Blockcerts in Bestr: FAQ

All you need to know about Blockcerts in Bestr
June 13, 2019

What is a Blockcerts?

Blockcerts is an open standard offered by MIT Media Lab used to digitally express a certificate and store it in a blockchain so that it can be always verified without the need to contact the issuing institution or platform.  

A Blockcerts is a digital certificate issued by an organization and owned by an individual, expressed in this format and notarized in the blockchain.

The organization that issues the Blockcerts signs it digitally with its own keys.

The Blockcerts, like the paper certificate, remains with the owner. Unlike a paper certificate, the owner can easily share the Blockcerts without the need to separate from the original and the authenticity of the certificate can be verified by comparing the content of the Blockcerts with its “digital footprint” stored in the blockchain.

The digital footprint, like anything written in the blockchain, is immutable and always accessible. This is why Blockcerts allows to verify the integrity of a certificate in a secure and immediate way without the need to contact the organization that issued the certificate.

What does it mean that the Blockcerts is saved in the blockchain? What does it mean that the Blockcerts has been notarized? What is stored in the blockchain?

A Blockcerts is a digital document which contains all the certificate information, but not the whole Blockcerts is saved in the blockchain.

The digital fingerprint of the document (hash) is saved in the Blockchain. In this way, the holder of the document can calculate the digital fingerprint and verify if it matches with what is stored in the Blockchain. This is one of the verification steps that takes place when the Blockcerts is opened via Bestr or is imported in Blockcerts Universal Verifier.

No personal information is written in the blockchain. It is not possible to infer the content of the certificate from what is written in the Blockchain. It is possible to check only the integrity of the relevant certificate.

Only the owner of the certificate can decide to disclose it – thus share its content – with a third party, for example a potential employer.

Is my Degree stored in the blockchain for good?

Not the whole degree is stored in the blockchain, but only its digital fingerprint. The digital fingerprint is stored in the blockchain for good. This allows to verify its authenticity even for many years to come but only if you are in possession of the original digital document.

How does the verification of a Blockcerts work?

When you open a Blockcerts via Bestr, the Blockcerts verification process is automatically started, which is completely similar to the one that might be requested by importing the Blockcerts in Blockcerts Universal Verifier.

The first step consists of carrying out formal verifications. The digital fingerprint of the certificate (hash) is calculated, then the transaction by which the hash in the blockchain was stored is identified and then the validity of the digital signature of the organization that issued the Blockcerts is verified. After that, the two hashes – the one generated by the document and the one stored in the blockchain – are compared. Lastly, it shall be verified if the certificate – which has been verified that it was not corrupted – is still valid, not revoked and not expired.

If the Blockcerts passes all the tests, it shall be considered to be verified. Those who read it can be assured that the content of the Blockcerts is valid, as if they had requested confirmation to the issuing institution.

Why do I have to wait to have the Blockcerts?

To write an information in the blockchain – for example the digital fingerprint of a graduation certificate in the form of Blockcerts – it is necessary to send a request to the computers of the selected blockchain network, which take over the information, process it and store it permanently. This operation has a high computational cost and – in the event of a public blockchain – also a monetary cost.

To optimize these operations and increase the security level, the certificates issued by an organization (for instance, the degrees obtained in a given day) are grouped together and their digital fingerprints are stored together as one single information made consistent through mathematical and cryptographic methods (Merkle Tree).

Once the information package is ready, it is sent to the computers of the blockchain network, which process it independently within timeframes that are not precisely foreseeable.

For these reasons, there is a waiting time between the time when the organization decides to issue the certificate and the time when the blockcerts is actually stored and can be verified in the reference blockchain.

How do I use a Blockcerts?

If you have been awarded with a Blockcerts, you can include it into your curriculum vitae or share it directly with the people interested in consulting that degree and verify its authenticity – potential employers, training institutes which requires degrees, etc.

Sharing a Blockcerts means sharing its URL, similar to:

Anyone getting this URL can verify the integrity of the Blockcerts, see its content, and download it in JSON format.

You can also share the Badge URL, for example:

In this way, those who receive it can also see the additional information included in the Badge and can verify the integrity of the Blockcerts by clicking on “Blockcerts”.

If you send your Blockcerts to someone who is not familiar with this innovative system, you can add the reference to the guide: I received a Blockcerts: what should I do with it?

What is the difference between a Blockcerts and an Open Badge?

Blockcerts and Open Badge are two ways a recognition can be expressed, like the degree parchment and the self-certification.

A recognition expressed as Open Badge takes the form of a PNG image which contains metadata that allows it to be connected to the owner learner and to invoke the platform that issued the Open Badge in order to confirm its validity.

A recognition expressed as Blockcerts is like a digital document – an application which can read this format (such as the application Blockcerts Wallet or the Blockcerts Universal Verifier), interpret it, verify it and disclose it to others, disclosing it as a paper with header and signature.

Typically, an Open Badge contains a brief description of the represented competence and the link to a webpage which expresses the criteria by which it is verified. A Blockcerts normally contains less data: the degree, the award date, the owner name, the signature of the issuing institution – but the specific data can change according to the organization’s choice.

From the technical point of view, the Blockcerts standard arises from the Open Badge 2.0 standard and makes it compatible with the blockchain technology.

On Bestr, there is always an Open Badge for each Blockcerts. Bestr offers a webpage with the extended contents of the recognition, from which both the Open Badge and the Blockcerts - if any – can be downloaded.

Every learner can choose whether to share the Open Badge in the form of image, the Blockcerts through the application Blockcerts Wallet, or the URL of the webpage offered by Bestr for the easiest accessibility and thoroughness of contents.

Which blockchain are the Blockcerts of Bestr stored in?

Bestr stores its Blockcerts in public Ethereum blockchain.

Why do I need the App Blockcerts Wallet?

Blockcerts is a format to handle certifications stored in the Blockchain. What you are about to withdraw is probably your first Blockcerts, but you could also collect others. This is why it is important to have a place where to store them: a portfolio for your Blockcerts, regardless of the institution that issues the recognition (e.g. the university) and the platform used by the institution (e.g. Bestr).

You can download the Blockcerts Wallet app from the App Store or from Google Play

What is the passphrase in the App Blockcerts Wallet for?

A Blockcerts is strictly linked to the owner of the recognition. A single identification number associated to the individual is stored in the Blockcerts. To ensure that such number can be stored in your Blockcerts, you have to generate it first. This is what the definition of passphrase in the App Blockcerts Wallet stands for. The passphrase saved in Blockcerts Wallet is a password, your private key according to which, through a cryptographic process, a public key is generated: the identification number that is entered in Blockcerts. Anyone can know your public key, but only you can prove to be its owner by demonstrating to be in possession of the private key - your passphrase.

You can download the Blockcerts Wallet app from the App Store or from Google Play

Can I uninstall the App Blockcerts Wallet once I get the Blockcerts?

Yes, but keep your passphrase safe to possibly retrieve it.

You can download the Blockcerts Wallet app from the App Store or from Google Play