In 2016, Piper Merriam of the Ethereum Foundation launched an ERC-20 token to be issued to each attendee of that year’s Devcon2. Intended more as a social experiment, the Devcon2 token was the precursor to an emerging category of NFTs designed to represent attendance of crypto events. Merriam’s innovation inspired similar tokens issued to the attendees of several subsequent gatherings. Naturally, this event-by-event approach meant there was no common framework for implementing and distributing such tokens. The need to standardize development of event NFTs led to the birth of the Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP) at the ETHDenver 2019 hackathon.
This article will explore the practical uses of POAPs as well as some of the project’s implications on prevailing crypto trends and challenges. In particular, the following subjects will be covered:
1. A Primer on POAP
2. The Rising Adoption of POAPs
3. What POAP Tokens Mean for Crypto
A Primer on POAP
The POAP project allows for the tokenization of life events and experiences. It does so by providing a platform for event organizers to create and issue custom NFTs – otherwise known as badges – to audience members at their gatherings. Attendees of POAP-sponsored events can collect their tokens and use them to verifiably prove their attendance of the event in question. POAP badges double as a sort of utility token, granting holders access to a host of other integrated services offered by the POAP. In effect, POAP aims to serve as a form of decentralized identity, tracking individuals’ records of event attendance without relying on any of their personally identifiable information.
The mechanism by which POAP tokens are created and issued involves a multi-step process. Event organizers create new POAPs through the platform, including a description of their event in addition to an eye-catching visual to make the associated tokens more alluring. Following submission of their event details, organizers receive claim codes directly from the POAP team which are then delivered to event attendees in the form of QR codes or URLs. Attendees can scan the QR code or enter the URL to claim their POAP NFTs for that particular event. It is important to note that the distribution of claim codes relies on a sort of honour system on the part of event organizers. There is no enforceable way for the protocol to ensure that only event attendees receive the related POAPs. Thus, the onus is on organizers to ensure that all of their attendees receive their respective claim codes and that non attendees are restricted from claiming POAPs for that event.
The POAP ecosystem consists of several DApps meant to collectively enhance the wider platform’s user experience for both token issuers and recipients. At a high level, the following DApps currently comprise the POAP ecosystem:
• POAP.xyz: the core platform for issuing event badges to attendees • POAP.chat: a feature which grants walletholders access to private chat channels based on their ownership of certain POAPs
• POAP.delivery: a streamlined method for event organizers to send badges directly to their audience’s Ethereum wallets
• POAP.vote: a platform for creating polls among POAP holders • POAP.fun: a platform for event organizers to create raffles
• POAP.gallery: an exhibition of badges and POAP claims activity • POAP.art: a shared canvas for badge-holders to collaboratively create pieces of pixel art
From a technical standpoint, the POAP project began in mid 2019 on the Ethereum Mainnet. Initially, the core development team opted to subsidize mining and gas costs for the issuance of POAPs, thereby making the tokens completely free for both event organizers and attendees. While this initiative helped to gain buy-in for the POAP project, it was not a sustainable long-term approach. The developers considered several Ethereum-compatible scaling solutions that would enable them to avoid transaction costs without having to offload them to their users. Ultimately, the team settled on migrating to xDai, an EVM sidechain promoted as an enabler of fast and inexpensive transactions. Minting of new POAPs on the xDai sidechain began on October 1st, 2020, and a bridge to the Ethereum Mainnet was released shortly thereafter to allow for the transfer of POAPs from the xDai chain.
The monthly volume of POAPs minted has been on an impressively consistent incline over the course of 2021, with volumes in September – which at the time of writing was still a week from ending – crossing the 400,000 token threshold. It is worth mentioning that the rise in POAP adoption did not truly begin until the project’s migration to xDai. Through the project’s first year-and-a-half, when all transactions were being executed on the Ethereum Mainnet, there was never more than 3,329 POAPs being minted in a given month. The migration to xDai has allowed for that Mainnet record to be easily multiplied by a factor of over 121x. It is unequivocally clear that the use of xDai has enabled massive scalability gains and opened the doors for more far-reaching adoption of POAPs.
