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Currently the incentives for miners are the block-awards and transaction fees. Suppose I want to create a Bitcoin-like hash-chain for other purposes than storing coins (for example: storing messages), how could one create an incentive for miners to do the work?

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Transaction fees, just like in the bitcoin blockchain.

The level of mining would then adjust up and down with the amount of usage. You might need to subsidize it to get any participation from the start.

If demand is too low where fees don't justify this, then demand is too low where fees don't justify this.

Perhaps you can use Namecoin, which already exists, to solve your problem? Namecoin can be used for namespaces other than just .bit domains.

  • Namecoin is key-value store, which main feature is the ability to ensure an unique key for every value stored. When you don't need this property (unique keys), it will cause a lot of overhead. – Muis Jul 24 '12 at 19:49
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The incentive for miners in most cases is the same - profit. Mining costs a lot of money, so miners would want to at least get their money back. On the other hand if you are supporting some worthy cause, you can get some people to contribute for free. An example of the latter would be SETI, or Folding@home.

So all in all, you would most likely have to pay the miners in some manner - either through Bitcoin rewards, or some new type of Coin, like Namecoin for example.

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    Yes, I thought about the same. If the messages stored were Wikileaks articles for example, some miners would mine blocks for free, just to help to publicize their information. Supporting freedom of speech could be just as worthy cause as transaction fees. – Muis Jul 24 '12 at 19:57

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