Enabling a Steem-based alternative to Patreon through light accounts

in #steem3 years ago (edited)

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Nothing I can think of would bring more value to Steem than having a Steem-based alternative to Patreon that is well integrated with condenser.

Not only would it bring a lot of value in and off itself, but it would also serve as an important building block to make Steem a more attractive platform that solves relevant problems for content creators out there looking for alternatives to the broken platforms they've currently got. Without trying to over-exaggerate anything, but simply wanting to stress how big I think this could be, I strongly believe this rather simple edition would add more long-term value to Steem than the aggregated set of values brought by Smart Media Tokens.

The need

Patreon is the service that creators in the demographic most relevant to Steem currently rely on for content monetization (creators facing demonetization, those who don't want to rely on ads, or anyone wanting to give up less of their potential profits in fees). This fact alone makes it easy to "sell" when pitching Steem to creators out there, as most already understand the benefits of such a service as opposed to the burden of needing to explain how the rewards pool on Steem works. Better yet, Steem's core value propositions just happen to also solve the two biggest weaknesses that Patreon still have from the point of view of the creators:

  1. Patreon is still centralized and occasionally ban users, thus adding risk to creators that would not exist on Steem.
  2. Patreon charges a large fee on transactions and subscriptions, thus adding a direct opportunity cost to the creators when compared to an alternative without fees.

Thus, from the point of view of making Steem more attractive to creators to use, this would allow Steem to provide a better option at the very core of what most creators care about the most.

Benefits to Steem

From the point of view of Steem's growth as a platform, it is also in dire need of monetization options that do not rely on the reward pool and stake-based voting. Again, there are many reasons for this:

  1. Inflation is not sustainable long term as the main source of rewards nor will it always be here with the decreasing inflation.

  2. Creators need ways to monetize that do not depend on the whims of whale votes, but rather the loyal support of content consumers whom their contributions valuable and supporting.

  3. Steem needs monetization options for creators that scale with the number of content consumers and followers that they have. This in order to motivate going outside of the Steem bubble, to share content and to make other actions to grow their following. This is, unfortunately, opposite to the current system on Steem that does not reward users at all for growing their following, but instead motivates them to only share their content with those who are already on Steem and have Steem Power to vote with. Resulting in no network effect at all for Steem.

  4. A Patreon like model requires no additional explanation and leaves no impression of a "Ponzi scheme" or unreliable/unproven economic model the way that the current inflation-based reward pool allocated by stake-based voting does. Having this as an alternative will make the onboarding of more serious content creators much easier.

  5. Unlike inflation-based rewards, a Patreon system will actually make external visitors buy STEEM and use RCs to make transactions. Thus bringing value to the token.

I don't think it can be stressed enough how important such an addition, as well as other alternative monetization options independent of the inflation-based reward pool that instead capture and distribute external value generated from web traffic and engagement, is for Steem. It really is the one thing I believe everyone ought to be working to add at this moment in time if we want to turn the current reputation of Steem and the market price of STEEM around. I would therefore highly encourage anyone who can look at this proposal, and who believes they have what it takes to build an open-sourced solution for condenser, to take the time to make a serious SPS proposal for it.

So why doesn't this exist already?

The main obstacle to make this work right now is the fact that users looking to support a creator through such a Patreon model would need to give their Active key to a third-party app in order to continuously pay their monthly subscription. Of course, it is not recommended that anybody does this with their main account as it can also be used to initiate power downs of Steem Power or irreversibly send away liquid funds. This means, that the backer would either need to verify a transaction themselves once every month to keep their support going, or trust their Active key to a third party. Neither are ideal options.

The solution

This is where light account come into play. Steem light accounts, as described by Steemit Inc will be a basic Steem account that only provides the features needed to use a wallet. Thus, it will require fewer resource credits to operate and be a lot cheaper (if not free) to create. Such an account would be perfect for subscriptions. Anyone interested in making subscriptions to a Patreon-like service would simply have a light account controlled by its own Active key containing only a limited amount of liquid STEEM at any point in time.

The practical outcome would be a bit similar to carrying an additional credit only card, as I am sure most of us do. Everyone is already familiar with how leaving a card with a limited balance in the bar is far safer than giving away your main debit Visa card. Light accounts could be used in a similar way across many different Steem apps and websites, as I'll get to later.

Wallet integration

I propose that with the arrival of light accounts, we also introduce an option in the Steemit wallet to create a new "spending account". This would take away the confusion of needing to create a separate Steem account and serve an additional purpose as an incentive to hold Steem Power to "unlock" such additional features when gaining the required RCs to operate it. Anu user with enough Steem Power will then have the option to create a "spending account" with the click of a button after having saved their new Active key (which I also think should be renamed "wallet key". But that's another discussion). The UI would then also provide some minimalistic information about why having a spending account with limited funds might be a good idea for anyone looking to make transactions. For user experience purposes, it would be best if the light account, although technically a separate Steem account, would still feel like an extension of their main account, or just a separate wallet that can be accessed on the same page as their main account (aka the account of the light account creator).

