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Kickstarter steps further away from a blockchain future but stops short of promises

The crwodfunding company's Community Advisory Council might have pulled that particular bacon out of the frying pan.

Two members of Kickstarter's community advisory council expressed optimism and excitement for advocating on behalf of users, despite ongoing concerns over the company's blockchain plans.
Image credit: Kickstarter

Kickstarter’s year-and-a-half long flirtation with blockchain implementation feels icier than ever, according to a recent report from Polygon. But the crowdfunding giant couldn’t help but leave the door open to some future between them and the technology behind cryptocurrency, NFTs, the Metaverse and other recent Silicon Valley ponzi schemes.

Kickstarter announced plans in December 2021 to develop a new foundation for its massive online platform that would allow the company to embrace blockchain, though c-suite leaders failed to explain how or why in the months that followed. What did happen was an exodus of well-known and prolific creators and an uproar of criticism from users at all ends. In the months that followed, Kickstarter would eventually relent that blockchain development would be siloed from the main site, and neither cryptocurrency nor NFTs would ever touch the experience.

Polygon reports that a spokesperson has put even more distance between Kickstarter and the much-maligned blockchain, but the company is tightly holding on to a future possibility through dissembling and careful rhetoric, taking great pains not to foreswear any future implementation.

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“As we’ve shared with our community in previous blog posts, we’re exploring the opportunities that are in blockchain to alleviate some of the challenges that we face as a centralized crowdfunding company. However, we’re not committed to moving Kickstarter to the blockchain or doing anything specific there. We are open to exploration and experimentation but want to do it in a way that feels tested, collaborative with our community and considerate of the experience they want from Kickstarter,” the spokesperson told Polygon.

It’s not clear when or why Kickstarter has decided - in slightly uncertain terms - that a blockchain-supported future may no longer be in the cards. On clue rests with the recently retired Community Advisory Council, whose inaugural batch of members were recruited to assist Kickstarter on a number of topics to better orient their decisions towards the needs of creators and users. They were an advocate of the hoi polloi at the right hand of crowdfunding God, and their members came from tabletop games as well as arts, technology, comics, fashion, digital media and more.

In a June 22nd blog post, Kickstarter’s vice president of creator & backer success Kimm Alfonso summarised the last year’s progress and achievements, highlighting how valuable an asset the council had become and tagging some significant updates and advances to feather their metaphorical hat. Zinequest was specifically named as one area where the council stressed the importance of lowering Kickstarter’s barrier to entry for independent and smaller artists. They also, apparently, might have pulled the brakes on blockchain.

“The Council frequently shared feedback regarding how Kickstarter shows up in the world and our approach to emerging technologies. Several members emphasised the importance of fully embracing our position of leadership in the crowdfunding space,” Alfonso wrote. “They encouraged us to utilise our influence as a powerful force in building trust and raising awareness for the entire industry. This perspective has significantly contributed to the development of an AI policy which is forthcoming, knowing that our community relies on us to champion initiatives that drive progress across the industry while also supporting creators. Moreover, the Council's insights have helped us reframe our focus on the core business and provided us with invaluable perspective (ahem, tough feedback) on R&D efforts with protocol technology.”

While many creators and backers will be happy to hear news about a forthcoming AI policy, the mention of a certain ‘protocol technology’ and the serious nature of discussions around it could very well refer to blockchain implementation. The media cycle around its hype, reality and crash into relative obscurity has faded in the rearview mirror, allowing Kickstarter the opportunity to either quietly sunset the unpopular initiative or continue work under the cover of corner-of-mouth speech. Dicebreaker has reached out for more information.

The Community Advisory Council at Kickstarter will continue and is currently accepting applications for its second cohort, and applications will be open through July 18th. Positions on the council last for a year and pays a an annual $5,000 honorarium to each member.

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Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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