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What is a Token Curated Registry (TCR)?

Here we learn about Token Curated Registries (TCR) and decentralized lists, the downfalls of centralized lists and how a TCR can be a solution.

What is a Token Curated Registry (TCR)?

A Token-Curated Registry (TCR) is the name that has been given to a crypto-system that builds decentralized lists. The first TCR whitepaper was published in 2017 by Mike Goldin, though as it stands TCRs are still relatively underused with only a handful of projects in operation.

As the name suggests they make use of a token to curate lists in a decentralized manner. Generally, each TCR has a unique token, which assigns curation and governance rights to token holders which are relative to the amount of tokens held and staked.

What is the problem with centralized online lists?

Today online lists and rating systems are found everywhere, we review nearly every product we use or place we visit - however the whole system is flawed. There is no way of proving if a review is genuine or not and most platforms to do not actively police for fake reviews or vote boosting. And we have to trust that the list owners are acting honestly, when they could easily be manipulating the information.

I am sure you have heard the hilarious story of Oobah Butler who in 2017 started The Shed, a fake restaurant, that in just 6 months became London's top-rated restaurant without ever having served a single dish.

How does a TCR solve the problem?

Remember that lists are always made up of entries that contain data: restaurant names, website addresses, street addresses, ratings - we use them to organise or rank this information. The idea is to get rid of a centralised list owner controlling all this information by creating an economic incentive for decentralized list curation.

  • Every list has a native token that anyone is able to buy.
  • As a token holder, you will want the project to succeed - which is your incentive for maintaining a popular, genuine and helpful list because this will attract more applicants to submit more data to the list. Which means the project will grow and ultimately the value of the token will go up!
  • To submit data to a list, an Applicant has to buy the native token and deposit an amount to submit a new entry.
  • Token holders can also challenge a new entry if they believe the data should not belong on the list. This is known as a Challenger and also requires a token deposit to be made.
  • If a challenge happens, then token holders can vote whether to keep or reject the new entry. And their vote is proportional to the amount of tokens they hold.
  • If the new entry is rejected, then the applicant's deposit is lost. The applicant's deposit will be split between the challenger and the token holders who voted to reject the entry.
  • If the new entry is accepted to the list, then the applicant gets to keep their deposit. But the challenger's deposit is lost and split between the applicant and the token holders who voted to keep the entry.

So, therefore, a TCR is curated by a market that is financially motivated and not by one single entity. Theoretically, this means the outcome should hold a higher value than centralized lists which are more at risk to deception and censorship.

In practice, we could say that this way of formulating a decentralized lists allows us our information to be ranked following the wisdom of the crowd. Though it could also be argued that the voting could fall victim to clever social engineering or mob mentality.

Examples of Token Curated Registries

  • TCR Party - a social experiment that is trying to curate a list of the best cryptocurrency twitter accounts.
  • Openmarketcap - A project attempting to track cryptocurrencies without fake volume, they use a TCR to nominate new exchange listings.

Still quite an experimental technology, but given that we can find lists everywhere in our day-to-day lives: crypto asset portfolio, hotel reviews, music playlists - it definitely means there that the use-cases for curation markets really are quite limitless.

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