Crypto Basics: What Is POAP? Proof of Attendance Protocol Explained

If scrapbooks are a way to conserve a lifetime of memories, then POAP, or Proof of Attendance Protocol, can be seen as a new way of digitally recording a person’s experiences.

Lots of people and organisations are now using POAP as a way to prove that a particular individual was at an event, or to distribute rewards to participants, using the security of blockchain to preserve this information.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • A brief history of POAP and what it is
  • Some of the ways it can be used and some examples of how people are already using it
  • How it works, how organisations issue it, how individuals collect it, and how you can view them
  • Why you might want a POAP

The origins of POAP: Using blockchain to reward people for their time

In 2012, shortly after Bitcoin’s emergence, app developer Dan Novaes wanted to use a blockchain-based app to reward people for attending events, similar to the way video games would award digital badges to players for new achievements.

Event attendees would get a badge for attending, and perhaps get another different one if they stayed through the entire event.

Many years later, this idea led to a decentralized protocol called Proof of Attendance, which was first used by the POA Network team at the ETH Denver Convention in 2019. The organisers held a hackathon, rewarding its participants with the very first POAP tokens (POAPs). The audience, already digital collectible enthusiasts and non-fungible token (NFT) collectors, saw these POAPs as additional valuable items.

“POAP is a standard by which projects can send NFTs that represent the idea that the recipient personally participated in some event.” -- Vitalik Buterin

What are POAP tokens (POAPs)?

Now we know that POAP tokens or POAPs are actually collectibles, we look under the hood and see that POAPs are technically non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These collectible NFTs are minted under the Proof of Attendance Protocol smart contract.

To read more about the intrinsic value of NFTs, read this Learn Crypto article: “How Does an NFT Have Value?

Just like all NFTs, each POAP is a digital record held by collectors as digital proof that they attended, or participated in, physical, spiritual, or virtual events. The POAP held by a participant can even double as a token qualifying its collector for potential future utility, as we’ll explore in this article’s further sections.

Exploring use cases for NFTs

The first use of POAPs at the ETH Denver Convention turned out to be a new form of utility for NFTs in the physical world – remember that POAPs are actually non-fungible tokens.

As more companies, organisations, and events began to use POAP, the range of potential applications grew wider, from proving attendance at conferences to verifying that employees were present at work.

Here are just some of the ways people can use POAP:

1. Proof of participation and digital memorabilia

As demonstrated by the ETH Denver Convention, POAP NFTs were a great way to help individuals provide proof that they attended the hackathon, while allowing convention organisers to look their participants up and verify them on a public ledger (POAPs are recorded on Ethereum).

Using the scrapbook metaphor we started the article with, an active participant in a particular community could also collect POAPs throughout the lifetime of their engagement with their community. In this way, they would be creating a digital scrapbook displaying snapshots of all the events they attended or the achievements they made during these events.

2. Rewards distribution or acknowledgment

POAPs can also be used as a gift from issuers to collectors, acknowledging the intangible yet invaluable contributions that members of its community can contribute to the collective. Whether it’s in the form of time spent, energy invested, or even just attention and support, all of these social interactions contribute to a community’s long-term health.

You might think of POAPs as varying forms of upvotes or likes – the way Reddit has karma, gold, points, and other badges to reward posts that have been helpful, original, funny, or even thought-provoking.

An issuer might then give out all kinds of POAP for:

  • Submitting proposals or voting on them in decentralised governance
  • Participating in workshops or brainstorming sessions
  • Helping identify bugs or even typos

These collectibles can be thought of as digital badges, implying or affording a level of social and reputational value. Going further, they might even carry corresponding privileges. For instance, a POAP issued for proposal voting could also qualify them to enter private discussion channels to view and engage in conversations that may help shape future proposals.

How are POAPs made and collected?

The way POAPs work can be stripped down to the following process, which is all available from the POAP platform at POAP.xyz, which has everything needed to mint (or make) and issue these NFTs.

  1. Event organisers make their own POAP NFTs using the official POAP smart contract.
  2. Every POAP NFT must contain the related time or date period and an image associated with it.
  3. After creating them, the organisers then put up QR codes at their event or send download links to participants’ emails.
  4. Participants then scan the QR code to download their POAP to their Ethereum wallet.
  5. Alternatively, participants link or register their Ethereum wallet with the event, whose organisers then distribute the POAPs directly to these wallets.

How To View a POAP?

You can view your POAP collections just as you would look up any Ethereum wallet’s stored NFTs, though a gallery layout is possible with the Popscan app, and on supported NFT marketplaces like OpenSea.

An easy way is to view them from MetaMask:

Step 1: Open the Metamask app on your phone, and tap on the hamburger menu (三) in the top left corner.
Step 2: Tap on Browser to open the Metamask browser.
Step 3: On the browser, tap on enter the collection page url: https://explore.poap.xyz/ on the Search or Type URL to access the gallery site.
Step 4: On the gallery's main page, connect your MetaMask wallet.
Step 5: Once signed in, tap on your account in the top right corner.
Step 6: Enjoy your POAP collection!

Why should I get a POAP?

The most obvious benefit of holding POAP is proving your participation in an event or gaining recognition for achievements. A POAP collection can be displayed similarly to the way an NFT gallery might, commemorating experiences and even as a way to fondly look back on happy memories. Being able to show them off visually is also a big bonus!

But there are other benefits that tend to only become obvious much later on, as organisations also use POAPs to distribute future (yet unannounced) rewards as a way to continue appreciating and recognising important members of their community.

Some customers of crypto companies have benefited from airdrops of new tokens to their accounts simply for holding POAPs, while other companies give out bigger rewards, corresponding to the number or type of POAPs held.

Learn Crypto, for example, is planning a Learn Crypto POAP airdrop for early birds on its Discord server – with the idea to provide special content and features available only to POAP holders.

What’s the Future of Proof of Attendance Protocol?

From a technical perspective, POAP is a more efficient way to securely timestamp and protect digital records than Proof of Work. It requires far fewer resources, making it more suitable for personal devices like smartphones that have limited storage and computing power.

Despite being in use for some three years now, POAP is still relatively new with lots of potential yet to be tapped. Early adopters include Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, who has many POAP badges already.

At the very least, POAPs provide an interesting exploration of how NFTs could be used beyond their mainstream speculatory use and could become a crucial piece of the modern internet’s security and record-keeping infrastructure.

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