What Is a POAP?

A POAP, or proof of attendance protocol, is a blockchain-enabled digital souvenir designed to commemorate important events. Here, our expert explains how they work and their significance.

Written by Jacqueline Jensen
Published on Apr. 05, 2023
What Is a POAP?
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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POAP (pronounced poh-ap), which stands for proof of attendance protocol, is a novel way to digitize our lives. If you’ve ever kept physical items as a way to remember meaningful moments, those could easily live on the blockchain. What if that concert ticket from your favorite band was a visually appealing NFT rather than a piece of paper in your drawer?

I first came across the concept of a POAP through a web3 startup I invested in called Talent Protocol. The team is working on helping people build their web3 resumes and connect professionally with others.

Talent Protocol hosts community calls often, and they began minting POAPs for anyone who attends these calls live. After trying to find the best technology to facilitate issuing POAPs, Talent Protocol now uses POAP.xyz. The company, called POAP Inc., was launched in 2021 and has minted millions of POAPs. 

Every POAP has a unique and unmodifiable serial number, making them non-fungible. They are standard ERC-721 tokens minted on the POAP smart contracts, which POAP Inc. currently governs. Collectors own their POAPs, so they are tradeable and transferrable.

What Is a POAP?

POAP (pronounced poh-ap), which stands for proof of attendance protocol, is a novel way to digitize our lives. They are NFTs that serve as mementos of attendance at important events. Every POAP has a unique and unmodifiable serial number, making them non-fungible. They are standard ERC-721 tokens minted on the POAP smart contracts, which POAP Inc. currently governs. Collectors own their POAPs, so they are tradeable and transferrable.

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How Does a POAP Work?

So, if we look at the real-life example of Talent Protocol’s community calls, here’s how POAPs are used:

  1. The Talent Protocol team announces their next call to their community.
  2. At the date and time of the call, they begin a YouTube live stream. They drop a reminder into their community’s Telegram channel and on their social media.
  3. At the end of the call, the team shares a link for community members who are live to claim their POAP. The POAP is minted as proof of a collector’s attendance at this event. 

Think of the POAP as a gift from Talent Protocol to community members acknowledging the non-material (but very much vital!) contributions that its members have made by attending that call in order to keep the startup growing.

 

Why Use POAPs?

When I first saw POAPs in action, I was reminded of a visit I made to Facebook’s Palo Alto campus in 2011. While I was there, I saw what I can only describe as guerrilla office art unlike any I had ever seen (others have dubbed the art “propaganda posters”). The art was made by Facebook’s Analog Research Lab. 

Two Facebook employees created the Analog Research Lab in 2010 when they took over an unused space in Facebook’s warehouse basement in Palo Alto. The posters — with slogans like “Done is better than perfect” and “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”—  were so simple and beautiful that I asked if I could take some home with me. The in-your-face, red letters on the posters felt like a rallying cry or maybe even a sort of startup commandment. As a founder who had just launched my first product and dreamt of raising venture capital, they were nothing short of inspiring for me.

I don’t remember much from the rest of the visit. I do recall, however, that the team showed off some facial recognition software they were working on and that they had fully stocked fridges for employees, both of which seemed equally cool to me as a bootstrapped founder! 

But when I reflect back on that visit now, what stands out the most are the posters. In fact, I still have them to this day, even living on another continent. The posters act as a keepsake to remember this precious moment in time. A decade later, they still ignite a feeling, both for me and my career and the once-in-a-lifetime energy at the office as the team approached the 750 million user mark. 

Zooming out, my copies of Facebook’s “Move Fast and Break Things” poster now also have additional weight as we all look at the role Facebook has played in our society since that poster was first in my hands.

This brings me back to POAPs.

Viewing this new technology through the lens of my Facebook visit, we can easily see where this is all headed. A POAP NFT is a digital version of these kinds of mementos from life-changing moments. If we’re in the right place at the right time, they might even commemorate a world-altering moment. 

Imagine that, alongside these physical posters I’ve been lugging around, I had an NFT version of the “Move Fast and Break Things” poster, on-chain, dated the day I went to their campus in 2011. Imagine the value of having ownership of this limited-edition asset. Taking this a step further, picture that the POAP had a QR code that brought up a video recorded by founders of the lab, Ben Barry and Everett Katigbak, telling the origin story of the poster just after they created it.

Though it’s not lost on me that my fictional scenario above has moved us significantly away from the stated focus of the Analog Research Lab, I believe there may be room for both to exist side-by-side when it comes to art and culture!

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POAPs in Action

Let’s look at how that could work for a tech conference.

A popular tech conference decides they don’t want to do away with their physical swag for attendees, like t-shirts and hats. Attendees have said they love these physical collectibles, and some even wear the conference’s very first t-shirt design to this year’s event as a status symbol.

But, this year, the conference organizers decide to create a POAP for those who volunteered. Volunteers walk away with something special, a digital collectible, that is only accessible by themselves. The POAP lives on-chain unlike something physical, like a branded hat, that could be left on the floor of a conference hall.

When the conference rolls around the following year, the conference organizers could Airdrop everyone who had a volunteer POAP from the previous year a code for early access to a ticket at a discounted price. Since the POAPs live on-chain, it would be easy to interact with the wallet again. If a volunteer can’t make it to the event again, they can send their unique NFT to a friend’s wallet for them to claim. This POAP has real value, beyond just status, to the volunteer.

If you organize a community whose involvement makes an impact on the work you do, you may want to consider exploring POAPs as a way to commemorate their involvement in a digital, on-chain way. Who knows, by memorializing an everyday moment for your startup right now you may be creating something priceless for the future.

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