This same stark contrast between Mainnet and xDai in terms of uptake among POAP users can be observed in the number of POAP-holding wallets on both chains. Growth in the number of Mainnet wallets holding POAPs has held fairly steady since May of 2019, with a total count at the time of writing just shy of 20,000. In contrast, xDai wallets holding POAPs have enjoyed a far steeper growth trajectory over their briefer time in-use, with over 350,000 such wallets currently housing POAP tokens. That said, the imminent launch of Ethereum 2.0 gives reason to believe that the growth of POAP-holding Mainnet wallets may soon see a substantial uptick.
Finally, in examining the distribution of tokens among POAP-holding xDai wallets, it is evident that most wallets hold but a single POAP. The implications of this are twofold: either existing holders have simply not attended additional POAP sponsored events, or not enough event organizers have leveraged POAP to augment their attendance-tracking. In any case, despite POAP’s noteworthy rise throughout 2021, there is clearly much ground left for the project to cover.
Overall, POAP is a dominant contender in the novel category of event NFTs, allowing users to tokenize their life experiences and event attendance at-scale. The issuance of POAPs as a way of commemorating one’s presence at an event can prove extremely valuable if the project ultimately becomes an industry-wide standard.
Consider an early adopter of an Ethereum-based protocol who attends the small, intimate gatherings characteristic of such nascent projects. If the protocol gains widespread traction and achieves the lofty metrics of more successful projects, early adopters will likely have an interest in flaunting their status as the first users of that protocol. Being able to provably demonstrate their presence at the protocol’s formative events acts as a form of social signaling for early adopters, giving them the image of prescient technologists who sit at the bleeding-edge of crypto. While this may seem like a vapid use-case for POAPs, the massive success of non-functional avatar NFTs such as CryptoPunks indicates just how valuable social signaling can be in the crypto-sphere.
Beyond memorializing event attendance on the blockchain, POAPs can also provide a verifiable way of measuring community engagement and breeding more meritocratic governance models. NFT data analyst and 1confirmation venture partner @Nifty_Table highlighted how the balance of power in current Web3 governance models typically skews towards the uber-rich who have accumulated large positions in a particular token. The advent of POAPs means the playing field can be leveled such that the crypto-wealthy are not inherently advantaged over others. It also means the approach to governance can be reformed such that power resides with the most active members of the community. For instance, in the spirit of tracking attendance and engagement, DAOs can issue POAPs to community members who contribute to the codebase, participate in town halls, attend meetups, and generally remain active within the ecosystem. The DAOs can then weigh votes based not on how many DAO tokens a user holds, but instead based on how many DAO-specific POAPs they have collected. This approach would shift power away from the whales and reallocate it among those most committed to the DAO’s success.
Additionally, the process by which event attendees can claim their POAPs is potentially more user-friendly than that for buying or freshly-minting NFTs from other projects. As previously outlined, event attendees claim POAPs by simply scanning or navigating to the provided QR code or URL and connecting their Web3 wallets. For complete newcomers to the world of crypto, this process may be more inviting than having to purchase NFTs from a marketplace or minting them directly from the developer. Further, the fact that POAPs can be claimed for free might prove to be a tremendous boon both for POAP usage as well as mass NFT-adoption. By receiving their first NFT without having to spend obscene sums of money on OpenSea, newcomers can avoid the limiting barriers to entry of the NFT space.
Given the traction of POAPs and the benefits they confer in terms of proving event attendance and beyond, there is clearly great promise for the project as a unifying standard for the development of event & experience tokens. One of the most enduring arguments in favour of blockchains has been the technology’s potential as a database for decentralized identity. With its integrated and universal approach to issuing pseudonymized event-specific NFTs, the POAP project represents a critical step towards actualizing this vision for the blockchain.
POAP. (2020, October 2). POAP + Ethereum + xDai: the experiment continues. Retrieved from POAP: https://medium.com/@poap/poap-ethereum-xdai-the experiment-continues-301e08a472ff
POAP. (2020, January 23). POAP 2019 Recap. Retrieved from POAP: https://medium.com/poap/poap-retrospective-of-2019-b5b2181e054e
POAP. (2020, September 11). The core value proposition of POAP: explained. Retrieved from POAP: https://medium.com/@poap/the-core-value-proposition of-poap-explained-dc379aca332d
Web3, S. (2021, August 23). Why I think you should try out a POAP event. Retrieved from Stan Web3: https://medium.com/@stan3web/why-i-think-you should-try-out-a-poap-event-1a997e07c28d
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