EDIT May, 30th 2017: due to requests from both the public and our partners Stampery is adding Ethereum to its blockchain anchoring API, effective immediately. The rationals in this post regarding immutability are still valid, but there’s absolutely nothing to be lost in anchoring simultaneously to three blockchains: Bitcoin, Ethereum Classic and Ethereum. On the contrary, using as many blockchains as possible is the best thing we can do and it is completely aligned with our core mission.
Furthermore, Ethereum’s community has proven itself to be an incredibly thriving and positive ecosystem. Many bright minds are working on the protocol and building dapps — we are happy to be able to contribute to such a positive effort.
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First, an intro: What do we do?
Stampery has a clear mission: to enable anyone in the world to create a verifiable record of their data. Such a record has to be independently verifiable, from everywhere, at zero cost. It also needs to be immutable and unhackable and its integrity mathematically provable.
In this way at Stampery we enable businesses and individuals to create irrefutable proof of digital events, and we do so without even touching the original data. There’s no more need to trust a third party to guarantee what happened in the digital space.
So… Why do we care?
This is possible because we leverage blockchains — tamper-proof ledgers containing a record of digital events. When a transaction representing an event is included in a blockchain it has to be unmodifiable: nobody should be able to alter its content.
The transaction has also to be final: it should be impossible to delete or reverse it. Finally, a blockchain has to be censorship resistant: every transaction needs to be included in the ledger as long as it complies with the protocol.
At Stampery we don’t use a single blockchain: we use both Bitcoin and Ethereum. Having strong immutability is crucial for us, and thus we leverage the blockchain with the highest computing power (Bitcoin). But it’s also important to have low latency and redundancy, which is crucial in case a catastrophic event affects Bitcoin. And that’s why we also use the Ethereum blockchain.
And now, the fork: Why we do support Classic?
When the Ethereum hard fork happened we had no doubt: for the moment we are staying on the Classic blockchain.
Why? The answer is simple. For transactions to be final and unmodifiable, blockchains need to be immune to third party interference. This promise was completely broken by Ethereum. Hard forks should only happen when a catastrophic bug puts in danger the core values of the technology. In this case the consensus mechanism worked just fine. The blockchain was modified simply because a group of people lost too much money and they decided to bail themselves out.
This is completely unacceptable for Stampery because it creates a dangerous precedent. A powerful government might now decide to push for a hard fork that changes blocks in which we anchored data. They could claim “national interest” for doing so. Or a “too big too fail” corporation could force a fork because it wants to wipe all proof of some questionable process recorded on the blockchain. Because of this we prefer to anchor our data to a blockchain in which hard forks happen only when a protocol-level bug needs to be fixed.
Is this a final decision?
We are aware of the boldness of such a decision and the problems it may bring.
The Classic blockchain has a lower hash rate when compared to the forked Ethereum blockchain. But the risk is low: the data is also anchored to the Bitcoin blockchain, and there are near-zero chances of a 51% attack on the Classic’s blockchain happening at the exact same time of a catastrophic event hitting the Bitcoin blockchain.
We can’t deny we might eventually see a decline on the Ethereum Classic blockchain. In that case, we will just switch to a more secure blockchain that can offer fast blocks and relatively high adoption.
What Stampery cannot and will not support is a blockchain in which transactions can be erased, reversed or modified by third parties when the core technology is working just as expected.
Daniele Levi is co-founder and CEO at Stampery