Concept: Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP)

Ozier Zarouq Khan
Ozier Zarouq Khan 26 August 2021

Proof of Attendance Protocol sounds like proof-of-X blockchain consensus protocol

In fact it’s a business offering to use the ERC-721 NFT protocol on Ethereum to ascribe individuals a unique, nonfungible blockchain-based identifier that only they can access.

Let’s get under the hood a little.

Solving the fungibility riddle

Since its inception, blockchain has sought to offer control over fungibility. Fungibility is the ability to replace one thing with another just like it without really affecting anything. Bricks are fungible; one is so much like another that if you lost it in a pile, you’d never find it again. Dollar bills are fungible; if you left one at home you can spend another. Each is worth exactly one dollar, even though they carry serial numbers and you could theoretically recover a single lost in a pile. It’s not being identical that makes something fungible; it’s being interchangeable for purpose.

On the other side of the scales you have the Mona Lisa. There’s only one, so it’s pretty easy to find, but you can’t just replace it with another painting. Even a very skillful reproduction or high-quality print doesn’t reproduce the painting; nothing ever can. It’s totally non-fungible. Note that it’s not being hand-made, a work of art, or worth a lot of money that makes it fungible. It’s its unfakeable uniqueness.

When the Bitcoin white paper applied blockchains to the problem of digital currencies, those currencies had a fungibility problem. You could create a digital currency easily. What you couldn’t do was stop people replicating it. Imagine the dollar bill we talked about earlier, but everyone who touches it can make an infinite number of copies with the same serial number. That currency is not long for this world, because it can’t be trusted and becomes worthless.

Blockchain lets its users control fungibility, as a group through consensus and governance rather than as individuals or through intermediaries. Bitcoin is fungible, in that any one BTC is able to do exactly the same thing as any other, but it’s not replicable by individual users.

Identifying people with tokens

What POAP (pronounced “poh-ap”) does is address the problem of identifying people rather than transactions or value, and it does it using the same technology that underpins digital assets (fungible) and Non-Fungible Tokens (not fungible): the blockchain.

POAP’s offerings “provide event nomads with a way to verify their attendance through collecting digital badges, all of which live onchain [sic]. Each badge is unique, meaning that the only way to claim one is to physically (or digitally) receive it at the event”.

Each badge is visually unique and non-replicable, meaning it doubles as an NFT and can be traded as NFTs are on exchanges.

The value prop for POAP might seem disconnected from bottom lines — in a Medium post, Cooper Turley says, “What if you could prove that you were at one of Apple’s earliest off-sights in Silicon Valley before the company blew up? What if you could prove you were at the hackathon where projects like Gitcoin, Set Protocol or PoolTogether were started?”

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to offer the user very much of value. But then, consider: what if you could prove you went to Harvard, or Yale? What if you had irrefutable proof you’d been an Olympic athlete? What if you had a track record of highly-successful work in your profession?

Those things would have benefits in your career, making people trust you more and value your expertise in your field, as well as serving as reminders of your successes on a personal level.

Well, in digital assets, there is no Harvard and no Olympics. The whole field has been put together on the fly by people who had never done it before, because it’s the first of its kind. And it keeps generating firsts: first digital currency, first general-purpose blockchain, first token protocol; each of these is a major technical and economic change, and that’s just the first few years of the digital assets world.

Now, anyone can claim they were “in on the ground floor” and demonstrated the foresight to get involved with Ethereum before it was a household name. But how could they show that? Wallets are anonymous, while the forums where early digital assets developers, designers and investors came together to hash out what the future would look like were pseudonymous, like most forums and chatrooms.

POAP offers the industry a way out of that, by letting its users demonstrate possession of a “badge” that they could only have received at a certain timed, located event. If you weren’t there, you could have bought the badge later, but the ownership records on the blockchain would clearly show that.

How does POAP work?

POAP has two categories of user, event organizers and collectors.

  • Event organizers can create events, and make and distribute POAP badges to attendees
  • Collectors can bookmark moments in their lives or demonstrate their attendance to others with custom, unique NFT badges

Organizers can create their own event on the POAP platform, including creating the custom designs and products they will offer their event’s attendees. When users arrive at the event, they should keep an eye out for QR codes they can use to collect badges and participate in additional activities provided by POAP.

There’s currently a leaderboard for attendance at events (likely to get into full swing after COVID dies down), but POAP foresees other use cases and functionality, including:

  • Community Polls
  • Conference Discounts
  • Expedited Hackathon Reviews
  • Airdrop Targeting
  • Social Graphs
  • Undercollateralized Lending
  • VIP Parties

POAP states that its intention is to become a commons for the digital assets and wider community, rather than the property of a specific group, and it welcomes input; see the project’s website for more details, including how to get involved.


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