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WordProof: How timestamps for content enable a trustable web

WordProof: How timestamps for content enable a trustable web

Key points:

  • WordProof is a start-up enabling easy timestamps for content, then stores that info on a blockchain
  • Timestamps are a potential game-changer for verification, ownership of content and search results and on social media
  • Integrations are currently available for WordPress, Shopify and via an API
  • The start-up from Amsterdam received some financial support from the EU and other sources

Introducing something new

In June 2019 the Dutch developer and entrepreneur Sebastiaan van der Lans entered the stage of WordCamp Europe in Berlin to talk about something new. The title of his talk was: “From WordPress to Blockchain: The future is 100% open source”. Thirty minutes later he received a standing ovation from an audience of roughly 2,500 WordPress developers.  Why? Van der Lans took the audience on a journey from the past to the future. He started with the general benefits of the internet for everyone, then moved on to talk about the benefits of open source, where value is created for everyone. 

Sebastiaan van der Lans, Founder WordProof.io. Photo: Bob Bronshoff, 2000.

Van der Lans is a strong advocate for open source, because of positive experiences. He is the founder of a web agency and has years of experience. For example, he and his team created a GDPR plug-in, which became very popular. While this project did not generate any direct revenue, the success created tangible benefits for the team and the company. 

From publishing to finance to general business the talk advocated a vision of inclusion and fair distribution. WordPress itself is a good example. The software is open-source, it can be self-hosted and used for free. It has become the most popular Content Management System (CMS) worldwide, with a share of 40%, far ahead of commercial platforms. That share of usage has increased in the past years, despite fierce competition in this field.

Blockchain and decentralized communities

But then the presentation took a turn to yet another topic: Sebastiaan talked about blockchain. About decentralized versus centralized organisations. Blockchain is an enabler of new business models and could be a push forward, specifically in the field of content and creative services. A key reason: With blockchain, it is possible to exchange value without middlemen. Only at the very end of the talk, he introduced where opensource, new models and blockchain were all incorporated: The concept of timestamps for content. The presentation received a standing ovation.

Screenshot: Introduction of WordProof at WordCamp 2019

A screenshot from the presentation where WordProof was introduced the first time

What is a timestamp?

Essentially, a timestamp is simple. It’s a record of the time and day when a piece of content was published. Based on this information a hash is generated, comparable to a fingerprint. This hash is then stored in a blockchain. As a result, the origin of the content can be verified and that the stated information is correct. It can be trusted because blockchain records are trustable. When the content is changed, the timestamp is updated, creating a transparent record of the content creation process. This way there is a record that can be checked.

It is a simple addition, but there are a number of benefits – for content origin, for ownership and specifically for search: 

  • Firstly, with a timestamp, a publisher can present proof that the content is original. Everyday content, such as articles, photos, videos is used without permission. So far, there is no real handle to fight this. With timestamps, publishers have a way to legally fight such practices. Securing against unauthorized content use does not have to be all commercial, it can be applied to secure creative commons assets as well. 
  • Secondly, a timestamp provides a way to determine who published something first. In the news and information business, the time of publication is an important factor. Being first and not just copying content distinguishes one organization from the other.
  • Thirdly, with timestamps search could be become considerably better. So far it is relatively easy to trick a search engine. For example, old content can appear as new content if the publishing data is changed. While Google and Co. of course have ways to detect some fraud, it is an ongoing arms race. Determining original quality content is costly. Timestamps could make it much easier to find good information. This could result in a profound change. Once search engines start to consider verified timestamps as a mark of quality, many dynamics of content publishing could change.

Content publishing without timestamps is comparable to cars without registration plates

Why would timestamps be such an important change? For comparison: Just imagine a world where cars were introduced a couple of years ago and are now wildly popular. People enjoy the freedom of being able to go anywhere in a short time. But, in this world, number plates were not invented. When an accident happens, resulting in either a small scratch or injured passengers, it would be almost impossible to identify the cars (and the drivers) involved in the incident. There would be an incentive to hide your identity. There would be no insurance.

What the example shows is this: Sometimes little additions define the characteristics of an entire system. For content, publishing timestamps could be that addition, the missing element which changes many aspects for the better. Since the introduction of the internet, we have witnessed a revolution in how anyone can publish information. We moved from a world where finding certain information would result in spending days or even weeks in a library to getting instant access. Positive again. This is very positive.