Added benefits

Having such a spending account would make sense not just for subscriptions but for third party apps that want to allow transactions without the enormous security risks involved with handling the Active keep of a user's main account. Indeed it should be essential for a currency like STEEM, whose competitive advantage is the fact that it is fast and feeless, to do everything to ensure that users actually want to use it for transactions, and not avoid it. We want hundreds and thousands of websites out there that implement STEEM tipping services, subscriptions, merch-stores that accept STEEM on-site, etc. By instead having a "spending account", users can be more liberal in their use of services that require an Active key without the risk of giving away any access to their main account. Again, this will also be useful for any services looking to accept smaller payments for which Steem is meant to excel.

By having such "spending accounts" in place that is a well-integrated part of the normal user experience, it suddenly becomes very easy to provide a Patreon-like system. Now if you want to support a creator with let's say 10SBD per month, then you could sign up to be a "backer" with the Active key of your spending account and leave something like 20 or 30 SBD in its balance. Condenser could then give you a notification whenever you need to add more tokens to the balance account to continue your subscription. By having it integrated with your main account, the person you're backing or the community front end will also easily recognize its connection to your social account and provide it with optional permissions or privileges. Much cleaner than sending a transaction from the Steemit wallet with a unique memo.

Third party standard

I would also hope that this could open for a whole new standard for apps on Steem looking to enable payment services or otherwise accept STEEM/SBD. What I imagine is a trusted payment option similar to Steemconnect that on purpose only accepts Active keys that are associated with a Light account / "spending account". This would open for a higher level of security while at the same time providing high levels of convenience to users who want to make purchases with the fast and feeless currency that we have!

Encouraging SPS

I look forward to further discussions about the potential obstacles as well as the potential of such an addiction to our blockchain. And I hope that anyone who reads this and are capable of building any of the required building blocks needed to bring this vision to life will consider doing so.

I would love to see a team of the come together to create such a proposal. Imo, it would be well worth funding north of 300 SBD per day, and I would do anything in my power to help it get the funding that it needs and deserves!

Fredrik / @fredrikaa


We need reliable stablecoin for such platform to thrive on Steem.
SBD is a whack right now it needs to be reworked.


!giphy whack

giphy is supported by witness untersatz!

Would certainly help. Although with most patreon's out there accepting donations in the range from 1$ to 1000$ depending on the supporter's interest, then I don't see why STEEM could not be used. Sure, your support may vary, but then people can always readjust their amounts. Also, if we have a good fiat gateway, then a backer could simply support the user with X amount of USD worth of STEEM per month that gets bought and transferred.

But yeah, a working SBD would be ideal. I think having a system like Patreon to drive more demand and volume to SBD, and also raise the STEEM price back up, would be one of the best ways to fix SBDs and thus enable it to work better.

High volatility means ridiculous cognitive load (who the hell wants to adjust their subscription amounts every month, and for creators it means adjusting requested sponsorship levels for status or benefits) and also less willingness to hold onto the coin for non-investors.

The whole crypto ecosystem is moving rapidly toward stablecoins for everything other than explicit investment/speculation. Agree with parent comment.

Also agree that improving the demand/economics of STEEM is an essential component of fixing SBD, though not the only one (also needs an upper bound peg to stop pumps).

High volatility means ridiculous cognitive load (who the hell wants to adjust their subscription amounts every month, and for creators it means adjusting requested sponsorship levels for status or benefits) and also less willingness to hold onto the coin for non-investors.

The whole crypto ecosystem is moving rapidly toward stablecoins for everything other than explicit investment/speculation. Agree with parent comment.

Completely agree with all of this. My point was not to dismiss the usefulness of a stable-coin or a functional SBD, but rather the insistence on it or assuming that it is required for this to even work. This would imo result in a chicken or the egg problem, as I believe we need solutions like this to have a functional economy and thus get the SBD back to its peg.

Also, if Steem is to become an attractive and functional platform economy, then at some point it can't be all about the fiat values of the tokens, but people seeing value in the token itself and wanting to use it for its own sake. To get there, we need meaningful ways for people to spend SBDs. Short term, most will for sure get sold to fiat by the creators who want to monetize it. But then over time, adding options like paying for web hosting with SBD (as we currently enable ourselves), having things like steemfests where people buy tickets with SBDs, merch items, etc. Then slowly but surely people will not look to transfer their earned SBD for fiat, but for goods and services, and we'll be on track to sustainably growing this place.

