[Resource Topic] 2023/1648: On-Chain Timestamps Are Accurate

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On-Chain Timestamps Are Accurate

Authors: Apostolos Tzinas, Srivatsan Sridhar, Dionysis Zindros


When Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin, a central tenet was that the blockchain functions as a timestamping server. In the Ethereum era, smart contracts widely assume on-chain timestamps are mostly accurate. In this paper, we prove this is indeed the case, namely that recorded timestamps do not wildly deviate from real-world time, a property we call timeliness. Assuming a global clock, we prove that all popular mechanisms for constructing blockchains (proof-of-work, longest chain proof-of-stake, and quorum-based proof-of-stake) are timely under honest majority, but a synchronous network is a necessary condition. Next we show that all timely blockchains can be suitably modified, in a black-box fashion, such that all honest parties output exactly the same ledgers at the same round, achieving a property we call supersafety, which may be of independent interest. Conversely, we also show that supersafety implies (perfect) timeliness, completing the circle.

ePrint: https://eprint.iacr.org/2023/1648

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