WordProof founder Sebastiaan van der Lans has a bold vision for the future of blockchain-verified data. We first featured Sebastiaan and his team’s plugin, WordProof Timestamp, a year ago in our #BuiltonEOSIO series. Since then, WordProof was awarded an EOS VC grant by Block.one and was most recently recognized by the European Commission as winner of a €1 million prize in the pan-European Blockchain for Social Good competition.

Sebastiaan has spent over 15 years working with open-source initiatives and building WordPress communities. Before founding WordProof, Sebastiaan and his team developed an open-source WordPress plugin for GDPR that has over 1.3 million downloads at his agency Van Ons. Today, he attributes part of his success to his commitment to building open-source solutions. “Open-source is in our DNA as a company.” 

WordProof’s first tool, WordProof Timestamp, is a means for WordPress-based websites to embrace transparency and create bulletproof content history that cannot be altered in the future. The tool is just one part of their holistic Timestamp Ecosystem, and the team is developing plugins for other website platforms and browsers. 

Teaming up with Yoast to Improve SEO

Sebastiaan believes that timestamping should be adopted as a part of best practices, and that by doing so, organizations show a commitment to transparency for their audiences. In that effort, WordProof is spearheading an open-source, blockchain-backed data verification solution. WordProof Timestamp Certificates have already served over 100 million page views, where people can verify modifications to site content.

Sebastiaan intends to make WordProof Timestamping Certificates compatible with Schema.org, which is a community-driven effort to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the internet. Search engines interpret data via Schema.org, and major industry players such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo collaborate on these standards.

Joining the cause is Yoast, creator of a popular SEO plugin by the same name, with over 266 million downloads, and in use on over 11 million active websites. Websites use Yoast to implement the Schema.org protocol. Yoast recently announced its investment in WordProof, signaling its dedication to bring blockchain-verifiable content to search engines.

For many, search engines represent a gateway to the greater internet; almost every online activity begins with some form of search. But Sebastiaan says that big search engines have issues. “There are some problems that search engines haven’t been able to tackle. For example, if you change the date of an article, you might rank higher for a few days. There’s also an issue with duplicate content. If content is copied, are you allowed to do so, and how will search engines know who was first?”

“What we’re working on together with Yoast is making sure that open-source timestamps will become part of Schema.org.” According to Sebastiaan, the open-source solution will allow sites to prove that they didn’t tamper with their data.

In addition, WordProof intends to provide more granular information to search engines about individual words. Traits like the name of a business or a person’s identity can be attributed to a particular word on a site. Search engines can interpret this information and use it to better classify the content.

Even if big search engines don’t immediately integrate the blockchain-backed data standard, Sebastiaan says that those who embrace it early stand to benefit over time. “The nice thing is that even if it takes them years before they acknowledge the value of timestamping, it still makes sense to timestamp now because it could help you in ranking later. On every big tech website, a lot of volume comes from older articles, so it’s a long-term gain.”

Sebastiaan thinks that blockchain-based SEO ranking systems could be widely adopted, especially with the features of EOSIO. “The short block times, the low resource costs. These are all reasons we decided to start with EOSIO.”

A Tool for Greater Transparency

With WordProof Timestamp enabled, a badge or link with any kind of information attributed to it is displayed on a WordPress website. Clicking that link brings up a window that shows the site’s content, including the current version, as well as every past version. The plugin keeps track of each iteration of revisions, highlighting removed text in red and new additions in green.

The WordProof Timestamp plugin highlights removed text in red and new additions in green

According to Sebastiaan, “You can literally hash anything. Any formal file you put in, a hash comes out, and you put it in a transaction. With text, we put it in a json file with all the information about the author: url, date, stuff like that. And we have defined a type to do the same with media.”

Sebastiaan says it takes a performant blockchain for organizations to make the most of WordProof Timestamp. “It makes sense to use EOSIO because of the half-second block times. CNN can’t wait for 10 minutes for the next bitcoin block before they publish because news is about the speed of publishing.”

More Possibilities Ahead

The WordProof team is exploring ways to tie in unique identities to further enhance their timestamping ecosystem. Sebastiaan proposes a tiered level system for timestamps linked to vetted identities. “You have a timestamp without an identity, with a government identity, and everything in between.” In this hypothetical example, Sebastiaan says that a timestamp from a LinkedIn account might rest on a higher identity tier, whereas one linked to a relatively unvetted Twitter account would be on a lower identity tier.

Sebastiaan supports the adoption of a sovereign identity standard that makes it harder for anyone to impersonate someone else and amplify a message without their consent. In that effort, Sebastiaan has been working to educate European lawmakers. “We’re lobbying at the European Commission at the moment, and they’re very supportive because of the prize we won, so we’re on their radar.”

In the future, Sebastiaan thinks that Europe will be leading the pack by making timestamps mandatory for industries like finance, health and possibly even political content. WordProof stands ready to adapt to whichever standard arises, whether it emerges in the form of a widely-embraced, community-driven open-source solution or directly from regulatory and compliance entities.

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