Online broker TD Ameritrade has taken the unusual step of printing an advertisement onto the blockchain, in the shape of a flag, in one of the first moves of its kind.
By using the OP_Return function to insert characters into the blockchain TD Ameritrade were able to create the ASCII image of a flag, through the creation of some 68 invalid transactions. And because of the blockchain’s immutable nature, the advert is now permanently recorded within the blockchain.
According to a statement from the broker, the decision was a way to “have a little fun” with the technology, which underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
“The blockchain is an amazing piece of technology. And we’re proud to be part of it. Forever. Through a series of transactions we became the first brand to place an ad in the blockchain.”
“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…With a part of the blockchain called OP_Return, which functions like the memo space on a check, simple messages and characters can be placed within transactions on the blockchain. By linking 68 individual transactions, with 80 characters per transaction, we were able to create the larger image.”
According to external data, no bitcoins were actually transacted in the creation of the advert, with only invalid transactions used to create the imprint.
OP_Return is a feature of the blockchain that allows for the storage of data, attached to transactions. While it is not recommended for storing data on the blockchain directly, according to the Bitcoin Core team, citing efficiency and cost restrictions, it is nevertheless a function open to developers and others interacting with the blockchain.
The blockchain records transactional information in a decentralized way, and cannot be altered once it has been written. This immutability, which guarantees the TD Ameritrade ad’s longevity, is also a key function of the technology, ensuring greater security across a distributed network of nodes.
TD Ameritrade is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with over 8,800 employees globally. With revenues in excess of $3.6 billion, it is one of the most prominent names in online brokerage.