A Collectible Internet [Interview with Johan Unger of Marble Cards]

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One of the most promising qualities of cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens is the capacity to capture social value in a way that general fiat never could. Social-media reputations and special viral moments of the internet are literally incalculable since they don’t exist on their own free markets. As such, we see attempts to slide in crypto as a more effective and rewarding point system to replace pseudo-digital “currencies” like Fortnite V-Bucks and Facebook ‘Likes’. The simple truth is that we all know internet things and moments have real value, we’ve just never had a way to properly package that worth.

Marble Cards is unique in this regard, reaching beyond simple liquidity to actually quantifying the value of fleeting internet moments and memes. We got to chat with founder Johan Unger to get the scoop on his origin story and understand why the heck anyone would pay for a meme.

The Creative Crypto (CC): Hello Johan! Tell me a bit about yourself, how you got into the blockchain space, and why you decided to create Marble Cards.

I’m Swedish and have been working in online media for about 10 years. I started my first company in 2009, a web based news aggregator and worked on that until 2013. It failed, but led me to join another startup at that time, Strossle, as co-founder. Our business model there is that we let publishers and advertisers promote editorial and sponsored content between each other in a network by placing content widgets on their sites. Strossle today has over 60 employees and just last week placed 2nd in Deloitte’s rankings for fastest growing tech companies in Sweden for the past 3 years. I fell in love with crypto in 2016 and after that, it was hard to think about anything else. I started experimenting with projects in-house, but publishers were not ready for crypto yet. However, they said they might reconsider if we could give them user attention and engagement in return.

When CryptoKitties came out I played for 3 days straight, and after that realized that the NFT space is the place to be, at least for my interests. Things are going to get very weird and fun, when true digital “things” can exist in global synchronization. In early 2018, I left Strossle to build MarbleCards with the goal to make content collection and curation both fun and profitable.

CC: What are you hoping to achieve with this form of blockchain product?

We’ve followed the crypto collectible market since its inception and are happy to see projects like CryptoKitties, Axie Infinity, and Gods Unchained gain traction in different ways. These platforms are bridging the gap between digital games such as Hearthstone and physical collectibles like Magic the Gathering. Now, it’s possible to guarantee the authenticity, rarity, and ownership of digital collectibles. With MarbleCards, we take this to a new level and make it possible for anyone to collect anything on the internet.

Launching the beta has been a lot of work and we have great ambitions for the algorithmic art in upcoming card designs, as well as building out gameplay elements you would expect from any ambitious collectible card game. Since we let people create and sell the frames for any type of internet content, we have to make sure that they are as beautiful and interesting as possible. This is something completely new and we’re excited to see where it will go.

CC: From a design perspective, why did you choose marbling as the primary aesthetic choice?

To marble is a way to create a digital card from anything on the internet. If it has a URL, it can be made into a card. Each card is unique and combines content from the web page together with a generative art pattern into a unique digital item. Marble cards are ERC-721 tokens on Ethereum to guarantee ownership of each card and that it can only be created once. This means that there will only be one owner of the card Pepe the Frog on Wikipedia and only one of Doge on KnowYourMeme. Since all Marble cards are sold in auctions, we will soon be able to know which meme is the most valuable.

CC: What do you think the actually value of a meme or memorable internet moment is and how do we start to define it with blockchain?

The original meaning of the word meme is “any idea that spreads,” and so the question is basically how do you value anything? That is of course a tough question, so I will tell you how we are approaching it.

First, there needs to be rules and a playing field. We think the internet is a good source of anything, and links connect the internet so the rules are based on links being the asset. To be valuable, the asset also needs to be scarce, but links are not scarce. Because of that, there can only be one version of each link. 1 URL = 1 NFT.

Now, it’s possible to guarantee the authenticity, rarity, and ownership of digital collectibles. With MarbleCards, we take this to a new level and make it possible for anyone to collect anything on the internet.

What you get then is a network of links that can be collected and traded by anyone, and more importantly can be built on in new ways such as markets, gaming, etc.

The final thing, to make the Marble concept appealing and something you want to own, is that it is packaged as a collectible card game with computer generated art.

And so, if that’s the playing field, what will then be valuable? We primarily see two aspects:

Collectibility: With Marble, we make it possible to collect all types of things you care about. Some people will want to collect the Wikipedia pages of their favorite athletes, bands or movies and compete with others to marble them first. Others might choose to marble important news events or their favorite memes to show off that they discovered them before anyone else. What people care about the most will also have the highest value.

Speculation: Just as with art, a Marble Card should be enjoyed aesthetically. However, we have also developed something called the ‘Marble Rank’ which in short takes web data such as traffic and social engagement, and then mixes it with data from the Marble platform. This we hope will provide a powerful and truthful way to rank any type of web content by having actual value at stake in the curations made. In the future, after we’ve cleared the proper legal licenses, the owner of cards with high rankings along with cards that rise in rank over time will be rewarded by the platform.

CC: Finally and most importantly, what is one Marble Card you own right now that you would never trade away?

Everyone in the team got to pick one card as theirs before launch. I picked bitcoin.org and I will never let it go!

Thank you Johan for joining us for this discussion! Marble Cards is launching in a few weeks, with knowyourmeme.com as the first site available to marble. Anyone interested in crypto, collectibles or generative arts can check out their public beta already today on http://beta.marble.cards.

Website: https://beta.marble.cards/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/marble_cards
Telegram: https://t.me/marblecards
Discord: https://discordapp.com/invite/KY4V5MT

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