Trust, but verify. This old Russian adage has become highly relevant in this internet era. With the internet becoming the primary source of information for the masses, it has the potential to mould the mindset and perspective of the populace. This can be potentially harmful, considering the internet is fast becoming a haven for fake news, conspiracy theories, and scams. Adding social media into the mix is like adding rocket fuel to a raging wildfire.
With platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook & Twitter providing a medium for rapid dissemination of these unchecked fake news and misinformation, resulting in treacherous consequences such as propagation of conspiracy theories, undermining of real news and serious media coverage, polarisation of societies, swaying of elections by influencing voters, and even foreign interferences in democratic processes.
Several organisations around the world are trying to stop the rapid spread of fake news and enhance the trustworthiness of the internet. Amsterdam-based WordProof is striving to achieve the same and weed out distrust, plagiarism, and fake news from the internet with the help of blockchain technology. And as per the latest announcement by the company, Netherlands-based Yoast – a leading SEO plugin for WordPress has acquired a stake in the company.
Plugins and partnerships
Dutch startup WordProof uses a combination of blockchain technology and timestamps to protect and verify the sources of content on the internet; thereby securing proprietary content, minimising the spread of fake news, and detect fraud.
According to the startup, it’s building a Timestamp Ecosystem that will support multiple blockchains. Currently, WordProof offers a WordPress-plugin available to one-third of all websites to access the Timestamp Ecosystem. It is also possible to timestamp documents with a standalone tool.
According to the startup’s statement, Yoast founder Joost de Valk and Yoast’s current CEO Marieke van de Rakt together with their team have well over 10 million users and bring expertise and their network to the company.
Calling this partnership a strategic investment, Sebastiaan van der Lans, founder of WordProof says, “Joost and Marieke bring valuable expertise that will help us create a universal timestamp standard, for instance through Schema.org.”
“From a publishing perspective, the ability to prove authorship, to unequivocally prove that you were first with a specific piece of content, is game-changing. With WordProof, unprecedented integrity can be brought to the world of content publishing and e-commerce in an open-source manner, which creates awesome opportunities for social sharing sites and search engines” says Joost de Valk.
The proof is in the plugin
WordProof’s Timestamp Ecosystem enables consumers and search engines to verify the source of the content. Furthermore, the company wants to work with major publishers and webshops across the globe to protect their content.
The company uses the process of hashing for creating Blockchain-based timestamps. WordProof uses website content’s properties such as text, title, the date as the input for the hash. “With this hash stored on the blockchain, a timestamp is created. Such a timestamp lets you prove beyond doubt that you didn’t change the content size, the time, of the blockchain transaction. You can see the timestamp as a certificate of birth for the piece of content. With this unique hash timestamps in a blockchain, you can prove to people, search engines, and social media that you didn’t tamper with the content,” explains Van der Lans in the video below.
According to the company, in the Netherlands, DPG Media was the first to use WordProof’s timestamp technology for its title ‘Indebuurt’ to protect its articles.
As a business model, WordProof offers free and premium Software-as-a-Service plans for all major platforms and has a partnership program in place. The company offers a free plan that offers 10 timestamps per month. But, for more serious customers, it offers plans ranging from €100 to €500 per month. For publishers and enterprises, its plan ranges from €1500 to €3500 annually.
Milestones and accolades
WordProof was founded in 2019 by Sebastiaan van der Lans together with Frank van Dalen as an angel investor and partner. It has its headquarters in Amsterdam, but some of its team members operate from Ukraine and the US. The company is planning to grow its team in the next six months. WordProof’s proof-of-concept was initially funded by the Telos WPS.
In June, this year, WordProof received a convertible loan worth €275,000 from the Noord-Holland Innovation Fund for the development of technologies to better protect data on the internet. The fund is an initiative of the Dutch province of Noord-Holland, University van Amsterdam, Hogeschool van Amsterdam, Amsterdam UMC, and Sanquin, with support from the European Union. In May, the company was awarded a $50,000 grant from Blockchain software publisher Block.one to promote global entrepreneurship and the growth of the open-source community using the EOSIO protocol.
The company also finished first in the pan-European competition ‘Blockchains for social good’ hosted by the European Commission and won €1 million. With this contest, Europe aims to stimulate the use of blockchain technology to solve social problems.
Spread the word
Talking about the WordProof’s future plans, Van der Lans says that it plans to launch the Wordproof Academy – a video educational series addressing various topics such as the modus operandi of timestamps and hashing, its impact on eCommerce and publishing, among others.
“We will do a lot of advocacy with search engines and social media, as well as educate the big tech on how to avoid fraud and the spread of misinformation. We will also bring the technology we started with WordPress and the API to all other platforms. We will bring it to Shopify, Drupal, Magento, lightspeed, and other platforms to make sure that timestamps will and can be placed automatically from every content management system and webshop system worldwide.” he adds.
The company competes with other blockchain-based timestamping companies such as OriginStamp and Stampd.io.
“With WordProof and its multi-signature and identity innovations, Europe will meet its goals while leading the way to a more trustworthy internet. Let’s fix the broken web together,” says Van der Lans.
Image credits: WordProof
Interview by Akansha Srivastava