Kickstarter has announced move to a crypto based platform that has sent shockwaves through the crowdfunding community.

Founder and chair Perry Chen and ceo Aziz Hasan announced that Kickstarter would be building a new open source platform, based on public blockchain, to decentralize their operation, and they plan to eventually move the entire system to the new platform.

In the spirit of decentralization, we’re establishing an independent organization that will kick off the development of the protocol. Kickstarter PBC will provide this new independent organization with some funding, appoint an initial board, and commit to being one of the protocol’s earliest clients, meaning will be built on top of the protocol. As a user, the Kickstarter experience you’re familiar with will stay the same. You won’t “see” the protocol, but you will benefit from its improvements.

Although Kickstarter will be using Celo, an open source and carbon negative blockchain platform, concerns over the ecological and economic impact of the move have creators up in arms. Both creators and backers have pledged not to use Kickstarter going forward. A few representative reactions from Twitter:

Hiveworks Xelette Stillwell writes:

“I am disappointed in the executive leadership of @kickstarter
for the types of decisions they’re making in terms of how to invest Kickstarter’s time and resources,””Energy consumption is only part of the problem of crypto and it is still a largely unregulated field. Whether or not it is a business area to explore is one to look into once government regulation has caught up to it. If you can’t do it with real money it probably isn’t areas you should explore as a benefits corporation.

“The entire day, I’ve been watching artists get chased by NFT bots and spam, and dealing with art theft. Crypto and blockchain itself is a plague that from tech Ceo’s wielding fiscal policy like children do their toys. There is no benefits here in further investing into it. I don’t blame KS staff for this, I blame a select group of tech executives that are detached from the day to day reality of artists and the industry having to deal with the consequences of their inexperience.”

Comics crowdfunding consultant George Rohac writes:

“This is disappointing @kickstarter, but not surprising. Shareholders chase shiny popular quick money things. The only potentially-barely-not-terrible thing of this is they’re doing it on Celo, which is not burning entire forests for a hyperlink to a GIF.

Its also supposedly going to be a spin off/whole independent corp, so theoretically you can/will be able to use kickstarter without it going into crypto. But…

New shiny thing is shiny and all their friends are doing it. Like on paper I get how people are like “Dang blockchain is neat.” Cause it is. But asbestos and leaded gasoline also sounded cool at the time.

Cartoonist Reimena Yee (Séance Tea Party) is organizing a protest among creators, and weighing options for other platforms.

I’m highly disappointed at the KS news. I really wanted to crowdfund Alexander Comic, make a gorgeous book. But them getting into chain of the blocks too, being disingenous with their rollout plan? Absolutely not.

I don’t know how I am going to publish Alexander as a book now. Good grief.

Like, I know from its birth that Alexander is not possible (at this time) as a traditionally published book. It’s too big, too risky, too artsy and adult – the GN market rn, the advances, etc is all about middle-grade. It can only be a webcomic and a crowdfunded book.

And so much of the “It will become a book” planning hinged on it using KS. But me, as a creator, who has already read not just about the chains, but all of the stuff about the rise/fall of startups, internet wellness scams, the corporatisation of the web… I can’t be on that solely out of the fact that it goes against my values as a creator entirely nurtured by – the open-source (or freeware), public good, volunteer-run, public-supported, non-speculative internet. The old internet that originally functioned for libraries and academics.

Anyway if you want to actually build a case against this development, please email KS directly or to a KS outreach lead so they can gather feedback to argue against the switch to the chain. I am doing it right now.

Asked if Patreon was an option for her book, she tweeted:

Patreon isnt a reliable crowdfunding infrastructure esp in those high amounts and many one-time subscribers (how do they get updates?). Also it’s got one foot into the chain, who knows when they will jump in

For those who aren’t crypto-literate, Kickstarter’s move may seem puzzling, especially since it is a “public benefit corporation.” That doesn’t mean it isn’t responsible to investors however. According to the Bloomberg article that announced the move, “Crowdfunding has largely faded from the public consciousness in recent years, and Kickstarter signaled to its venture capitalists that it wasn’t the sort of hyper-growth startup they thought it was.”

While that may come as a surprise to the community that is running six figure crowdfunded campaigns, Bloomberg claims that investment money is already shifting to crypto via distributed autonomous organizations, or DAOs, and “the embrace of crypto could help Kickstarter regain some relevance.”

While these statements may be true from a cutting edge investment perspective (a view that regular cartoonists have no interest in), the net effect could be devastating.  Last month I took part in a very smart panel, including Rohac, that discussed the robust and successful cycle/network of webcomics/crowdfunding/publishing. This network has become the norm for comics projects that could never have been published or profitable in the pre-crowdfunding world, and has led to the rise of a whole new class of publishers and platforms.

And that’s just the comics end of it. There are definitely a lot of businesses that run on Kickstarter that will embrace the move to crypto, but those who see it as a “do no harm” alternative are feeling very betrayed right now.

Obviously, this is a huge move that could have massive impact down the road and we’ll be here to report on further developments.


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