The WordPress Core Contributor NFT Whitepaper

A novel way to incentivize WordPress contributions via Web3 technologies.

Web3 WP is a community of WordPress enthusiasts and businesses dedicated to introducing the WordPress community to the decentralized future of the internet – Blockchain, dApps, DAOs, NFTs, and Crypto meet GPL. Though Web3 technologies can be controversial, we believe strongly that once one takes the time to understand the new capabilities Web3 unlocks and actually uses the applications being built with it, it’s nearly impossible to not see this as the future of the Internet. This is often described as “falling down the Web3 rabbit hole”, and is what we hope to achieve for members of the WordPress community – our long-time home. To achieve this mission we are focusing our efforts on:

  1. Education through our blog, social, video, and sharing of open source code.
  2. Building novel and practical “experiments” demonstrating how Web3 can align with WordPress and Open Source software.

Problem Background

The WordPress project, like any open source software, relies heavily on a community of developers and contributors who patch bugs and develop new features. Most do this on a volunteer basis because they use the software and love the community that has formed around it. This community-based development and ownership is one of the amazing hallmarks of Open Source Software, but also leads to some common problems that often cause projects to languish, lose relevance, or die.

  • Contributors are often criminally underfunded, especially when compared to the amount of value they create for the users of their open source software projects. Without financial backing or incentives they are limited on the time they can dedicate to the project, making it more difficult to build complex features and security standards that require strong collaboration and dedicated focus.
  • Contributors often are poorly recognized for their contributions and hard work. And yet we expect them to deal with the regular complaints and accusations in tickets and threads from users who want the world, treating their free software as if it was some paid product from a major tech company.

The WordPress project has done a better job than most open source software to address these challenges:

  • The Five for the Future campaign encourages organizations to contribute five percent of their resources to WordPress development. The majority of development today is by these sponsored employees of larger WP companies like Automattic, Yoast, 10up, etc. While being a lifeline to keep WordPress relevant, this reliance on sponsorship sometimes brings up questions of these companies’ influence over the direction of the project. Do the goals of commercial WordPress companies always line up with those of most WP users?
Contributors by company slide from the "State of the Word" 2021
Contributors by company slide from the “State of the Word” 2021
  • A credits system exists to help give some credit to developers by displaying their names and avatars in the About page that is shown when upgrading WordPress. Also user profiles on wordpress.org show badges to recognize core contributors. However many WordPress users never see these credits or badges, and they can’t be easily shared for social proof. They are also centralized and non-portable, if wordpress.org disappears so does that recognition.

Despite the success of these efforts, we believe that by leveraging some of the capabilities that Web3 technology provides we can build new and exciting ways to improve the WordPress project by incentivizing core contributions.

Proposal

The Web3 WP community is working on our next project to support WordPress by rewarding core contributors for their contributions in the past and into the future. We are creating limited edition collectable “WordPress Core Contributor“ coins for each of the 41 major historical releases of WordPress all the way back to 0.7. We have already compiled at great effort an exhaustive list of all these contributors to be able to reward them with this rare collectible.

Initial draft design concept

Rather than mint and distribute these collectible coins in the real world via post or at events like WordCamps, we will be leveraging the power of Web3 to mint these as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens)! These NFTs are distributed essentially as an “Airdrop”, as they can be claimed and minted free of charge only by WordPress Core Contributors. In fact these collectibles will actually be some of the first NFT WordPress swag following in the footsteps of our Wapuu NFT collection that launched Web3 WP.

We imagine a few potential outcomes that might come from this NFT experiment, all of which could work towards our goal to grow and improve the WordPress project.

  1. Social Proof

NFTs are not just about art or speculation. One of the most interesting use cases that has emerged with NFTs is that they have become a form of social proof. In the case of CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club they are the digital equivalent of buying a supercar to show off your status around town, both in functionality and price. Being able to cryptographically prove that you own a scarce digital asset representing your membership in an exclusive club is a revolutionary development in a world where our online identity is becoming more separate and important than our IRL one.

While WordPress already provides some forms of social proof to core contributors in the form of the about page credits and wordpress.org profile badges, it could be greatly improved. A badge in the the form of an NFT would be visually appealing, cryptographically verifiable, irrevocable, and portable. If a core contributor decides to mint and hold their NFTs, they can be displayed on our web3wp.com gallery, in their wallet, via any compatible NFT gallery app, and even soon as a cryptographically verified Twitter profile picture!

