Proofs, both formal and informal, are documents that are intended to circulate within societies of humans and machines distributed across time and space in order to provide trust. Such trust might lead one mathematician to accept a certain statement as true or it might help convince a consumer that a certain software system is secure. Using this general characterization of proofs, we examine a range of perspectives about proofs and their roles within mathematics and computer science that often appear contradictory. We then consider the possibility of defining a broad spectrum proof certificate format that is intended as a universal language for communicating formal proofs among computational logic systems. We identify four desiderata for such proof certificates: they must be (i) checkable by simple proof checkers, (ii) flexible enough that existing provers can conveniently produce such certificates from their internal evidence of proof, (iii) directly related to proof formalisms used within the structural proof theory literature, and (iv) permit certificates to elide some proof information with the expectation that a proof checker can reconstruct the missing information using bounded and structured proof search. We consider various consequences of these desiderata, including how they can mix computation and deduction and what they mean for the establishment of marketplaces and libraries of proofs. In a companion paper we proposal a specific framework for achieving all four of these desiderata.