Existence, once generated has little chance of getting lost, tempered with or destroyed since it lies on a decentralized, distributed network which mitigates the risks of a single point of failure and stores the document hash in perpetuity.
  5. Users can upload their documents anonymously, so there are few privacy issues.

Who can benefit from these services?

Anyone who owns a digital document and who would otherwise avail the services a traditional notary can benefit from using these services.

What are some Proof of Existence service providers?

The first Proof of Existence service was developed by Manuel Araoz and Esteban Ordano and launched as an open source project in 2013. The service was subsequently acquired by Canaan.

Some other notable Proof of Existence services are Bitcoin.com Notary , Bernstein, Blocknotary, Copyrobo, Origin Stamp, Stampery, Stampd, and Signatura.

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