Sometimes it would be great to be able to prove that a certain document existed at a given time. For example, if I have an idea for an invention and want to publish it to prevent anyone from patenting it, I'd like to be able to prove that I published it at a given time.

Offline, such a service might be provided by a notary public.

Actually, such a service already exists: Stamper by Matthew Richardson/I. T. Consultancy Limited. It works via e-mail, however. Thus, my actual wishlist:

  • web service: send content via HTTP query, get signature back in the response, to avoid e-mail delays and to easily automate things, without having to write baroque procmailrc rules
  • signing of web pages: submit URL via HTTP, get signature of contents of page in the response, so that I can prove (at least weakly) that a page existed at a given time
  • tools to make use of such a service easy and fast
  • a network of timestamping servers, run by unaffiliated parties, to share load and weakly vouch for each other

There's probably a ton of details that need to be gotten right for this to work, but I'm sure it's possible.

I wouldn't even mind runnig a server to participate in the timestamping network.

Edit: Old discussion page.