Yeah I agree the stablecoin isn't required to work, but it would be a huge boost, and I also agree that the overall platform needs a lot of chicken-and-egg work.

You're also right that creators would probably sell the SBD for fiat, but still not necessarily right away, especially if SBD were paying some competitive level of interest (even 1/2-1% is probably attractive). People looking to earn rather than speculate are much more likely to hold SBD than STEEM if they don't necessarily need the funds right away, and many don't.

Finally, creators selling SBD could be overall offset by subscribers buying SBD. The key is to have willingness to hold for more than a millisecond. That confidence translate to value entrusted to the system.

But yeah, it all depends on building confidence in the platform as a whole.

especially if SBD were paying some competitive level of interest (even 1/2-1% is probably attractive). People looking to earn rather than speculate are much more likely to hold SBD than STEEM

What do you think about implementing the possibility to power up SBD as well as Steem ?

Meaning that the 'powered up' SBD should not be taken into account for the haircut calculating.
Instead it should be taken into account for the calculating of vesting_shares.

Interesting idea, but I fear it would not be a high priority for blockchain development for quite some time. We can keep it in mind though, and revisit after more pressing issues are addressed.

As a couple other folks have noted, I think the fiat on ramp is a big hurdle to solve. We do need simple purchase with credit card options directly on-site.

More than that, Patreon is similar to other crowdfunding, like KickStarter, with a focus on backer rewards; frequently physical, or at least digital items delivered direct to the recipient. (Coupon codes, high resolution art files, exclusive download links, etc.) There almost needs to be a hybrid system at play of a centralized website + blockchain finance. I’ve found a project like Fundition to be inadequate for a broad campaign precisely because there is zero way for me to gain information on my backers and reward them accordingly.
This is another obstacle I believe needs overcome. There has to be a toolset for creators to manage their subscribers. Patreon would be much less used if it relied only on the kindness of donors hearts. Systems need to be in place for secure collection of names, emails, physical addresses... whatever the consumer is willing to leave. The masses don’t want to donate anonymously. They want that fun care package in the mail!

Can that be achieved all “on-chain” in a decentralized fashion? I don’t know... It’ll take work on encrypted memos & messaging systems and some interfaces to make sense of all the data if it’s to be kept between the two parties.

Without that, it’ll basically be Patreon with an option to pay in crypto. There will be a centralized site handling customer data. They will take fees to cover costs. They will block projects from being seen or receiving transfers through their system based on the laws in their jurisdiction, etc.

It’s something I’d love to see well implemented, but it’s tricky all around.

I think that using light accounts that way is a great idea, I really like your analogy with credit cards.

If steemit, inc doesn't include it in the main wallet I truly think that anyone could build a good website specifically with this goal. Obviously, he'll need to take a cut out of the subscriptions which removes one of the positives but it's better than nothing.

Why not implement an auto payment feature on the blockchain level? The pay wall (Steem Patreon app) can then check whether the user has signed such a transaction on the blockchain and grant access to certain content then.

Yes, I also think that using Steem as a verification tool is very powerful. Not everything has to be on the blockchain. The content that the backer wants access to could just as well be somewhere else.

About the auto payment: This is where you would need to give up your Active key to an app in order for it to continuously verify those automated transactions out of your wallet. This is why I think a "spending account" would be a key enabler, since it means you would have an account on which you could accept the risk of giving up your Active Key.

I love that you're chatting about creator support tools like patreon.

While the big issue you're talking about is an issue creating another companion account for 3 steem isn't a huge barrier if you're doing a paid system like patreon. Specially with the upcoming implementation of resource pools to allow an app handle the resource needs of the weekly or monthly transactions.

Automated payments are a big deal for patron however you can have a patreon type system even with a manual contribution system. Or a system where you trust someone to deliver payments and you hold money in a soft account that the payer still has access to at any time. That level of trust for just a few cents to a few dollars is not a deal breaker every day majority of the planet trusts thousands of third parties to keep their money under the stewardship of another organization (banks) So putting in $5-20 into an account you still have access to but another company has access to and stakes their reputation on in order to let them do a service for you is not gonna be a deal breaker for a patreon on steem.

If we want to solve this toward a completely trustless that's awesome... but this is not what's holding up a patreon system on steem.

Seeing that PATREON is essentially a Pay Wall content hosting system perhaps the more difficult item that may be a bit more of a barrier is low level ENCRYPTING content. Because that lies at the heart of most Pay Wall/subscription systems

Aka you can read this content IF you have done X
Example IF you have paid a subscription... or IF you follow me or IF i follow you or IF you voted on it... Or IF there's a transaction in my wallet that says you paid to see this.

