Tokens are units of value which represent the right to participate in a decentralized ecosystem. When designed properly, tokens align economic incentives to achieve some kind of desired outcome.
Token Curated Registries (TCRs) are a kind of token model that enables group-coordination through economic incentives.
This article is meant to explain Token Curated Registries (TCRs), which happens to be one of my favorite token models.
Without the buzz words, please.
TCR’s facilitate the creation and ranking of items on a list. Token holders can vote for or against items on the list. The desired outcome for all token holders is a quality list.
Why is this important?
Lists help us make sense of the world. Lists activate the brain’s cognitive penchant for categorization by minimizing choice and making it easier to process data. In other words, lists help us “find the signal through the noise.”
Okay, so why does it need to be decentralized?
Erik Kuebler of Bitcoin Magazine answers this using a great example:
“Imagine a hypothetical situation where Spotify decides to cut ties with Katy Perry for her outspoken views and no longer recommends her music in curated pop playlists. Because Spotify owns the pop playlist lists, it can theoretically exercise this sort of complete control and remove popular (or up-and-coming) artists without the Spotify community’s approval. Spotify could also, for example, list other artists who are willing and able to pay a premium price for advertising above those who do not, putting rising talent at a disadvantage.”
Let me give you an example of how this works.
Say I want to create a list of the “Best Taco Trucks in LA.”
For this, I would use a TCR model.
If I own a taco truck and I want to get on the list, I have to buy some of the native TCR token. Let’s say it’s 100 TCRs. So, I stake a deposit of 100 TCRs to apply to the list, which starts a review period where token holders, the users who curate the list by voting on their favorite taco trucks, decide whether or not I make the cut.
By the way, I deposited my tokens knowing that I may or may not get them back.
Here’s what happens.
During the review period, a token holder may issue what’s called a “challenge,” which is followed by a “challenge period.”
The length of the challenge period, in addition to other variables like the number of tokens needed to make a deposit, or the amount time given to tokens holders to review taco trucks, are determined by the rules of the TCR. These can change depending on the specific use case for the TCR, of which there are many.
So if no one challenges me, then my taco truck makes the list.
However, if some token holder got sick after eating at my taco truck, then that may be reason enough for her to challenge me.
To do that, she would have to match my deposit of 100 TCRs. This starts the challenge period, a kind of face off-vote, where token holders vote for me, or vote for the challenger.
Token holders use TCRs to vote. Let’s say 1 TCR is equal to 1 vote.
If I win, my deposit of 100 TCRs is returned, and the challenger’s deposit is redistributed to me and the token holders who voted for me.
Those that voted for the challenger have their tokens returned, but get nothing additional.
And if the challenger wins, her deposit of 100 TCRs is retuned, and my deposit is redistributed to the challenger and the token holders who voted for her.
Those that voted for me have their tokens returned, get nothing additional, and I don’t get added to the list.
Here are a few diagrams that outline how this works.
And a super detailed diagram for you to nerd out to:
What if I want to rank my list?
Let’s say I make the cut and my taco truck gets added to the list. If the TCR allows ranking, it may go a little something like this.
If some token holder really loves my taco truck and feels that it deserves a higher ranking, she may deposit a stake of TCRs, let’s say 500, to move my taco truck up the list.
If no one challenges her “upvote,” then my taco truck gets a higher ranking. How this plays out, for example how I move from a rank of 10 to a rank of 5, is determined by the rules of the TCR.
But if that token holder who got sick at my taco truck wants to “downvote” my rank, then she deposits a stake to decrease my rank.
Both “upvotes” and “downvotes” can be challenged by token holders. These scenarios play out in much the same way as when I first applied my taco truck to the TCR.
So then why are TCRs valuable?
Well, if I love taco trucks, I value TCRs because then I have a website that I can trust to have curated the best trucks.
If my taco truck is on the list, I value TCRs because then I can attract more people who love tacos, which increases my revenue.
If my taco truck is not on the list, I value TCRs because if I get on the list, I can attract more people who love tacos and increase my revenue.
If I’m a token holder, I benefit from having voted for the best taco trucks, which results in an increase in the value of my tokens.
This model includes just about everything I like about blockchains: game theory, social psychology, voting, incentives, and most important of all, decentralized governance.
But, do they actually work?
So far there’s only 1 TCR “in the wild.” It’s called adChain and it’s used to prevent add fraud by curating a list of legit advertising domain names. Honestly though, it’s really too early to tell whether or not it’ll work in a way that we think *and hope* it will.
The thing is, it’s really hard to draw comparisons to existing mechanisms, in that blockchains and their tokens enable entirely new economic functions. There’s nothing like a TCR, at least that I’m aware of, in existence that we can point to and say, “it’s like X, but mixed with a little Y, and it’ll work cause it did with those two.”
TCRs are a novel economic experiment.
Without blockchains, they’re impossible to implement, which is why I think they’re so cool, and defensible when asked questions like “why do you need a blockchain or why do you need a token?”
I predict we’ll see a proliferation of TCRs in the coming months and beyond. Examples may include music playlists, hotel reviews, lists of clean energy companies, organic food providers, quality token sales, even a TCR of the best TCRs.
Big ups to Ameen Soleimani, Mike Goldin, James Young, Simon de la Rouviere, Max Bronstein, Dimitri De Jonghe, and Trent McConaghy for the inspiration.