The whitepaper says exactly this: "The timestamp proves that the data must have existed at the time, obviously, in order to get into the hash. Each timestamp includes the previous timestamp in its hash, forming a chain, with each additional timestamp reinforcing the ones before it."

It seems to me that you could put any time you want in the timestamp. Is it the next sentence about "reinforcing" that is key to his meaning?

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It seems to me that you could put any time you want in the timestamp.

No, there are specific rules:

A timestamp is accepted as valid if it is greater than the median timestamp of previous 11 blocks, and less than the network-adjusted time + 2 hours. "Network-adjusted time" is the median of the timestamps returned by all nodes connected to you. As a result, block timestamps are not exactly accurate, and they do not even need to be in order. Block times are accurate only to within an hour or two.

Example: It's December 29th, 2017 at 11:00:00. The median for the previous 11 blocks is the current time - ~1 hour in average. Let's assume that it's exactly 1 hour in this case.

  • December 29th, 2017 at 13:00:00 is not accepted
  • December 29th, 2017 at 12:59:59 is accepted
  • December 29th, 2017 at 9:59:59 is not accepted
  • December 29th, 2017 at 10:00:01 is accepted
  • Ah, sounds like this was added after the whitepaper. Not clear to me at this point why this works, why there is no need for accuracy or being in order but I will read further on this. Thanks.
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 10:08

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