But without content data that can be verified, the entire system can be tricked by a few bad actors. Adding verifiable data could change this. Search is a business generating billions of Euros. With timestamps, great content could gain more value in many ways. The good stuff could be displayed on top of searches, there could be models to support authors. This is why timestamps are so interesting. Adding verifiable information in an easy way would help to fight misinformation without making publishing too complex.

How to use the WordProof plugin

Timestamps could be for digital content was number plates are for cars. How difficult is it to install and use this system? First, search for Wordproof in the plug-in section of WordPress. The installation is simple, no blockchain experience needed. One needs to register on WordProof.io for an account. Articles will then automatically get a timestamp. When the content is changed or updated, the timestamp is updated as well. As an option, the timestamp can be displayed along with the content. 

Video: Installing WordProof in less than 5 minutes

Steps for the installation

The first step for the installation is to install the WordProof plugin in WordPress. Then the website needs to be registered on WordProof. The set-up is guided and simple, there is no prior knowledge of blockchain needed. Once everything is done all articles will be timestamped and additional information can be displayed under the content. Below is the information which would be shown if the link is opened.

A timestamp of an article showing information when the article was published

 

A timestamp of an article, showing information when the content was published.

What does it cost?

To try it out Wordproof.io offers a free tier, which covers 10 timestamps per month. For websites with a more frequent publication, the pricing ranges between 10 and 40 Euro per month. The biggest standard package available covers 1500 timestamps per month on ten different websites and there’s an API available for large users. Some publishers timestamp over 10000 articles a month

The idea of incurring extra costs for authentication and verifications of content will be a barrier forfor adoption.  But, as the example with the number plates for cars tried to show: Paying a small amount for trustable content might be a very good investment. 

Timestamps to fight misinformation and copyright infringement

Given the problems with misinformation, many media companies should be interested in timestamps. But it might take time towards broad acceptance. Given how easy it is to publish fabricated content there is a latent demand by quality news providers to differentiate reliable information. Search engines need to wake up and start considering timestamps as a mark of quality and a reason to rank such content higher.  

Smaller websites should consider using Wordproof, specifically if they publish original content. Paid plans of Wordproof comes with a tool to fight copyright infringements. For larger media companies timestamps are making sense even now. Being able to verify content is a quality in demand. Once search engines start to consider timestamps as an element of ranking, the trend to timestamp content could become the standard, in a relatively short time. 

And there is a big driver towards change in the content world. If falsified content is not a motivation, ad fraud should be. Around the world, there is a whole shadow industry aiming to trick search engines and digital ad networks. Ad fraud is estimated at 40 billion US-Dollar per year. In 2023 the amount per year could reach 100 billion. 

WordProof as a startup

WordProof has done well working on the idea of timestamps. The company started with small funds in 2019. Then, in June 2020 the team won the amount of one million Euro in a contest of the European Commission. The idea for timestamps came out first in the pan-European competition “Blockchains for social good”. WordProof managed to win in a field of 175 entries

Dutch news publishers as first customers

The company has won a number of customers. Dutch news publisher NRC for example is using the timestamps for business content. The company uses up to 10.000 timestamps per month, in order to enhance Search Engine results over time. According to WordProof implementation of the system took just four hoursBut there are additional use cases, too. Amsterdam Vintage Watches for example uses blockchain and timestamps to ensure the identity, authenticity and ownership of expensive watches. 

The Trusted Web Foundation provides background and education

To help with educating users and organizations the team behind WordProof founded The Trusted Web Foundation in 2020. The idea is to have an entity ”that educates, empowers, and accelerates all stakeholders of the internet to land a vision and operationalize timestamping; from consumers to governments, from publishers to policymaker, and from e-commerce platforms to advertisers and media buyers.”

Search engine cooperation announced in 2021

In May 2021 Wordproof.io announced the first partnership with a search engine. A startup called Presearch will incorporate timestamps in search results. Users can easily see the information, even before clicking on content. Presearch is a new and relatively small search offering. But this is a start. The startup currently has 1,5 million registered users. Not many related to the market leader, but more than enough for meaningful tests for timestamps. 

