Sunday December 17, 2017

Digital kitties make cryptocurrency more accessible

CryptoKitties is a game on the Etherium blockchain. The team behind it hopes cute cats will help make blockchain and cryptocurrency more accessible to a mass audience.

CryptoKitties is a game on the Etherium blockchain. The team behind it hopes cute cats will help make blockchain and cryptocurrency more accessible to a mass audience. (CryptoKitties)

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A new app is using cats to make the blockchain technology more appealing and accessible to the average person. CryptoKitties is one of the world's first blockchain games. Similar to Bitcoins, users can buy and sell these digital cartoon cats, and also breed them.

Mac Flavelle

Mack Flavelle is the project leader and "fat cat" for CryptoKitties. (AxiomZen)

Mack Flavelle is the project leader and self-described "fat cat" of CryptoKitties. He's the guy who came up with the original idea. "We wanted to introduce blockchain to 'muggles,' or people who don't understand how the technology works," Mack says. "Owning these kitties seems like a compelling way to achieve that goal."

CryptoKitties can be thought of as virtual representations of physical collectibles such as baseball cards. A cat on the CryptoKitties website can be sold for anywhere between 0.003 to 10,000 Ether, the cryptocurrency used on the Ethereum blockchain (the current price of Ether is around $900 CAD). 

"If you are going to build consumer products on the internet then you should not explain why you're using cats, but you should explain why you are not using cats." - Mack Flavelle

Buying a cat can be frustrating though, Mack admits. First, you'd have to buy Ether via the Coinbase exchange. Then, you'd need to install the MetaMask extension on your Chrome or Firefox browser before you can make a purchase.

cryptokitties avatar

(CryptoKitties)

Unlike other virtual pets such as Neopets, when you buy a CryptoKitty, you truly own it. "What makes them distinct is that they aren't owned by us," Mack explains. "They're owned by the actual users because their ownership is recorded on the blockchain."

While cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology seem to be constantly on the verge of changing how we use the internet, there are still significant hurdles to its wider adoption. "Some of the big ideas need to be more readily grokable by people, and there's really just no simple on ramp," Mack said. "There's not a good way for me to get people involved in cryptocurrencies or crypto- anything, and we haven't solved that with CryptoKitties yet."