Imagine waking up one morning and checking your phone, only to notice a notification from MEW wallet.
You open up your wallet and are startled by the number on the screen - someone sent you $14,000 of a token you didn’t even know existed! Confused but delighted, you investigate what just happened while you were asleep. As crazy and unlikely as this scenario seems, it is not uncommon. Welcome to the world of airdrops, anon.
So what exactly is an airdrop? You may be familiar with Apple’s Airdrop feature for sending files, but that’s a different Airdrop. We aren’t talking about Fortnite either. Sorry y’all. In crypto, an airdrop refers to when a project or protocol rewards users with free tokens that can have real monetary value. There are many ways to qualify for airdrops, and the criteria can vary a lot between projects. But in general, the idea is that these crypto projects reward users for using their products in the early stages.
Sometimes, crypto projects will use airdrops as a tool to bootstrap a community into existence. One example of this is how $BONK on Solana was airdropped into virtually every single Solana wallet on Christmas of 2022. Now $BONK has one of the largest
cults communities on Solana. Other times, airdrops are rewards for early users of a protocol - like when Uniswap did their airdrop back in 2020, rewarding their users with $UNI token and popularizing the idea of airdrops.
Of course, people loved the concept. Who doesn’t like free money? But things have changed since the $UNI airdrop. In order to qualify for Uniswap’s $UNI airdrop, all you had to do was use Uniswap, in any capacity, at least once before September 1st, 2020. Users who did, received 400 $UNI.
For Uniswap users, this was totally unexpected. But over time airdrops became increasingly common and people learned how to game the system. If you simply interacted with a protocol early enough, using 100 wallets, then you could receive the airdrop in each of those wallets! People began speculating on and farming any and every project that teased an airdrop, heavily diluting the actual airdrop farms and defeating the original purpose of community building.
In order to combat this behavior - known in crypto as ‘sybiling’ (inspired by the 1976 American film Sybil about multiple personalities) - protocols that wish to airdrop tokens have tightened up the criteria. Long gone are the days of connecting to a dApp and getting free money for it. These days you gotta put at least some work into it. The most common way protocols fight back against sybils is by requiring some amount of monetary value to be transacted in order to qualify. In other words, you need to trade, stake, or lend a certain amount to even be considered for the airdrop.
In 2023, friend.tech came onto the scene. They’re a mobile app with 4 tabs on the bottom: Keys, Chats, Explore, Airdrop. They never explicitly said “we’re going to airdrop tokens in the future” - but the inclusion of the “Airdrop” tab has its implications. The way it works is simple; the more you use their app, the more points you earn. You track your points in the airdrop tab, of course.
As of January 2024, there is still no friend.tech airdrop. But the “points system” has taken crypto by storm. It’s become the norm for projects to release a points system before actually airdropping any tokens. That way, projects can milk their users indefinitely, encouraging them to be active on the dApp while hanging a carrot in front of them. Users get to watch their points going up and speculate on future airdrops, but will they ever come? Who knows. The points system allows teams to reserve the right to drop a token, without the obligation.
So yeah, it isn’t ALL sunshine and rainbows. The potentially lucrative nature of airdrops, combined with the technical nature of crypto and how volatile the markets are, creates a perfect storm for scammers. If you are not constantly aware of your risks and protective of your assets - you will be scammed chasing these airdrops.
One of the most common scams in crypto is what’s called the ‘airdrop scam’. This is when a scammer sends you a malicious token under the guise of it being an airdrop. If you try to swap or sell it, you’ll likely lose all your funds due to the smart-contract having a wallet drain coded in. Another way scammers trap their victims is by enticing them with X (Twitter) ads for non-existent airdrops. By clicking on the ad, you’ll be redirected to a malicious dApp that will drain your wallet.
Like most corners of crypto, the world of airdrops is ripe with opportunity but also remarkably risky. One wrong click, one moment of FOMO can set you back years of progress. If you want to begin farming airdrops, definitely start slow. Every day there’s another project teasing a potential airdrop.
In order to avoid being overwhelmed, we recommend choosing a small, manageable handful of protocols that you actually enjoy using. That way you can farm the airdrop without it feeling like a job. Like collecting NFTs? Farm an NFT protocol’s airdrop. Gaming more your thing? There are projects that host Play-to-Airdrop campaigns.
And if the project you’re farming never airdrops - well at least you enjoyed your time, I guess? Either way, every day that passes is another potential deadline to qualify for an airdrop. So get to farming, and try to have some fun in the process! Godspeed, anon.