In 2017, my partner and I initiated LikeCoin, claiming to dedicate ten years to this project. At that time, it was a bold statement, but most people regarded it as promotional language or even nonsense, and no one ever questioned this promise.
In 2023, I would like to reiterate: For the LikeCoin project, I plan to invest ten years of my life.
Half of the ten-year promise has passed, and LikeCoin is still going strong. My previous venture lasted for twenty years, and although the world is changing rapidly and no one can be sure whether I will still be here in five years, it more or less proves that I am extremely serious about this commitment, pushing LikeCoin with my graying temples.
I look forward to seeing you at the marathon finish line in five years and giving you a high-five. At this midway point, let’s take a moment to review the journey we’ve traveled together on this half-marathon.
Turn Likes into Coins, Give Back to Creators
The development of LikeCoin can be roughly divided into three stages.
In the early days, LikeCoin’s slogan was “Turn Likes into Coins.” In Hong Kong, where a mix of Chinese and English is common, it was also expressed as “化 Like 為 Coin”, meaning that when readers like something, the author receives tangible returns. The specific mechanism is not the focus of this article and has been discussed hundreds of times before, so I won’t go into detail.
Therefore, the original concept of LikeCoin was straightforward: to make “creativity a viable livelihood”, which in industry jargon a few years later would be “write to earn.” Admittedly, this argument is materialistic but also the most appealing. Only a simple and relevant message can capture the public’s attention and make a lasting impression. Don’t forget, five years ago, very few people understood or were even interested in blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
In line with transforming likes into rewards, LikeCoin launched the Civic Liker campaign. The mechanism of the Civic Liker campaign can also be divided into three stages, starting with a monthly $5 credit card payment, after which the system purchases LikeCoin from the market and automatically distributes it with likes; to the end of 2020, when 2.0 was introduced, allowing Civic Likers to designate the full $5-$100 amount to a single author.
The scale of the Civic Liker campaign grew, and my monthly writing income through LikeCoin began to exceed HK$10,000, enough to support a simple life excluding housing expenses, moving towards the goal of “creativity as a livelihood.” However, in response to the rapid deterioration of Hong Kong’s system, the LikeCoin Foundation decided to deregister at the end of 2020, and Civic Liker 2.0 also ceased service later.
In early 2022, the Civic Liker campaign was revived in the form of web3. “Civic Liker web3” is the third stage of the campaign, allowing readers to stake 5,000 LikeCoins, with the system distributing staking rewards through likes. Each like from a citizen gives the author 1 LikeCoin until the rewards are depleted and the process restarts the following month.
As of today, there are a total of 737 participants in the Civic Liker Web3 initiative. Due to the barriers of having a wallet and purchasing tokens, both the number of participants and the amount of rewards are temporarily much lower than during the peak period. However, despite being small, Web3 is resilient and able to avoid sudden changes that could destroy the system. Two years after the foundation voluntarily deregistered and suspended credit card payments, numerous Hong Kong organizations have been forced to deregister or even prosecuted, and the latest Hong Kong policy report points to the regulation of crowdfunding. We cannot know how LikeCoin would have fared in the parallel world where the foundation still operates and credit cards are still in use, but this at least shows that LikeCoin’s response has been well thought out and targeted.
Back up Hong Kong. Document history.
The second phase of LikeCoin’s development focuses on using blockchain to register content, combating tampering, censorship, and disappearance.
Many people believe that this development was a response to the 2019 social situation, especially due to the emergence of the “Backing up Hong Kong, Documenting History” campaign. However, this is a beautiful misunderstanding. In fact, since the inception of LikeCoin in 2017, the team had spent a significant amount of time researching the “content on-chain” mechanism and discussing the design of “content fingerprint” in the white paper. When it was officially launched, the content fingerprint was renamed to ISCN (International Standard Content Number), borrowing the naming convention from ISBN.
Initially, the content fingerprint was intended to be written in JSON format on Ethereum, but a year later, it was found to be too expensive and unfeasible. In light of this, LikeCoin made the most profound change in its five-year history, separating from Ethereum and forming its own chain. (However, today, several years later, Ethereum layer 2 technology has reduced costs to a nearly feasible level, like Mirror.xyz’s NFTs minted on Optimism.)