A system that doesn't have a PAY WALL is more of just a Donation system.

I've long thought that this could be a key part of Steem's future, but have not worked out how it could be implemented. We can vote our delegate to support people, but the profits on those may not be enough. I would happily donate Steem to crowdfunding projects, but we need a trusted way to handle that, e.g. a third party who holds the funds. Is this what you need smart contracts for? There is Fundition, but I have not grasped how that works yet.

Inflation is, imo, not a solution to sustainably fund anything but the security of the network. All possible rewards for creators, engagers, and apps should be from the exchange of STEEM/SBD/SMT between market actors, and not from a "rewards pool" (the whole concept of that is dead in my eyes).

One way or another, trust will be required, that's why I think it is important to also enable users to have a spending account that can be used more liberally without the risk associated with trusting the Active Key of your main account to any apps.

This equation makes sense to me. But just one thing, albeit quite inconsequential - you typoed 'pateron' in the graphic. Maybe that's what steem patreon should be called 🤓 I know there was 'hatreon' for a while...

Thought nobody would notice!😜

[..] such an addiction to our blockchain. [...]

I think, I found another typo there.

A lot of value would come from a centralized, integrated fiat gateway for all the cryptophobic normies out there: They save their credit card information or authorize their PayPal and every month STEEM is automatically bought for 10 USD and distributed to their selected content creators

That would be amazing! But to bootstrap and grow a STEEM-based economy, we should build one function at a time to SPEND our currency in meaningful ways. So much weird talks about use-cases that would involve burning STEEM... When what we need is a platform economy that takes use the competitive advantages of our native token(s) to boost the apps/communities/products people look to build and grow here.

Need to convince witnesses to stop lying on Steem/USD rates since this prevents our stablecoin SBD from getting back to USD parity.

What the hell are you talking about? No top witnesses are lying about the Steem/USD rates as far as I know, and I would know. (Backup witness feed values don't really matter.)

nice post

How would this be?

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Nice info!

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Congratulations @fredrikaa!
Your post was mentioned in the Steem Hit Parade in the following category:

  • Pending payout - Ranked 6 with $ 38,29

@fredrikaa, In my opinion definitely through Lite Accounts we can see more Adoption and due to Centralised Point of Patreon in my opinion we can see high rate of possibility that Patreon Users 👥 will attract towards Steem Blockchain due to it's Decentralised Structure.

And it's a collective effort when it comes to spreading the word. Stay blessed.

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I love this idea.

Can bots be used to track supporters and maintain a creators shop if thats a valid question? Maybe use of an army of bots to obtain top upvoters for perks. I think in some cases like online esports that rewards such as upvotes for temporary skins for fps could attract gamers if games could include blockchain content shop directly ingame.

Dear @fredrikaa

Wouldn't you consider current lack of solid regulations (and at the same increasing worldwide economic tensions and capital control) to be also a problem?

It's best is STEEM would be considered utility token, not an investment or monetary 3rd party.

I've noticed that you've been posting sometimes about crypto, blcokchain and technology. I love those topics as well.
If you would ever publish anything related to technology, economy, marketing, psychology or steemit etc - then send me link in memo. I'm trying to support quality content and I have 2-3 upvotes daily to spare from @project.hope (over 200k SP) i my own account. I will gladly support your publications (as long as they represent solid quality :)

Great read. Post already a bit to old to upvote. Till next time :)
Cheers, Piotr

Very interesting read, Although light accounts would vastly improve the useability of such system, it is definitely doable right now.

You mentioned an unlockeable second account with little rc if you reach enough sp, isn't this exactly what claiming an account with rc does ?
And if people were to run a steem patreon, assuming that people will basically do one transfer per month, it would need almost 0 rc, so a claimed account with 0 sp would totally work for that. A dapp can already do this and profide free claimed steem accounts to anyone who signs up.

And assuming the dapp ran out of accounts, if a user is ready to put even one sbd per month for a content creator, the dapp can definitely take a bit from it's first contribution to pay for a steem account.

Basically light accounts would be needed to scale, but it takes time for apps to scale so I'd say that claiming accounts totally works for now for such a dapp.

And in the end do you really need light wallets ? Most of the users won't care about steem itself, or simply will be in a country where it's hard to buy some. Why not just give content creators who sign up wallets (claimed accounts, which is now a manageable number since there are way less content creators compared to contributors) and then setup automatic payments with paypal/whatever to buy steem/sbd and send it to their wallets ?

The fiat part will be centralized, but anyone is free to contribute to those content creators via their wallets later on. It seems like an easier route, except for the legal implications of taking in fiat and buying crypto with it.