Outlook

It will take time for the idea of timestamps to evolve further. But the concept has all the potential to become a mark of quality. In a not too far away future people could see better search results. Once that becomes more common the switch could be fast. Producers of quality content get a number of benefits from this.

It’s a plus that this initiative towards the trusted web is started by a company deeply rooted in the open-source ecosystem. By combining open source and blockchain technologies effective ways to bring back trust to the internet are in the making. It is positive, too, that the approach is supported with European funds. 

 This article is the first one published by TruBlo using a timestamp. The information is displayed below.

Links:

Introduction to the trusted web (in two minutes)

The Trusted Web Education

Search Engines and Timestamps

TruBlo Newsletter #14: Policies and actions needed to fight ransomware • Documentary: Degrees of uncertainty • EU vs. Apple over App Store fees • Blockchain land registry in Rwanda

TruBlo Newsletter #14: Policies and actions needed to fight ransomware • Documentary: Degrees of uncertainty • EU vs. Apple over App Store fees • Blockchain land registry in Rwanda

TruBlo Project Update

We are getting closer to NGI Forum 2021 on May 18-19, 2021. Please join us for presentations and discussions. Register NGI Forum 2021


Updates this week:

TRUST


Don’t ignore ransomware

The way this happens: Attackers hack the IT system of a company, a police force or a even hospital. Then the only way to regain access to the system is by paying huge amounts of money.

Despite being a thread for some time, the situation around ransomware has not improved. There is a lack of policies and actions for the active prevention of this threat.

From an interview in The New York Times:

What is the United States doing to stop or slow ransomware? We’re not trying very hard. The United States is the most targeted country by cybercriminals and nation-states, but we’re not acting like it. We’re mostly outlining guidelines for companies and government agencies to prevent ransomware attacks and hoping for the best. It’s not working.

LINK($)

Related: How the US United States Lost to Hackers LINK ($)


Newsmax, a conservative news channel, posts an apology

The news outlet had accused an employee of Dominion Voting Systems of manipulating results in the 2020 US presidential election. The person received a wave of insulting messages, including death threats. Now the news outlet published an apology.

LINK


Degrees of Uncertainty: Documentary

How sure are scientists about global warming? Why are they coming to current conclusions and predictions?

“Degrees of uncertainty” is a data-driven documentary by Neil Halloran. The video educates about certainty and uncertainty occurring around complex issues.

LINK


CONTENT


EU vs. Apple: App store sales fee results in antitrust

The key point is that a competing music service like Spotify has no alternative as to paying a fee of 30% on all transactions, if it wants to offer a music subscription using devices by Apple, such as iPhones, iPads or computers.

From The Guardian:

“By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition,” Margrethe Vestager said. “This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App Store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.”

This is the first step of an EU antitrust investigation. It is likely to take years until this issue will go through the courts.

LINK


Microsoft planning to reduce fees to 12 per cent

Confidential documents submitted in the ongoing Apple vs. Epic Games case reveal that Microsoft has been planning to cut Microsoft Store on Xbox fees to just 12 per cent.

Microsoft reducing the Microsoft Store on Xbox cut for games to just 12 per cent could be a big deal as this would mean that game developers would get 88 per cent of the revenue share. All other major stores take a 30 per cent cut on game sales, including Sony’s PlayStation Store and Nintendo’s online store.

LINK


Clubhouse popular in the Middle East

The social networking app is booming in authoritarian countries, where users are speaking freely about otherwise taboo topics.

LINK($)


NewsBreak app successful with local news

Protocol reports about NewsBreak, a popular news aggregation app that uses Artificial Intelligence to find and display local news for users:

News Break has succeeded using tactics imported from China, where news delivered via algorithm — a practice pioneered by ByteDance’s Toutiao — has flourished.

An “interest-based engine” powered by AI selects articles readers are likely to enjoy based on past engagement.

Content aggregators like News Break aren’t just winning in the U.S. market. Opera News, owned by Beijing Kunlun Tech, and Scooper News, developed by Shenzhen-based Transsion Holdings, have both made significant inroads into Africa and Europe.

LINK


BLOCKCHAIN


Medici Land Governance partners with Rwanda

Medici Land Governance(MLG) has partnered with the Government of Rwanda to pilot a project that aims to make land transfers a paperless process. For the pilot, MLG has built a land transaction platform on blockchain called Ubutaka, which will be integrated with Rwanda’s existing land registry infrastructure.

