Kickstarter is embracing the blockchain. Sort of.
The crowdfunding platform launched a halfhearted backpedaling campaign Wednesday, after a Dec. 8 plan to move its service to the blockchain was met with derision from the creators who depend on it. Kickstarter’s initial proposal, as fleshed out in a second, longer blog post from the company, would see the company help develop, fund, and utilize a decentralized crowdfunding protocol — something creators are clearly not feeling.
“[We’re] supporting the development of an open source protocol that will essentially create a decentralized version of Kickstarter’s core functionality,” wrote Kickstarter founder Perry Chen and CEO Aziz Hasan. “This will live on a public blockchain, and be available for collaborators, independent contributors, and even Kickstarter competitors, from all over the world to build upon, connect to, or use.”
Chen and Hasan made clear that “Kickstarter.com will be built on top of the protocol.” They did not, however, apparently consider the possibility that independent contributors might not want to build upon, connect to, or use such a product.
While the specifics of the creator concerns vary, they seem to break down into two main buckets: the potential environmental impacts of moving Kickstarter onto the blockchain, and Kickstarter campaigns being damaged by being associated (however distantly) with cryptocurrency scams.
“I joined the platform 12 years ago and have run 10 campaigns since then,” read one typical response. “I have a special place in my heart for KS, but I’m not backing another project until y’all walk this back.”
Kickstarter’s Twitter mentions were flooded with similar comments.
And so, on Wednesday, the company tried to calm the rising storm with a follow-up post.
“We know our community has a lot of questions about this new direction, including how it will benefit creators, and how we’ll stay true to our environmental commitments,” wrote the company. “We are listening.”
We reached out to Kickstarter to determine just what, exactly, listening means in this context. After all, listening to creator concerns won’t mean much if those concerns are then ignored.
“We’ve heard from members of our community that we could have told the story of why we are supporting a decentralized protocol better,” replied a company spokesperson in part. “We’re working to paint a clearer picture of the opportunities and possibilities that the protocol will unlock for the community.”
Does that mean Kickstarter will abandon any of its blockchain plans? Not exactly.
“Many of these plans are still taking shape, and we’re planning more ways to gather input from the community as we move forward from here,” the spokesperson wrote.
If Kickstarter’s belated realization that the people actually using its service aren’t overly enthusiastic about the blockchain sounds familiar, that’s because it should. Discord, a group chat platform, teased and then walked back a possible NFT integration in November. Discord’s customers made it known that they were actively uninterested in the plan.
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Kickstarter, it seems, might have saved itself a headache had it taken the time to crowdsource a few opinions before announcing its blockchain strategy.
UPDATE: Dec. 16, 2021, 4:31 p.m. PST This post has been updated to include comment from a Kickstarter spokesperson.