by Liam J Kelly
BTCManager interviewed the founder of Bitcoin Strings, Antti, and discussed some of the motivations behind the project. Their work entails the easy access to all the information that has been permanently stored on the Bitcoin blockchain. Things like the first message from Satoshi Nakamoto, to articles revolving around cryptocurrencies, and even debates about how large or small a block should be.
Everyone has access to this information, though many are unaware that this information is much more than the documentation of transactions on the blockchain. Not only this, but these messages will be kept safe as long as the Bitcoin blockchain remains alive. From this point of view, the love letters between partners and prayers for fallen friends are endearing. From another perspective, it keeps an already divisive community from forgetting its roots.
The discussion with Antti weaves between the specifics of his platform. We look more in detail as to what the website can provide for both the layman and miner as well as investigate the possible implications of keeping text on the blockchain in this way. More than anything, Bitcoin Strings is a project to inspire an interest in a new and developing technology.
To begin, could you please explain how you arrived at the conception of Blockchain Strings? How did you find out that text, and sometimes images, could be stored on the Bitcoin Blockchain?
There were some discussions around about blockchain bloat, arbitrary information that’s stored into Bitcoin blockchain. I heard that people had been inserting quotes, code, etc. so I checked it out and figured it’d be cool to have this data available to be explored easily.
You have probably also looked through the massive collection of text, do you have any favorites from the past? Which ones?
My favorites are the occasional discussions and random one-liners. Some of the stuff is pretty funny, especially because it will be there as long as Bitcoin exists.
Do you think the portions that don’t make coherent sense, the bits of code, are as important as the love letters and prayers? For instance, have there been deliberate inclusions of code that have an actual function?
I don’t think the importance can be ranked. It’s just a pretty permanent storage, and people have used it in various ways. There is some functional code written in the blockchain. For example, a script to turn blockchain-embedded images to actual images. All in all, the blockchain has various sorts of interesting stuff in it; code, images, quotes, illegal numbers, ASCII art, encrypted data, etc.
Who can store messages here? There is another project called cryptograffiti, run by a software programmer in Estonia, that offers individuals the opportunity to write any text they want on the blockchain for a small fee. I’m curious about the parties who have access to write things here.
Bitcoin being decentralized, anyone can store messages in the blockchain. However, it’s not encouraged as it’s bloat. Everyone has the responsibility not to bloat the blockchain.
As I mentioned above, there are a lot of different types of messages from people here, and I was wondering if you thought this gave a representative image of the community. If not, who isn’t included?
Most of the stuff was placed in there years ago when it wasn’t really considered to be bloat as much as it is today. In the early days, miners and hackers did it.
One of the first messages from Satoshi reads, “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” and later on there is conversation titled, “Who is variety jones?” The former is the title of an actual news headline, while the latter is an informal conversation between a handful of users. Thus my question is, do you think that the information collected from Bitcoin Strings, or found on the blockchain, is credible? To what extent are people using these blocks as an official channel of communication?
I think some of the stuff is credible. It required certain skills to place it in the blockchain (especially in the earlier days). I don’t think blockchain is used to communicate like this anymore, although some communication still happens.
On block File: blk00263.txt, there is a massive amount of text as to why block sizes need to be bigger, which comes from Gavin Andresen’s. Later on, there are clipped conversations from Reddit that are then posted on the blockchain. Who do you think is the audience and why would this sort of thing be written directly on the blockchain?
These quotes will be there for as long as Bitcoin exists. I guess that is the reason for writing these to the blockchain.
As a general question, do you think this feature, to have text stored forever on the Bitcoin Blockchain is simply a quirk or do you think it could have real implications? Some have suggested, for instance, that this could cater to legal proceedings in that the text from a case could never be adjusted once it had been written.
There are better non-bloating ways to timestamp data. E.g., a hash of the file could be embedded in the blockchain, not full data. It’s useful to be able to prove that some data existed at some point in history. Bitcoin is decentralized, so it’s pretty much impossible to stop people from using Bitcoin however they want.
Do you think that it’s important that people know about Bitcoin Strings? What is the value to the layman? To the miner?
I think it’s important that people understand Bitcoin better. Bitcoin Strings is one of the ways to increase interest in the system.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment and to what extent are they related to Bitcoin Strings?
I work on several projects. Bitcoin Strings is an independent project.