Explain like I’m 5: Token Curated Registries

Around a year ago (September 2017), Mike Goldin came up with the idea of Token Curated Registries (TCRs) based on public permissionless (blockchain) networks. The concept has a lot of potential as it encapsulates all the basic functions needed to create an incentive system for community-driven curation.

Recently, I did a talk as part of Berlin Blockchain Week where I tried to explain TCR concepts in a simpler language. This post is loosely a transcription of my talk.

Token Curated Registry — the three worded term seems to be a bit complex when you come across it for the first time. It feels like just another cool yet confusing term born in the crypto space. I too felt the same. But after reading through the TCR paper a few times and then implementing a simple TCR myself, I realized that it’s not that complicated after all. To help you understand it better, let me first try to break it down into the basic ideas encapsulated in it.

Registry

In the simplest form, the registry in (the context of a) TCR is just an unordered whitelist of items in a particular category. For example, the adChain registry is a whitelist of internet domain names (website addresses) of publications.

Curation

The addition (or removal) of entries to this registry is governed by a democratic process involving a group of people. When the decision needs to be made by a group, direct add/delete won’t work. We would need a set of pre-defined actions which can help constitute a democratic whitelisting process. These actions are — propose a new entry to be whitelisted, challenge the whitelisting of an entry, vote on whether an entry should be whitelisted or not. This process of a group of people performing these actions on the whitelist is curation.

Token

To perform the above mentioned actions, we need something of value. This is the token. To make it a fair game for everyone, the value of this token is driven by the value of the whitelist for its consumers. This comes from the transparent and honest curation done by the token holders. The tokenization of TCRs also brings gamification into the curation process. The more you help with the curation, the more rewards you win.

TCR Parameters

In addition, to make the whole curation process fair for everyone, there are some rules to be followed by the community members participating in it. These rules define the amount of tokens and deadlines (time limits) to be used for performing the curation actions. These rules are termed as TCR parameters.

In essence, a TCR is basically a list of items, governed by a group of interested people. To have a say in adding/deleting items from this list, you need something of value which is represented by a crypto token. That’s it.

Use-cases

Now that we have a basic understanding of TCRs, let’s also look at how and why they should be used. In general, whitelisting of important things is done by centralized organizations like publication houses, authorities or individual reviewers (best colleges, best restaurants, best movies of all time, etc.). The entries in the whitelists curated by these organizations can be biased, sponsored or even wrong. It’s almost impossible for the consumers to find out whether the whitelisting is correct or not, let alone have any influence on it. TCRs give us the power and flexibility to help curate whitelists of anything of value and importance.

That was my take on explaining TCRs in the ‘Explain like I’m 5’ way. The goal for this blog post is to make TCRs look simple so that the community members can understand and participate in the curation processes more actively. I believe, you don’t have to be an expert on crypto primitives to help curate a list of domain names (among other things).

For a deeper dive on TCRs and related concepts, please do read the TCR 1.0 paper.

The slides from my TCR talk are shared here and the video is available here.

Blockchain, Token Curated Registries, TCR, Token Economics

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