Why we’re excited about Roll — the protocol for social money

Sid Kalla, Jake Goh and I are introducing Roll, an open standard that facilitates the issuance of branded social currencies on the Ethereum blockchain. In this post, we’ll detail our vision and strategy.

Social currency has been modernized as a term to represent the sense of value consumers feel when associating with another individual or company brand. We believe it’s important to offer anyone the opportunity to easily own, control and circulate this social value through their own unique blockchain-based digital currency.

As former researchers in this space at CoinDesk, Smith & Crown and the Ethereum Foundation, we feel social currencies are inevitable in the near future and within a proximity of understanding for the general public. We see these types of crypto-assets opening up a wide array of economic opportunities in the next decade and refer to them as issuer tokens, social currency, or social money — and use the terms interchangeably below.

The purpose of social currency

Social networks informed us that social interactions have extraordinary value, but they’re not owned by the people responsible for generating that value.

Branded social currencies created and owned by an individual offer a market to monetize social interactions.

Here, we see a core use case for blockchain where social money can encourage market opportunities in ways that are only more difficult with conventional money. Blockchain allows the issuers of these tokens to better capture, control and distributes the network value of their social interactions more so than any previous technology.

Since our goal is to enable the long-term success of social currencies, the purpose of these crypto-assets is not to displace the market for conventional money, but complement it by adding a bespoke economic layer to social interactions on the web.

A personalized social currency layer for the web

With this in mind, we’ve developed a suite of smart contracts and SDKs that make social currencies easy to access and use across the web.

Creating a standard for social money makes it simple for anyone to unlock and distribute the value of their social interactions freely across the network of participants primarily responsible for generating that value.

Any issuer can gamify the distribution process and consider the sending of their social currency a reward for desirable behavior on the existing social web.

Social currencies on Roll are branded towards each particular issuer. This means each issuer has their own unique token and the ability to form their own unique crypto-economy. Since each has its own token and is separate from the others when any given crypto-economy succeeds the value is distributed among all holders in that particular network.

Branded social currency provides network participants — the people that hold and use social currency — with a direct incentive to support the issuer by either engaging in any market opportunities the issuer may offer or storing the asset for the long-term, effectively placing a “bet” that the market opportunities offered by the issuer will increase in demand and become more valuable over time. We expect to see both behaviors for issuer tokens on the protocol.

We see each issuer and their corresponding network participants as individual crypto-economies, where the value comes from the demand for market opportunities that the issuer enables. Demand here meaning the desire on the part of network participants in aggregate to both engage in social currency market opportunities and utilize these tokens as unique stores of value. Roll makes these market opportunities accessible through a common interface where network participants can interact with social currencies across the web.

Roll’s aim is to become the rails that allow social money to move across the web. We are launching with partners that are going through the whole cycle of issuing, distributing and providing pathways to use for their tokens so the rest of the world can see what Roll is enabling.

Market strategy

Our launch partners already have a loyal following and meaningful interaction points with users so they can move quickly after issue on the network. Since we want the first social currencies launched on Roll to feel fun and accessible, our initial go-to-market will focus on digital creators as issuers and their followers and supporters as network participants.

Over the past few months, we’ve developed a working group of digital creators that plan to launch on Roll — some well-known and others just emerging — and we couldn’t be more excited.

Building an open network means we’re not just proud supporters and fans, we’re in the game and aligned with users from the start. We’re building a network that wins when its users win and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Here is a broad market strategy for the Roll protocol in five steps, from how we plan to onboard initial issuers to building out the ecosystem and expanding into new markets.

I. Attracting initial issuers and network participants

Roll is an open protocol that will be available for everyone on day one but initially marketed towards digital creators.

We’ve learned from our working group that digital creators see Roll as a tool that wraps around their existing online networks and rewards desirable behavior and outcomes among their followers. This creates a short sales cycle for issuers and allows us to introduce Roll as a new standard in social money.

Social currencies penetrate existing networks and become an economic layer for social interactions.

Digital creators invite fans to participate in that economic layer by initially distributing their social currency for free across their most utilized networks.

Through focusing on a particular market, we’re able to drive strong network effects by bringing together a class of issuers who want to give network participants a sense of belonging and community that persists long after consuming content.

This will attract more issuers to the network to create their own unique social currency and access different types of fans; in turn, bringing more fans to the network who want to hold social money and unlocking a cycle of indirect network effects with each side increasing their attractiveness to the other side.

