Po.et and POE token

Purpose

Po.et is a decentralized, open-source protocol for content ownership, discovery and monetization in media. Po.et aims to allow creators to more easily protect their intellectual property, receive credit, and earn money for their content. For publishers, Po.et aims to allow them to more easily identify, license, and monetize digital content, including articles, images, music, and videos.

How it works

According to Po.et’s FAQ, “Po.et is a continuation of Proof of Existence, the first non-financial application of the blockchain.”

Forming the base layer of the Po.et protocol, “Proof of Existence” creates a fingerprint for a piece of content by writing to the Bitcoin blockchain. This process generates a verifiable timestamp that can be used to prove the content existed at a certain time. Building on the Bitcoin blockchain is a differentiating factor for Po.et as the vast majority of ICO spawned projects created (or attempted to create) their own chain.

High-minded

Po.et is objectively not a “for profit” project. It fits more into the category of projects that are attempting to improve the world. Former Po.et CEO Jarrod Dicker, in his January 2019 farewell blogpost, defined success for Po.et as providing “something that is open for all to use.” Dicker went on to say that Po.et wants to, “build a protocol for creativity, a place where the next generation of the web will be constructed with a focus on interoperability, reputation, and ownership.”

If the Po.et protocol achieves widespread adoption, it may well be that the world of content creation becomes a fairer, even more productive, place for all. From an investor’s perspective, however, the essential question is of course: “how is the price of the token affected?”

For a token like POE, adoption really is the key if speculators are to see a return on their investment.

Token usage

POE tokens are rather vaguely mentioned in Po.et’s white paper as being the currency of the Po.et marketplace, facilitating the buying and selling of digital media assets. Over a year and half since the completion of the token sale, however, that marketplace does not yet appear to exist — certainly in any meaningful way.

The “Po.et Works Explorer” was announced in a March 2019 blogpost, and said to allow users to create their own Po.et ID, register content, view the profiles of other content creators, and more. 

A visualization of what the Po.et Works network is intended to look like:

NOTE: This writer, attempted in May 2019 to create a Po.et account here but was turned back by “internal server error.”

Po.et claims that content creators can purchase and stake POE tokens to make their content discoverable on a marketplace. Publishers meanwhile, are also said to be able to buy licenses for content. For example, if you wanted to post an artist’s image on your blog, you could use POE to purchase the rights to it. A third utility for POE, according to the Po.et team, is as a governance token. Here POE token holders would have voting rights to approve or deny suggested changes to the protocol. These three utilities for POE (particularly the first two) would certainly drive adoption of the token and, subsequently, boost token valuation.

Progress

Progress on the Po.et protocol is still in the early stages. The network officially went live on the Bitcoin main-net in November 2018, but the team has so far only accomplished “the basic mechanics of creating the protocol and tools to make Proof of Existence accessible and scalable,” according to an April 2019 blog post written by current Po.et CEO David Turner. For instance, the protocol allows for the timestamping of text-based content only (not images, audio, or video).

When former Po.et CEO left the project in January 2019 to take a position at the Washington Post, he lamented in a blog post that progress hasn’t lived up to his expectations, writing: “The reality is that we’re facing a long road to adoption and need to be to in a market that has speed limits.”  A month prior to Dicker’s resignation, Po.et had reportedly laid off five employees.

The Po.et team still hasn’t found a way to use the POE token to create an incentivized content market. In fact, the team identifies figuring out how to use POE token in that way as a target in their roadmap for the next iteration of Po.et.

Adoption

Po.et is a subsidiary of BTC Inc., the parent company of Bitcoin Magazine and several other publishing outlets in the crypto space. Despite this public relations advantage, usage of the Po.et Network has been minimal, and adoption of the POE token has been practically non-existent.

In April 2018, Po.et’s Wordpress plugin went live. The Plugin claims to allow publishers to automatically submit their blog posts to the Po.et network, creating permanent timestamps on the Bitcoin blockchain. Installs of the Wordpress plugin are negligible (less than one thousand since launch) and show no signs of growth.

Po.et WordPress plugin downloads per day:

Token Price

In September 2017, Po.et sold USD 10M worth POE in an initial coin offering.  These tokens are currently valued at around USD 18 million, a more than 95% drop from the all-time-high of close to USD 500 million. POE’s price over the last two year mirrors most ICO-spawned tokens:

Challenges

Po.et needs to drive adoption of its protocol, but for now people don’t seem particularly interested in its utility.

Perhaps it’s just a case of insufficient marketing (Po.et only dedicated 15% of its token sale proceeds to marketing), or perhaps it’s failure to deliver a usable product (as outlined above). More seriously though, the lack of adoption of POE could be indicating that the project is either building a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist or, equally problematic, building a solution to a problem that can’t be solved.

If the main use-case of the Po.et network is protecting the intellectual property rights of content producers, we may be dealing with a flawed use-case. To determine that, we must first decide if the plagiarism of digital content really is a big problem. To do so we can ask, do plagiarized digital works earn money or, at least, diminish the potential earnings of the original?  The answer to these questions is very likely yes. Plagiarism almost surely does cause financial harm to creatives.

Next, we need to determine if we can actually solve the problem. In this case, there’s currently no evidence to support the premise that timestamping a digital work’s existence into an immutable blockchain actually protects that digital work. While it may be the case that such a timestamp would support a claim in court, we are currently very far from such a process being worthwhile for the average digital content creator.

Meanwhile, there are already successful creative digital assets marketplaces the enable creators to earn money. They include Youtube for video, Spotify for audio, and Flickr for images. As for written content, there are, of course, thousands of platforms that enable content producers to earn money from their efforts (newspapers, magazines, etc.). When content is plagiarized in that environment, the aggrieved party doesn’t have a timestamp on the Bitcoin blockchain in their litigation arsenal, but they do have data from Google that is, perhaps, equally relevant in court, should they choose to threaten legal action. Either way, the average content producer simply doesn’t have the resources to make a claim, particularly in today’s global content environment, and Po.et’s solution doesn’t seem to change that situation.

There’s an argument that aggregators like Youtube, Spotify, and Flickr as intermediaries take an unreasonably large chunk of the profits while threatening censorship by forcing content to meet their, sometimes vague, guidelines. In this context, platform’s like Po.et seem like an attractive alternative. Indeed, the Po.et team highlights this as a potential use-case for their protocol. Unfortunately, so far at least, there just doesn’t seem to be an appetite for truly independent content. This is evidenced by the failure of another blockchain project working in the same niche as Po.et. The Civil project had focused on building a new media ecosystem with its native CVL token as the currency. Due to lackluster demand, however, Civil cancelled their token sale in October 2018.

Conclusion

Po.et is a worthwhile project with the noble goal of protecting creativity for the next generation of the internet. The world will be better off if it succeeds. As an investment, however, it is extremely risky because the barriers to adoption are huge and some of its central use-cases may be flawed. From a speculators’ perspective, like all altcoins, POE has the potential to pump. Given its backing from Bitcoin Inc., should positive news from the Po.et team emerge, that pump may have greater potential that many other altcoins.

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