TD Ameritrade planted an ASCII flag – that is to say, imprinted an advertisement – on bitcoin's blockchain earlier this month.
The company used the OP_Return feature in bitcoin's protocol to insert the characters, creating 68 invalid transactions as a result. Due to the nature of the blockchain, this flag is now forever preserved on the cryptocurrency's ledger.
"We love finding new ways to use emerging technology. So we decided to have a little fun and plant our flag. Okay – technically, we embedded it," the broker said, adding:
No bitcoins were actually transferred through these transactions, according to data from Blockchain.info.
OP_Return was first introduced in 2013 as a way for users to include some messages in the blockchain. However, the Bitcoin Core 0.9 release notably stated that developers were not endorsing data storage in the blockchain, saying that "storing arbitrary data in the blockchain is still a bad idea; it is less costly and far more efficient to store non-currency data elsewhere."
The official bitcoin wiki page notes that OP_Return can be used to convey information.
"We’re proud to be part of it. Forever," the broker wrote.
TD Ameritrade image via Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.