The Cardstack Membership System

You Can Be a Card Stacker, Card Maker, and/or Card Member

Cardstack Team


Cardstack is a cooperative software network, where individuals and organizations work together to build a sustainable ecosystem.

Thus far, we have been focused on the framework. The Cardstack Framework will allow for the creation and distribution of composable software, so that modules from different creators (visualized as cards) can be combined into a seamless user experience that feels cohesive and complete.

As we prepare to launch this software framework, we are formalizing the roles of the participants with different interests and skill sets, aiming to create a self-reinforcing network that will grow through the collective contribution of time, efforts, insights, capital, and feedback. To that end, we are introducing the Cardstack Membership System, which combines both on-chain and off-chain record keeping, so as to identify and reward active participation, thus grow the network and provide value to customers.

The membership system consists of three primary roles:

  • Card Stackers
  • Card Makers
  • Card Members

Card Stackers

Card Stackers are members of the Cardstack community who have been with us through this journey — who have provided resources, guidance, and feedback as we designed the framework and the protocol.

In blockchain terms, Card Stackers are the stakers of the network. They have a governance function, provide liquidity, and help guide the capital allocation. Every blockchain network needs a committed and knowledgeable set of stakers, who steer the ecosystem towards compounding its advantages as well as expanding its reach and connectivity.

In turn, Card Stackers will receive rewards from the network in each time period. These will be based on the metrics of contribution (in terms of both size and consistency).

There are three badges for Card Stackers, depending on the way in which they interact with the network:

  • Staker
  • Voter
  • Funder


Stakers provide tokens — either through liquidity pools like Uniswap or through the Cardstack-specific reserve pool — with the aim to support the security and trustworthiness of the network. Rewards will be distributed at a fixed amount per time period; they will be divided based on the ratio of the individual stake size against the overall amount of liquidity in key DEX protocols like Uniswap or the upcoming CARD payment protocol.


Many decisions in the network require an understanding of technical issues and market conditions. We see Card Stackers as competent individuals and teams, who can provide insight on key issues that will steer the network through the voting process. Since we don’t expect all Card Stackers to fully understand every single issue, they can delegate their stake too, assigning someone whom they deem more knowledgeable about a particular subject matter to vote on their behalf. It is important to note that rewards for voters are not based on the outcome, but on the consistency of participation.


The Cardstack ecosystem is built on a common framework and protocol layer that are under active development — which will continue under the guidance of the Cardstack Foundation. Applications that bring industry-specific capabilities to different markets can only be built on top of this framework if there are corresponding business drivers, considering the resource requirements for such projects; after all, design and development teams need to devote time to bring special types of cards to the market.

In order to facilitate the influx of funding needed to build cards across a wide range of use cases, we will provide a special mechanism: Cards that do not exist yet, but that should exist in the members’ opinion, can accept contributions from funders; these can be denominated in any currency or token that is accepted by the reserve pool, so as to provide the resources necessary for the development team to pursue those projects. We have seen successful examples of public-goods funding, coordinated by projects like Gitcoin, MetaCartel, and Moloch DAO. For Cardstack, most cards will be niche-based. They will be considered marketable goods when those new cards lead to customer spend that would not occur without those features.

Since cards are monetized through a system-wide revenue pool, we will be able to distribute a portion of the revenue back to the funders, so they can recover their contribution and then earn additional, ongoing rewards for believing in the market opportunity of ideas upfront.

Card Makers

Like any software ecosystem, we need a team of designers, developers, and product experts to plan and execute software implementation projects, which will leverage the framework and create usable software that can be broadly distributed. We will acknowledge these individuals who make new cards as “Card Makers” and give them the ability to earn a share of the revenue, whenever their cards are used by paying customers as part of the overall Cardstack experience.

In order to encourage more developers and designers to create cards instead of standalone apps or dapps, we will provide rewards in the form of CARD tokens — in addition to the subscription fees that are paid by customers in various currencies. Card Makers can turn these rewards into a stake and participate as Card Stackers as well. To earn this slice of the rewards, they will have to perform one of the following functions.

There are four badges for Card Makers, depending on the way in which they interact with the network:

  • Maintainer
  • Creator
  • Reviewer
  • Curator


Writing software is important. But it is much more valuable when that software is actually maintained and continuously updated. Therefore, our system is designed to allocate part of the income from a particular software package to the active maintainer of that package. If the maintainer receives funding from a funder, the maintainer and funder will split the income based on an agreed-upon ratio. If one person starts maintaining a project and another person takes over, the new maintainer can gradually start earning the majority of the income that is generated by that piece of software.

We will tie this maintenance role to the committer roles within the GitHub repository. Our analytic and reporting system will monitor the GitHub activity as it decides the attributed income for each maintainer. Note: Maintainers have to create an on-chain membership record as Card Makers before our system will be able to deposit funds to their accounts.


Not all contributions require the writing or maintaining of code. The Cardstack system supports the creation of non-code assets too — such as mockups, usage scripts, prototypes, documentations, and implementation plans. Designers as well as product analysts can help the community clarify which types of cards will be useful and how existing cards can be augmented or extended, thus contributing their insight to the catalog. These creators will also receive a percentage of the income, based on the subset of cards they influenced.


The aim is to create a catalog that can be used by all members of the Cardstack ecosystem. We will manage a searchable catalog of reliable and safe software, which can be installed without fear of malware, privacy infringement, or stability degradations. The process to achieve this goal is similar to the way open-source maintainers review contributions from other developers before merging them into the codebase.