The LikeCoin chain produced its genesis block on November 15, 2019, with the version code named SheungWan. From token to chain, this meant that in addition to rewarding authors, LikeCoin added the function of voting. Voting involves both the objective confirmation of blocks every six seconds and the subjective deliberation of daily governance proposals, with 58 proposals processed to date.
The LikeCoin chain serves as a foundation for decentralized content guardianship and collaborative fluid democracy within the community. However, due to development time, the ISCN, or content fingerprint functionality, was not officially launched until the FoTan update on August 18, 2021. Understanding that the core function of the LikeCoin chain is content registration, safeguarding against tampering and disappearance, one can figuratively grasp the mission of the LikeCoin chain’s validators as “guardians of content”. Stand News, one of the original validators, died precisely because it was guarding content, not by coincidence.
At this stage, in addition to transforming appreciation into rewards, fluid democracy, and adding content registration functionality to LikeCoin, these correspond to the positioning of meme coin, governance token, and utility token in the crypto world, forming a trinity.
Writing NFT: Decentralized Publishing
If I said that I had thought of creating NFTs at the beginning of the project in 2017, I would definitely be lying to you. Although I did know about NFTs in 2017 and even bought Cryptokitties for fun, and registered the ckxpress.eth ENS domain which was also implemented with NFT, applying NFT to publishing came later. Externally, it was based on the increasing maturity and recognition of NFTs, while internally, it was due to the foundation laid by transforming appreciation into rewards and registering content. Selling articles and books was a natural development path, which led to LikeCoin’s third phase: decentralized publishing.
Just as content registration is an extension, not a replacement, of transforming appreciation into rewards, decentralized publishing is an integration, not a suppression, of existing functions, combining various features to form a new paradigm for publishing.
Many people think that the concept of publishing is distant, relevant only to few people, such as writers and publishers. My view is quite the opposite. Any author who intends to preserve and disseminate published content is engaged in “publishing.” Therefore, private or group messages, no matter how lengthy or elaborate, do not count as publishing. Conversely, even a single sentence or an emoji, if the author wants it to be preserved and spread, is a form of publishing in a broad sense.
By this understanding, the threshold for publishing has been lowered to just a keystroke, and even a three-year-old child knows how to disseminate information to the world. Today, publishing has become everyone’s business, and both printing and Gutenberg are history. Ironically, while the Internet has facilitated the flow of information, it has also given rise to various byproducts, such as algorithm dominance, content censorship, and state repression, pushing the threshold for publishing to unprecedented heights.
In the paradoxical situation where the threshold for publishing is both low and high, LikeCoin attempts to reinterpret publishing. The publishing system prioritizes content recording, as only by recording content at the data level can it potentially be disseminated through various websites and applications, be discovered, and be seen. Considering the livelihoods of authors and the operation of media, content monetization is, of course, a major focus of the publishing ecosystem.
Having separated from Ethereum and become independent, from the test version KaiTak to the official version SheungWan, updating to support content registration with FoTan, and transitioning to LaiChiKok in the short term, LikeCoin arrived at the Star Ferry Pier. On July 21, 2022, the StarFerry version was launched, supporting NFT functionality, becoming the last piece of the puzzle following the transformation of appreciation into rewards and content registration, filling in the missing corner of the image of decentralized publishing.
Everything has changed, except for the original intention
I am not a god-like Satoshi Nakamoto, with the ability to foresee the future, write a whitepaper, and then vanish without a trace. After the inception of LikeCoin, many aspects have changed, but the only constant is the original intention to serve creators. In contrast to Bitcoin’s adherence to the whitepaper as a “historical document,” LikeCoin’s principle is to respond to the times as technology develops and society changes. What the community needs to uphold is not the outdated system design, but legitimacy.
The famous French literary scholar Roland Barthes proposed the idea of “the death of the author,” encouraging readers to let go of the burden of the author’s original intention and freely interpret the work. Borrowing the words of the master, I suggest “killing” the founder and letting the entire community interpret LikeCoin, using liquid democracy to define the development of the “second five-year plan,” and embarking on the Star Ferry to reach the other shore.
Although the founder is “dead,” his restless spirit may still suddenly appear from a corner and give you a surprise.
My articles are not put behind a paywall and are all open for reading. If you like this article, please collect its Writing NFT to support writing and preserve journalism.