II. Iterating on Roll’s tools and infrastructure

Roll combines the benefits of blockchain-based protocols and proprietary networks that form the existing social web to make digital currency understandable and immediately available to the billions of monthly active users across social platforms.

We do this by providing issuers with simple tools to circulate and establish pathways to use for their social currency across the web, closing the economic loop that gives their branded token its own unique value.

Issuers determine all the ways their social currencies will be distributed and spent, setting a market for interaction across the protocol that is determined by other network participants. Roll wraps around the existing social web and makes the distribution of social money as easy as sending a message.

Roll also acts as a payment gateway when it’s time for network participants to spend social money on interactions enabled by issuers. This is a starting point for us and we’ll iterate on our tools and infrastructure by listening to the community.

Core to the protocol are the principles of ownership that allow each issuer to truly control their own social currency.

These principles are irrevocable by design in the Roll smart contracts. If the company behind Roll were ever to cease functioning, issuers and other network participants will still have and control all of their tokens.

III. Growing the Roll developer ecosystem

If blockchains achieve historic significance in the long run, it will be through the applications that they uniquely enable. We believe longstanding protocols will be generic primitives, on which other applications and platforms can accomplish a wide variety of activity.

As a mass of issuers and network participants join Roll, we’ll grow the ecosystem by making it easy for third-party developers to build applications that enhance the number of ways issuers can interact with network participants.

Blockchains allow us to see social interaction on the Roll protocol as modular and infinitely extensible. Any developer can freely incorporate our smart contracts and the activity on the network into an entirely new application or platform.

Roll-enabled applications can be small tools that help current issuers distribute their tokens more effectively or platforms that serve an entirely different class of issuers.

Either way, developers can leverage our smart contracts to achieve network-wide distribution for issuer tokens, increasing opportunity and functionality across the Roll ecosystem.

This is an open field where users across the network are encouraged to build their own applications and features to fully realize what it means for a community to interact through social currency. Reach out to us if you’re interested in building applications on Roll before launch.

IV. Exchange infrastructure for social capital markets

After launch, our main goal is to bring infrastructure to life that serves our community of issuers and network participants. We’re excited about the possibility of exchange infrastructure for issuer tokens as traditional companies and investors become interested in social capital markets.

Anyone can exchange issuer tokens for any reason at any time, but once an issuer token is sufficiently distributed we’d like to see a formal exchange emerge in this space. This will enable our community, third-parties and virtually any network participant to easily exchange social currencies amongst each other.

Social currency exchange(s) could be an opportunity for us to create something new, partner, with other teams or encourage developers that are in no way affiliated with Roll to build exchange infrastructure with whatever features they see fit.

The average network participant will spend time interacting with the greater Roll community and any given issuer. We see the actual trading of social currency as one part of a larger enabled experience.

V. Expanding the Roll market opportunity

We want to dramatically lower the barrier for creators and their fans to become active participants in the blockchain space.

Once the Roll ecosystem is developed and social capital markets have been established, there’s a whole host of other protocols building out primitives that we’d love to see in the social currency space.

Since our model focuses on creating an economic layer for social interaction, we see Roll as a pathway to achieve a wealth of the commons in the blockchain space. The tools and infrastructure we’re building at Roll can span industries and allow the protocol to shift from digital creators and other individuals to organizations, team franchises, episodic content and some of the world’s top brands.

We see programmable social currency as a multi-trillion dollar market opportunity in the next 10 years.

Conclusion

The above steps outline our strategy to create a personalized social currency layer for the world. We designed Roll as a product that is easy to talk about and easy to demonstrate so our early users can persuasively sell their peers further down the adoption curve. When we achieve this, anyone with an internet connection can easily bootstrap their own crypto-economy by issuing a token and utilizing the protocol.

What excites us about Roll is the introduction of a new value system for social interactions that shifts the paradigm of ownership from any given platform to the individuals and community initially responsible for creating that value. We believe open networks like Roll can become a profound and global force in social money.

If you’re interested in working with the Roll protocol, being a part of the team, offering feedback or just want to give us a shout, feel free to drop a line! We’d love to hop on a call or grab coffee if you’re in New York.

Sign up to our mailing list, say hi on Twitter, or comment below. (👏’s are welcome too!)

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