On January 26, 2022, Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin published a blog post titled Soulbound, addressing the topic of NFTs and proposing the idea of a Soulbound NFT.
Commenting on the current state of NFTs, Vitalik states:
“What exactly are NFTs signaling? Certainly one part of the answer is some kind of skill in acquiring NFTs and knowing what NFTs to acquire. But because NFTs are tradeable items, another big part of the answer inevitably becomes that NFTs are about signaling wealth.”
Since the early 2021 NFT boom, the culture surrounding these digital assets has been about value and exclusivity. An NFT that does not sell for inordinate amounts of money or does not have an exclusive community is irrelevant and stays untouched in digital purgatory. Though value and exclusivity are not inherently bad, are these the characteristics we want associating with the “foundational” pieces of the internet’s next iteration (Web3.0)?
Vitalik echoes this sentiment saying
“A common criticism of the “web3” space as it exists today is how money-oriented everything is. People celebrate the ownership, and outright waster, of large amounts of wealth, and this limits the appeal and the long-term sustainability of the culture that emerges around these items.”
There is no denying that wealth is a popular measure of success and status. Rich people are often admired because of the importance of money in our capitalist society. If you combine this with our human desire to be recognized and admired by our peers you can see why displaying our wealth through NFTs is arguably just as important as having it.
Thankfully, technology has a propensity to evolve and NFTs are far from being fully developed. This is where Soulbound NFTs or non-transferable NFTs can be “one path towards an alternative, where NFTs represent much more of who you are and not just what you can afford.”
What does it mean to be Soulbound?
Soulbound takes its roots from World of Warcraft (WoW) a Massive Multiplayer Online Game. The term Soulbound is a given to in-game items that are non-transferable and acquired typically through difficult quests and tasks. This is important because Soulbound items are more meaningful being the culmination of effort and determination.
If applied to NFTs, a soulbound NFT represents who you are rather than how much you can afford. This added meaning allows NFTs that are not inherently valuable or have exclusivity attached to them meaningfully. It is this meaning and significance that can allow digital assets to be foundation pieces of Web3.0.
So how can Soulbound NFTs be achieved? Without going into too many details, Vitalik outlines 4 examples and methods soulbound NFTs can be achieved?
- Non-Transferable Governance — Transferability makes governance power flow away from the meek who are most likely to provide valuable input to governance, and toward the power-hungry who are most likely to cause problems. Web3 and blockchain is all about equal distribution of power and rights.
- Community verification via non-transferable Proof of Humanity Attestation — Proof of humanity attestation will ensure total transparency and verification over users that own a soulbound NFT. Proof of humanity is essentially your digital ID, which is securitised through a revocation feature that allows the original owner to make a video asking for an imitation profile to be removed. A Kleros court will then decide whether or not the video was from the same person as the original creator.
- Capturing attendance via Proof of Attendance — Proof of attendance protocol is a standard by which projects can send users an NFT as a token of their attendance at an event.
- Non-transferable Proof of Attendance via on-chain checks — The ability to check on-chain if the current owner has the same address as the original owner.
If we extrapolate these points, the key factors contributing to the Soulbound NFT discussion are:
- Community (governance, verification)
- Transparency (on-chain checks)
- Purity (capturing the essence of attendance)
Uncoincidentally, these key values are what Web3.0 hopes to leverage to achieve a decentralized content-based web owned by the people. In addressing Soulbound NFTs, Vitalik brings the reader back to the essence of Web3.0 which is centered around community, purity, and transparency. As a Web3.0 decentralized photo network, these are values that we attempt to integrate within our project!
Numbers Protocol Soulbound Journey
The essence of Soulbound has very much been embedded in what we do here at Numbers for a long time, and we can dig deeper into the 3 key factors of Community, Transparency and Purity to demonstrate how what we do here is very much driven by the overarching meaning of Soulbound.
Our project is very much centered around the community. The community aspect is present within the core of how our platform runs on a day-to-day basis.
- Capture to Earn: Empowering the community to create and contribute meaningful photos and videos with high integrity to the Numbers Ecosystem which covers areas including but not limited to Stock Photos and Capturing events.
- Verification: Mobilizing the community to ensure digital media within the Numbers Ecosystem have high integrity with periodic community-based verification events.
- Governance: Providing the community with an active voice in the direction of the Numbers Network. Multi-phase governance structure that ensures members of all socioeconomic levels can participate in the network discussions.
- CAPTCH-A: Official governance NFT of the Numbers Protocol Network and digital representations of membership of NumbersDAO. Though transferable, it is designed to be “activated” in order to cast votes. Design intended to demonstrate being an active member of the Numbers Network.
Web 2.0 has been essential for both individuals and organizations around the world. However, several issues have hindered it. The centralization of Web 2.0 has led to censorship issues, data manipulation and algorithm-based search results based on data profiles that continue to hinder what users search for. Web 3.0 represents that next evolution, a decentralized platform focusing on content-based search results.
- NFT Search Engine: First Web3.0 Search Engine for NFTs that brings transparency and verifiability to a rapidly growing industry. Search results include token, creator, and owner information as well as authenticity scan and decentralization results.
Capturing who you are is one of the key points of emphasis for Soulbound NFT. Though challenging to achieve for digital content given how intangible and abstract the concept is, capturing the essence of a digital creation is a question that we pondered in the past.
In September 2021 we released a medium article discussing what it means to “capture the context of the creator.” We concluded that by somehow capturing the circumstances of a creation and attaching it to a digital asset, we are able to bring it back to its purest and most meaningful form.
This is what Numbers Protocol does through our 3 step process of legitimizing digital content through:
- Capture — Recording the time, location and creator behind the photo
- Seal — Adding a layer of security and immutability by creating an integrity record on the blockchain
- Trace — Providing transparency and verifiability with NFT records and ownership
Adding meaning and value to NFTs allows us to see past the wealth aspect of this industry. Vitalik’s Soulbound NFT discussion is a reminder that Web3.0 is meant to be different and more meaningful. Here at Numbers we hope our project can continue to capture the essence of Soulbound and be key players in bringing about the visions of a better internet.
About Numbers Protocol
Numbers is building a decentralized photo network for creating community, value, and trust in digital media. Its Numbers Protocol redefines the nature of digital visual media as assets and is the backbone of a suite of tools for registering and retrieving photos and videos in the Numbers network — the Capture app, Seal API, and Trace website — plus the CaptureClub marketplace and a proprietary NFT Search Engine. Numbers champion the purity of digital media and enable people to think more critically about the interactions between our images and the world around us.