Reviewers will actively review (and vote on) code that has been submitted to the catalog. Only when a sufficient amount of votes has been cast for a card will it become available in the searchable catalog, thus usable by the community — without a series of warnings and precautions. These reviewers ensure the safety of the network. But we will implement a slashing mechanism too, in case bad software slips through and has to be removed from the public catalog retroactively.

Reviewers are given an incentive to grow the size of the catalog safely: As they review submissions, they earn a percentage of the reward pool. However, they are not compensated per review, but based on a metric that is tied to the growth of the reward pool and the diversity of software that comes with it.


As the catalog grows, we will need individuals who are skilled in designing and modifying taxonomies, so we can capture not only cards that are already in the catalog, but also other projects, APIs, blockchains, and services that can be integrated into Cardstack. Curators can propose new categories, provide new descriptions or tagging for existing cards, and improve the findability, either by search or by algorithm. They can also bundle related cards into suites, which reduces the work customers need to do to get this software up and running.

Card Members

Users of the Cardstack ecosystem can actively participate in growing the network, so that the software they depend on grows in functionality, integration, and usability. We don’t see users of the Cardstack ecosystem as merely passive consumers. Instead, we offer different types of participation opportunities for both individuals and organizations, allowing those members to earn additional rewards beyond getting the software they need to do their work and run their business.

There are four badges for individuals, depending on the way in which they interact with the network:

  • Early Adopter
  • Believer
  • Connector
  • Supporter

Early Adopter

We will create an “Early Adopter” program that allows individual members to provide feedback, bug reports, and suggestions during the early phases of the beta test.


When the system is ready to become a revenue-generating service, we will give a limited number of users the opportunity to buy a premium “Believer” membership, which allows them to use any service on the platform for five years for no additional cost. They will be among the first to get access to new features; they will work with the core team, receive priority support, and help steer the product direction of the software platform.


Members who bring new people, organizations, and partners to the platform will earn the “Connector” badge. The more people join the network based on their invitation, the more usage credits the connectors will receive, as they bring more economic value to the ecosystem.


Users who support the continuous development of the platform by buying a subscription will receive the “Supporter” badge. They get all the benefits and support they can expect from a SaaS provider, while simultaneously benefitting from an open-source platform. Supporters may choose to run their own instance of Cardstack on their own device or cloud; but as long as they renew their membership, they will be contributing to the network, regardless of where they choose to host their information. We encourage hosting providers to include the “Supporter” option in their hosting plans, so that customers are given the opportunity to support the underlying framework and the community-building efforts directly.

Organizations can pay to use the hosted service on Cardstack. Additionally, they can participate in the following ways to further the growth of the ecosystem.

There are three badges for organizations, depending on the way in which they interact with the network:

  • Sponsor
  • Pioneer
  • Contributor


Organizations can sponsor the open-source development of Cardstack at various levels — e.g. on the Diamond, Platinum, or Gold tier — which will allow them to promote their product or project and introduce themselves to the broader Cardstack community. Sponsorships of these sorts are paid for in CARD tokens, which are burned on a recurring basis. Based on the price organizations are willing to pay, we will adjust the tiers, ensuring that each tier has an appropriate number of sponsors. However, this sponsorship does not give organizations special voting rights; they will have to become Card Stackers if they want to have a say in the governance of the network.


Organizations that want to include Cardstack in POCs and pilots can become Pioneers — either by purchasing a “Pioneer” package or by submitting a case study to show that they have independently launched a Cardstack-based project. Pioneers can seek feedback from the community, get access to beta features, and influence the planning for upcoming capabilities or features that are important to their projects.


Organizations can contribute non-monetary resources as well — such as design, development, and growth resources. They can provide staff to participate in the development of various aspects of the Cardstack ecosystem. Full-time, dedicated resources (sponsored by one of the participating organizations) who work as part of the core team or who work on a core piece of capability are extremely valuable for the growth of the ecosystem. This will allow the Cardstack Project to shift its current reliance on the core team (which is directly funded by the Cardstack Foundation) to a team funded by a distributed set of organizations with various needs and priorities.

Summary of the Cardstack Membership System

There are three primary roles for the participants of the Cardstack network:

  • Card Stackers provide capital and market judgement to the ecosystem.
  • Card Makers do the work and lend their technical judgement to grow the feature set of the ecosystem.
  • Card Members provide revenue, give feedback, and drive usage and adoption of the software.

This membership system is built on top of the Cardstack Framework. The details for each of the membership cards and badges, as well as the metrics that drive the reward and revenue distribution, are based on a combination of on-chain validation and off-chain computation. We will use our Gitchain infrastructure to store the detailed information of each membership card and badge. Where appropriate, we will tie those git-based cards to on-chain records, so as to create reliable and irrefutable proof of membership statuses and reward distribution.

These badges will become requirements for certain activities in the future, thus giving members who accumulate various badges additional opportunities and more influence in the Cardstack ecosystem.

We will launch the Cardstack Membership System in several phases that are in alignment with the framework development activity. As we get closer to the launch, we will provide more precise formulas and details regarding the size and timing of the rewards.

We welcome your feedback as we continue to design a cooperative software ecosystem!

This is the first part of an article series about the Cardstack Membership System. Join our Discord channel or our Telegram group and announcement channel to get all our future updates.



Cardstack Team

Official account for the team behind the Cardstack project.