Beyond Tokens: The Era of Onchain Points

Points are sweeping across the crypto ecosystem, following their catalyzing role in the launch of Blast ($800m TVL on launch), increased Rainbow usage, and many DeFi projects in the Solana ecosystem. This raises the question: are “points” merely a gimmick to spur speculative adoption for early users, or could they present a sustainable new primitive for consumer crypto apps?

Drawing from experience in helping develop various points systems over the past year, and now launching a platform dedicated to managing these systems, I've come to see onchain points as more than a trend. They are, in my perspective, a natural progression of blockchain technology as it becomes more scalable. I believe that onchain points will play a crucial role in consumer adoption, aligning seamlessly with the inherent strengths and use cases of blockchains.

Blockchains are for Games

At the Coinbase Ventures Summit a few months ago, I delved into the role of onchain points, contrasting blockchains with other major technology platforms like AI or search engines. Unlike these technologies, blockchains align naturally with game-like elements — players, rules, and points. Historically, points in blockchain have been synonymous with cryptoassets, driven largely by the need to offset transaction fees with speculative value.

This framework can be applied to evaluate blockchain protocols: their success often hinges on how engaging their “game” aspect is. This is true for both serious applications in DeFi, like leveraging without liquidation, and for activities like staking or trading. Ignoring the game-like nature has led many to develop ideas that fail to gain traction.

But the landscape shifts with more scalable blockchains. Will existing game-like applications simply become more accessible, or will we see the emergence of a fundamentally new primitive? I believe that as blockchains become more scalable, we're not just making existing applications more efficient; we're introducing a new kind of primitive that doesn't rely on financial properties. This is the era of 'points', distinct from financial-centric cryptoassets, paving the way for innovative applications in consumer crypto.

“Points” vs “Tokens”

Currently, tokens like ERC20s are closely tied to financial applications, which imposes certain limitations for their use in consumer point systems. Therefore, it's beneficial to distinctly separate “points” from “tokens”, ensuring they are not easily confused or conflated.

Consumer application developers often require the flexibility to allocate points in various ways; a need that doesn't align with the expectations of token holders who view their tokens as financial assets.

For instance, consider if Duolingo used crypto tokens instead of point rewards. While this would allow greater interoperability with blockchain mechanisms and encourage community-driven innovation, it also comes with significant challenges. These might include regulatory complexities, market volatility, and altered user perceptions, as these tokens are seen as financial assets rather than mere points for learning progress.

But implementing these points onchain would enable an innovative system, where for example an onchain network state issues visas based on language fluency. This concept, independent of the Duolingo team, offers potential benefits to their community by recognizing and rewarding language proficiency in a tangible, blockchain-verified manner.

Current Work

At Stack, we've engineered a robust platform and SDK that simplifies managing and scaling point systems, seamlessly integrating with onchain crypto mechanisms. Our platform, currently in beta, is ideally suited for consumer apps aiming to foster healthy user engagement.

If you’re developing a consumer application and are interested in leveraging points to enhance user engagement, we encourage you to explore the possibilities with Stack. For more information or to join our beta program, reach out to us at X (strangechanges or stackdotso) or email me at We're excited to collaborate with forward-thinking developers and help bring your ideas to life.

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