Keeping Ethereum’s Promise: CryptoKitties Is Embracing Open-Source

Call it an explosion of cute names for a cause.

Announced this week, CryptoKitties debuted a number of new initiatives that will further decentralize its popular ethereum app, which while largely passing under the radar, show the startup is making strides to give users rights. It’s been the subject of criticism for the beloved game, which raised $12 million in March with the expectation it would loosen controls on its code in line with the larger crypto ethos.

Among a slew of updates, CryptoKitties is open-sourcing its API and smart contracts for gameplay in the KittyVerse – a virtual world of experiences including catfights, racing and accessories – through a developer toolkit. Plus, it’s updated its user agreements to be more lenient and introduced a players’ rights contract called the Nifty License.

“CryptoKitties … was always criticized for not being completely decentralized,” Afri Schoedon, communications officer at the ethereum startup Parity, explained. “I think CryptoKitties is doing a good job on finding the perfect path between decentralization and usability.”

He continued: The more you try to decentralize things, the more complicated it will be to actually use it.”

And CryptoKitties isn’t just improving for end-users, but also for developers.

Take players like Candi Johnson, who have donated their time to build gameplay features like more complex battle optionsObservers pointed out that CryptoKitties’ old terms of service stipulated the team owned all graphics and elements of the app, but the Nifty License gives Johnson, and other cat owners, the legal rights to the intellectual property of each tabby.

As CryptoKitties fan Todd Goldberg tweeted: “I have the right to delete my account and still take the asset with me. If this was a centralized game and I wanted to delete my account, I’d lose the asset.”

A traditional, centralized gaming studio might balk at the idea of letting users take their digital assets off the platform.

To the contrary, CryptoKitties co-founder Bryce Bladon said that diverse experiences with the items increase the whole ecosystem’s value, plus, people looking to build alternative versions of CryptoKitties now don’t ever need to worry about being sued.

Blandon told CoinDesk:

“It’s as much about removing ourselves as any form of a central authority as it is about doing so in a way that doesn’t compromise the value of this game, of this product, and of this platform as a whole.”

Looking ahead, CryptoKitties plans to build on this progress by looking into decentralized data storage solutions like Filecoin and the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), Blandon said.

Stakeholder rights

Crypto collectibles are valuable only as long as they are unique or rare – so balancing owners’ rights with some limitation on how these tokens are reproduced will be crucial to this ecosystem’s success.

Bladon said he hopes the Nifty License can set an example for other non-fungible tokens, a broader class of crypto assets of which CryptoKitties is the most well-known, establishing a norm where the asset belongs to the user and not the platform.

“That is why we have loosened up our terms of service. That is why we put this license out there,” he said.

However, the Nifty License still appears to stipulate that owners can’t apply the cat’s image for commercial use – like a company logo – or sell it on a marketplace that doesn’t verify ownership, such as Craigslist.

Limitations aside, Parity’s Schoedon sees the Nifty License as a step in the right direction…

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