According to the Merkle Manufactory (the company behind Farcaster), permissionless signups should be expected by mid-October.
One of the great misconceptions that goes hand-in-hand with this milestone is that users will have to pay to perform the onchain actions, such as signing up, transferring their Farcaster Id (FID) to a new address, registering/revoking a Signer (see my post about Farcaster Signers) and getting storage units.
This is only partly correct.
First of all, let's agree that we do want the onchain elements of Farcaster. These elements are what make our Farcaster identity permissionless and censor-resistant: No one can suspend/delete your account, because it's registered onchain.
Second, onchain transactions have a cost, "gas". While transactions on Optimism (L2) are much cheaper than transactions on Ethereum (L1), they still cost something.
But here is the misconception:
Each one of these interaction happens onchain, and, yes, there is gas to be paid, but the user does not have to be the one that pays.
Let me explain. Farcaster smart contracts allow each one of these transactions to be executed as follows:
The user signs the request offchain using their private key.
A third party ("sponsor") performs the onchain transaction on behalf of the user (using the signed request) and pays for the gas.
For example, an app that allows users to interact with Farcaster, can pay for the signer registration, if they want to make it easier for new users to use the app.
Or an app that wants to aggressively register new accounts and get a significant market share from Warpcast, can pay for the registration of the new FIDs.
It seems that Warpcast will offer a "bundle" that includes signup and one storage unit at $10 as in-app purchases. This price includes an up to 30% cut for the app store. Opportunity! Create your own Web version, use Stripe, charge $7 and probably make a good profit of >$1 per registration.
Side note: We should applaud Warpcast's decision to offer the service at a price that leaves space for easy competition. They have a defacto dominant position in the Farcaster ecosystem and making their price aggressive would leave zero space for competition at this stage. On the contrary, if they actually go with the above pricing, they create a motive for competition.
I can even think of flows that are... a bit shadier: Offer free signup and storage and approve a signer, and then use the signer to follow (on behalf of the user) some specific Farcaster accounts -a.k.a "how to get 20,000 new followers in a few days".
Here is an other one: A service that offers holders of a specific NFT free or discounted signups/storage. It can be used by NFT creators who want to offer some extra value to their collectors. Or maybe it's a POAP, and free registration to Farcaster or one storage unit is a small gift for anyone who attended an event.
The more I look into it, the more I tend to think of Farcaster as an extremely well-thought implementation of an elegant protocol. I find it fascinating that its design, paired with web3 composability, can unlock so many possibilities we never had in web2.
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