Inefficient and inaccurate land registry systems are a common challenge in many developing countries. The loss of paperwork often prevents landowners from proving ownership, making people hesitant to invest in developing properties. Additionally, the lack of standardization and auditing in land management leaves the door open to corruption and fraud.

MLG already has projects in Mexico and Liberia.

LINK


Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway is highly critical of Bitcoin

“I don’t welcome a currency that’s so useful to kidnappers and extortionists and so forth, nor do I like shuffling out a few extra billions and billions of dollars to somebody who just invented a new financial product out of thin air.”

LINK


Blockchain technology simplifying cross-border payments

From the World Economic Forum:

It’s no secret that the cross-border payments landscape using traditional rails is fraught with fees, hurdles and delay.

Individual senders incur outsized fees for the billions of dollars sent in personal remittances every year.

Part of the problem is that systems are not interoperable. To send money to different corners of the world without blockchain, a whole patchwork has been haphazardly knitted together over the decades to achieve some semblance of financial interoperability between financial institutions, correspondent banks and money transfer operators along the value chain.

LINK


Thank You for reading.

Please forward this newsletter if you think it has value for a colleague or friend.

Do you have feedback or suggestions? Contact us



This was issue #14 of TruBlo NEWSLETTER • Trustable content on future blockchains.
Subscribe to the newsletter here.

TruBlo is an EU funded research project. Contact: info@trublo.eu

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

TruBlo Newsletter #13: Apple Privacy Transparency coming • How Substack tries to lure well-known journalists • A look at the slander industry • Profiles of blockchain platforms

TruBlo Newsletter #13: Apple Privacy Transparency coming • How Substack tries to lure well-known journalists • A look at the slander industry • Profiles of blockchain platforms

Subscribe to the weekly newsletter here: https://buttondown.email/Trublo.eu
Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash
Newsletter #12: Twitter investigates recommendation algorithms • Instagram tests dropping “Like”-Buttons.

Newsletter #12: Twitter investigates recommendation algorithms • Instagram tests dropping “Like”-Buttons.

Newsletter #11: TruBlo project update • Carrots, not sticks to quell misinformation and more…

Newsletter #11: TruBlo project update • Carrots, not sticks to quell misinformation and more…

TruBlo Project Update

Next steps for Trublo open call #1: If you participated, when will you get results? We published an article on the TruBlo website, to provide an overview of the process. The quick answer to the key question: Participants can expect a notification on April 30, 2021. More details: [TruBlo Website](https://www.trublo.eu/2021/04/09/trublo-open-call-1-next-steps-and-selection-process-overview/)

Updates this week:


TRUST


Trust in tech declining, survey finds

 ”Trust in tech — including companies specializing in AI, VR, 5G and the internet of things — fell all around the world last year, the Edelman Trust Barometer found in a massive survey of 31,000 people in 27 countries.”
[LINK


Procter & Gamble accused of collaboration with Chinese advertising

Apple aims to change how data can be collected for advertising purposes, specifically how profiles of users can be created. Many advertisers and other platforms are opposing the change. One unexpected result: The US company Procter & Gamble teaming up trade groups in China.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal:

”Procter & Gamble Co. helped develop a technique being tested in China to gather iPhone data for targeted ads, a step intended to give companies a way around Apple Inc.’s new privacy tools, according to people familiar with the matter. […]
The company has joined forces with dozens of Chinese trade groups and tech firms working with the state-backed China Advertising Association to develop the new technique, which would use a technology called device fingerprinting.” LINK


Blockchain for trustable food system – from seafood to grain

The Conversation: “With global-scale food systems such as seafood, nearly 40 per cent of which is traded globally, data transparency and traceability through technologies like blockchain are important for socially and environmentally conscious decision making and to facilitate trust among stakeholders. Blockchain technologies can be used to consolidate information on the quality of the seed, track how crops grow and record the journey once it leaves the farm.” LINK


Content


New motivation: ”To quell misinformation, use carrots – not just sticks”

An article by neuroscientist Tali Sharot published in “Nature” argues for a fundamental change in how users should be rewarded when posting content.

