The terms "simple ordering of blocks" and timestamp are essentially the
On Jan 29, 2018 1:16 PM, "Neiman via bitcoin-dev" <
> First time posting here, please be gentle.
> I'm doing a research project about blockchain timestamping. There are many
> such projects, including the fantastic OpenTimestamps.
> All of the projects essentially save some data in a block, and rely on the
> block timestamp as a proof that this data existed at some specific time.
> But how accurate are Bitcoins timestamps?
> I didn't find any discussion or research regarding Bitcoin timestamp
> accuracy (also not in the history of this mailing list). I share here a
> simple analysis of timestamp accuracy, and a suggestion how to improve it.
> Basic observations and questions:
> *1.* It seems to me that the timestamp is not the time that the block was
> created. Ideally, it's the time that the miner started to try to mine the
> block. However, as timestamps may also be used as a source of variety for
> hashes, the exact meaning of its value is unclear.
> If this is true, then there's a strange phenomena to observe in
> blockchain.info and blockexplorer.com: the timestamps of blocks equals
> the receiving times.
> Am I wrong in my understanding, or is there a mistake in those websites?
> *2.* Timestamps are not necessary to avoid double-spending. A simple
> ordering of blocks is sufficient, so exchanging timestamps with enumeration
> would work double-spending wise. Permissioned consensus protocols, such as
> hyperledger, indeed have no timestamps (in version 1.0).
> As far as I could tell, timestamps are included in Bitcoin's protocol
> *only* to adjust the difficulty of PoW.
> Direct control of timestamp accuracy:
> The only element in the protocol that I found to control timestamp
> accuracy is based on the network time concept.
> The Bitcoin protocol defines “network time” for each node. The network
> time is the median time of the other clients, but only if
> 1. there are at least 5 connected, and
> 2. the difference between the median time and the nodes own system
> time is less than 70 minutes.
> Then new blocks are accepted by the peers if their timestamps is
> 1. less than the network time plus 2 hours, and
> 2. greater than the median timestamp of previous 11 blocks.
> The first rule supplies a 2 hour upper bound for timestamp accuracy.
> However, the second rule doesn't give a tight lower bound. Actually, no
> lower bound is given at all if no assumption is made about the median. If
> we assume the median to be accurate enough at some timepoint, then we're
> only assured that any future timestamp is no bigger than this specific
> median, which is not much information.
> Further analysis can be made under different assumptions. For example,
> what's the accuracy if holders of 51% of the computational power create
> honest timestamps? But unfortunately, I don't see any good reason to work
> under such an assumptions.
> The second rule cannot be strengthened to be similar to the first one
> (i.e., nodes don't accept blocks less than network time minus 2 hours). The
> reason is that nodes cannot differentiate if it's a new block with
> dishonest timestamp, an old block with an old timestamps (with many other
> blocks coming) or simply a new block that took a long time to mine.
> Indirect control of timestamps accuracy:
> If we assume that miners have no motive to increase difficulty
> artificially, then the PoW adjusting algorithm yields a second mechanism of
> accuracy control.
> The adjustment rules are given in pow.cpp (bitcoin-core source, version
> 0.15.1), in the function 'CalculateNextWorkRequired', by the formula (with
> some additional adjustments which I omit):
> (old_target* (time_of_last_block_in_2016_blocks_interval -
> time_of_first_block_in_2016_blocks_interval) )/time_of_two_weeks
> It uses a simple average of block time in the last 2016 blocks. But such
> averages ignore any values besides the first and last one in the interval.
> Hence, if the difficulty is constant, the following sequence is valid from
> both the protocol and the miners incentives point of views:
> 1, 2, 3,…., 2015, 1209600 (time of two weeks), 2017, 2018, 2019,….,
> 4031, 1209600*2, 4033, 4044, …
> If we want to be pedantic, the best lower bound for a block timestamp is
> the timestamp of the block that closes the adjustment interval in which it
> Possible improvement:
> We may consider exchanging average with standard deviation in the
> difficulty adjustment formula. It both better mirrors changes in the hash
> power along the interval, and disables the option to manipulate timestamps
> without affecting the difficulty.