The Stone Tablet Database

Now that we are riding down the trough of disillusionment with Bitcoin on the Gartner Hype Curve, I want to reflect briefly on what I think is the single most interesting feature of this 7 year experiment.

The blockchain is a database in which you write once, your write is distributed across the world in millions of copies, and each copy is undeleteable. It’s a stone tablet database, except better, because the tablets can never be lost if there are a million copies.

Why don’t we see more apps that use this new form of database to its advantage? For example: a blog that can prove to have never been edited after a point in time. When a blog post is completed and ready to be imprinted permanently, you write a block to the chain that contains both the URL and a checksum of the contents. Now you can forever prove exactly what you said at this time forever into the future, unless you elect to delete/edit the post, which would nullify the imprint.

Why is this useful? Accountability for your words. If you want to say “I told you so” with authority, a date field next to a permalink should not suffice. Or even better: bets on the future. The LongNow Foundation built a whole web service for exactly this purpose, yet it is completely centralized with a single point of failure.

The most obvious use case for this form of database is for contracts and augmenting Notaries, but the legal system is always on the trailing edge of tech adoption (signed a set of legal docs with pen and paper recently?) so I’m bearish this will be a near term use of the Blockchain, despite how perfect the technology fits the need.

There is an unlimited slab of wet cement sitting in front of you. What will you write?