  1. Creating New Incentives

A unique attribute of NFTs is that they are natively portable and monetizable. These NFTs will be inherently rare, as by our calculations even if every contributor NFT was minted for all WP versions through 5.8, there would be only 11,256 for the potentially huge market that the success of the WordPress project creates. Additionally as NFT metadata will be unique for each core contributor, demand can form for specific contributors tied to their stature in the community. For example, how rare and in demand would the WordPress 0.7 NFTs for Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little (the only contributors for the initial release) be?

Core contributors will be able to mint these collectibles free of any fees. After minting they can decide whether to hold their NFT for social proof, or list it on marketplaces to be sold to other potential collectors. If there is a market demand for these collectibles they could become a way for contributors to receive monetary rewards for their contribution to WordPress. They would receive a fee when selling their NFT, and thereafter receive a perpetual royalty percentage of every trade on NFT marketplaces. We also propose to work with the WordPress foundation so that the NFTs can programmatically send a percentage of royalties of all trades directly to the WordPress foundation as well. This could result in a new market, where by trading and collecting these NFT coins people can support the WordPress contributors and foundation monetarily.

By creating a whole new incentive system for WordPress core contributions, participation should increase as people can contribute to open source and have a way for the community as a whole to sponsor them and help pay some of their bills. Think of it as allowing anyone to “sponsor” a core contributor just as many WordPress companies do today via Five for the Future. And all of this can be built via Web3 to function permissionlessly and trustlessly on the blockchain with no intermediaries or central authorities!

Technical Details

  • We have compiled a hopefully complete database of all core contributors for each major WordPress release going all the way back to 0.7. These are keyed by their wordpress.org username. For versions going back to WP 3.2 and into the future we use the official credits API endpoint. For earlier versions we manually compiled contributors from blog post announcements, closed track tickets by milestone, and SVN commits.
  • WordPress Core Contributors found in our DB will be able to mint their NFTs after they prove their identity by logging into a Github account via Oauth that is attached to their wordpress.org profile. An undocumented API on wordpress.org already exists for this, used by the Gutenburg Github repository.
  • Each NFT will include in its metadata:
    1. A video animation of a 3D rotating coin. This will be a unique design for each WordPress release.
    2. The WordPress version, jazz musician name, and release date.
    3. The WordPress logo, subject to verification that this project is in line with the WordPress trademark rules.
    4. An IPFS immutable link to the zip file download the WordPress release.
    5. The SVN revision number for the release.
    6. The Core contributor’s username, Name, type, and gravatar link and title for the release if available.
    7. Lots of fun nerdy easter eggs in its design and layout.
  • We plan to partner with Immutable X to launch this NFT. This is a Layer 2 “rollup” Ethereum blockchain specifically for NFTs, and it already powers many large NFT projects such as TikTok, Disney, Marvel, and more. Using Immutable X instead of Ethereum mainnet directly provides some important benefits:
    1. Free minting and trading with NO gas fees!
    2. Frictionless onboarding using an existing Web3/Metamask wallet.
    3. A carbon-neutral blockchain, no environmental concerns here.
    4. The ability to add multiple levels of royalties. Example even if a contributor sells their NFT, they will continue to receive royalties every time that NFT is traded in perpetuity.
    5. Still powered and protected by the decentralized Ethereum blockchain via zk-rollups. So we inherit the authority of the most established Web3 blockchain, while conducting the normally expensive minting/trading/marketplace transactions on a more efficient layer.
    6. The ability to withdraw NFTs to the Ethereum mainnet (by paying gas) for trade on other marketplaces like OpenSea, or in case of Immutable X going down or discontinuing service (their smart contract has a time-locked emergency withdrawal function).

Conclusion

We are excited about the potential of this experiment to incentivize contributions to WordPress in ways never before possible without Web3 technologies. In fact this may be one of the first attempts to “tokenize” open source software contributions, and depending on how it turns out has the potential to unlock new ways of growing, monetizing, and governing open source software projects in the future. We believe this project fits the Web3 WP mission well, to build novel and practical “experiments” demonstrating how Web3 works and can align with WordPress and other OSS projects.

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Aaron Edwards

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