Quote: “Most readers have felt an ego boost when their post received ‘likes’. Such engagement also results in followers, which can help people secure lucrative deals. Thus, if a certain type of content generates high engagement, people will post more content like it. Here is the conundrum: fake news generates more retweets and likes than do reliable posts, spreading 6–20 times faster.”

What could be a solution?

”At the moment, users are rewarded when their post appeals to the masses — even if it’s of poor quality. What would happen if users were rewarded for reliability and accuracy?” LINK


Facebook criticised for being unresponsive to reports of manipulative content, investigation reveals

The Guardian published findings of an investigation of how the social platform handled manipulative content, specifically outside of the US. A former employee says that Facebook was often inactive, even when warned about such manipulative content.

“There is a lot of harm being done on Facebook that is not being responded to because it is not considered enough of a PR risk to Facebook,” said Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist at Facebook who worked within the company’s “integrity” organization to combat inauthentic behaviour. “The cost isn’t borne by Facebook. It’s borne by the broader world as a whole.” LINK


BLOCKCHAIN


Revenge of the Winklevii

Forbes reports at length about how Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are emerging as investors in several blockchain and crypto projects.

A dozen years after they settled with Zuckerberg for $65 million in Facebook stock and cash, the Winklevii, as they are widely known, have emerged as leaders of a technological movement whose core operating principle involves digitizing the records of all assets globally, decentralizing control and cutting out gatekeepers—including Facebook.

The two are now owners of a holding company called “Gemini Space Station”, which “owns their crypto exchange and Nifty Gateway”. Forbes reports that the twins invested in 25 digital asset startups. LINK


A notable uptick of interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain initiatives

The rise of Bitcoin value is driving interest in trading of cryptocurrency trading. In parallel, we see new corporate projects for blockchain. While the two areas are not directly related, the financial market seems to validate blockchain technology, to an extend.

Selected examples:

  • Trading app Robinhood says 9.5 million users traded crypto in Q1 2021. This is an increase of 458% related to just 1,7 million traders in Q4/2020. LINK
  • The Wall Street Journal has a special how “GameStop, Blockchain.com and Bitcoin Renewed a Push to Digitize the Stock Market”. A lot of speculation mixed with enthusiasm, along with potential volatility and other risks. LINK
  • This week it’s the second virtual edition of the European Blockchain Convention, due to the pandemic. It is worth your time to scroll through the (long) list of attendees – you’ll find a mix of blockchain start-ups, representatives from larger companies and many EU officials. Just the visual scroll will give you an idea of interest in all things blockchain. LINK
  • And finally: Drivers of the new Fiat 500 electric vehicle will earn coins if they drive sustainably:

”Stellantis and UK-based startup Kiri Technologies will use blockchain rewards to encourage sustainable driving behaviour. Stellantis is the result of a recent merger between Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler and owns 16 car brands, including Peugeot, Citroen, Chrysler and Fiat. The rewards initiative will be conducted under Stellantis e-mobility program. Drivers of the New 500 Fiat, a fully electric car, will be awarded KiriCoins, which can be spent in the Kiri marketplace.”


Thank You for reading.

Please forward this newsletter if you think it has value for a colleague or friend.

Do you have feedback or suggestions? [Contact us](mailto:info@trublo.eu)


European Blockchain Convention 2021

European Blockchain Convention 2021

 

EBC will be entirely virtual this year, of course, as a result of the pandemic. Nevertheless, big events are helpful to see and experience how topics and sentiments evolve. TruBlo will be represented at the European Blockchain Conference through Montse Guardia, General Manager of Alastria, a partner in this project.

The panel will start on Friday, April 16, at 12:00 PM. Montse Guardia will share the discussion with Margherita Leder, COO, TMP Group and David Palmer, Blockchain Lead at Vodafone.

EBCvirtual is designed as a comprehensive one-week event filled with keynotes, panel discussions, workshops, one-to-one meetings and high-level networking (as much as it is possible with current restrictions).

Even if you don’t attend the conference – it’s worth your time to scroll through the (long) list of attendees. To some extend the mix of people shows the renewed interest in blockchain and virtual currencies. The conference managed to attract many interesting startups, mixed with representatives from larger firms and members of the EU political community.

Website: https://eblockchainconvention.com

Follow EBC on Twitter

The Twitter hashtag to follow outcomes from the conference is: #EBCvirtual