MAR 24, 2023 • 9 Min Read
Tomorrow, Arbitrum will launch the ARB token and airdrop 12.75% of its supply, or 1.275 billion tokens, to Arbitrum users and DAOs. With the price of $ARB projected to be between $1-$2 at launch, this is shaping up to be one of the largest crypto airdrops of all time.
In case you need a quick revision, Arbitrum is a layer-2 network that settles transactions to Ethereum. Arbitrum is called an “optimistic rollup” for two reasons – one, all transactions on Arbitrum are rolled up into a bundle and posted on Ethereum, and two, all transactions are optimistically assumed to be valid unless challenged otherwise.
Tomorrow, the protocol will take a step towards becoming a self-executing DAO by launching the ARB governance token. Decentralizing Arbitrum’s governance is crucial to ensure that transactions will always roll up to canonical Ethereum as the base layer itself upgrades over time. Placing key governance decisions in the hands of token holders ensures there is no central point of failure toward Arbitrum rolling up to the wrong version of Ethereum, and thus losing the base layer’s security.
Over 625k wallets are eligible to receive the airdrop. Wallets and airdrop amounts were determined by considering the wallet’s organic participation in the Arbitrum ecosystem, focusing on user transactions, liquidity, and app usage.
Layer-2 networks like Arbitrum have the ability to carry out certain actions that Ethereum can’t. For one, faster block times enable money markets to process liquidations more efficiently, allowing users to take on higher leverage while trading. Cheaper gas fees allow users to transact more frequently and for more complex code to be executed on-chain. One type of product that leverages these benefits immensely is a decentralized perpetual exchange.
Enter GMX, the destination for most users bridging assets over to Arbitrum. A decentralized exchange for spot markets and perpetual futures, GMX has processed over $93B in volume since its inception on Arbitrum. While GMX currently constitutes 25% of the total value locked on Arbitrum, this is down from 45% in the second half of last year as other Arbitrum-based projects gain traction.
The exchange is a cash cow that rakes in fees from traders and pays them to GLP holders (the liquidity providers) and GMX stakers. These lucrative fees, paid in ETH on Arbitrum, have sparked a narrative of real yield where projects pay out fees generated from user activity in a mainstream asset. As liquidity on GMX increases, many are also competing to build innovative products on top, dubbed the GLP wars.
Arbitrum’s closest competitor is Optimism, also a layer-2 network that settles transactions to Ethereum as an optimistic rollup. Arbitrum beats Optimism on a range of metrics from daily active users to the amount of ETH bridged. Currently, Optimism is trading at a fully diluted valuation of $11B. If the ARB airdrop trades at the same valuation, the token will be priced at $1.09. This is calculated by dividing OP’s fully diluted capitalization by ARB’s total supply.
Derivatives contracts for ARB June futures are currently trading at $1.39 on BitMEX. OTC markets for the token are also pricing the token between $1 and $1.50 with trades being executed by transferring the wallet’s ownership. On the other hand, IOUs for the token on Hotbit and XT are being traded at a significant premium between $6 to $8 per token. Given that every other investor in crypto is excited about this airdrop, the price is likely to see a tad bit of volatility after listing.
Optimism also held an airdrop of their governance token OP over nine months ago. The token was listed on the market at a price of $1.40 and has since moved up 82% in USD terms and over 103% in ETH terms. This comes despite the daily transactions on Optimism falling by 72% after the end of the Optimism Quests program on Jan. 17, 2023. Quests was an initiative by Optimism that gave out free NFTs to users who interacted with protocols on the network. However, daily transactions on Optimism increased by more than 4x between the launch and end of the program, demonstrating the power of airdrops to incentivize usage.
Arbitrum tried to replicate this rise in activity via a similar program titled Odyssey which also gave out free NFTs to users who interacted with protocols on the network. This initiative was so successful that the team was forced to halt Odyssey after the chain experienced a heavy load from user activity. Since Arbitrum’s announcement of the ARB airdrop, daily transactions have actually increased 18% to hit a new all-time high of 1.3M. Since then, Arbitrum’s TVL has also increased by 22% to hit a new all-time high of $2.1B.
You can certainly argue that Arbitrum’s usage will drop after the airdrop has been distributed. A lot of activity on the chain is from airdrop farmers looking to maximize their ARB allocation. However, you can also argue that the billions of liquidity injected into the Arbitrum ecosystem can spark a new wave of activity. While airdrop farmers tend to be value extractors, the general idea of earning monetary rewards for being an early adopter is one of the key tenets of crypto.
Arbitrum displays the power of crypto and how aligning incentives can create real network effects. Both layer-2 networks tried to account for the inevitability of airdrop farmers participating in their token launch. But rather than trying to build around them, they embraced the “gamers” of the system in a way that didn’t harm the experience of their real community. Rewarding users for completing on-chain tasks created a path to align incentives in a way where everybody wins. The users bootstrap liquidity across the networks and get rewarded with an airdrop. Along the way, many who entered as airdrop farmers get onboarded as real users.
We cover these meta-models in more detail in our report on crypto gaming, published in July 2022, available exclusively for Delphi Pro members here. Here’s an edited snippet from the report:
“At its core, soccer is a game of skill. Its path to monetization starts with people caring for the sport itself, then taking metadata from the most meaningful games, and playing metagames with it… As such, we see a dramatic expansion of opportunity for participation beyond the core game in the form of coaches, fans, commentators, analysts, scouts, prediction markets, merchandise, collectibles, and so on.”
At its core, crypto is a game of attracting and keeping liquidity. Its path to monetization starts with people caring for the liquidity itself, then taking the metadata from the most meaningful liquidity, and playing metagames with it. As such, a dramatic expansion of opportunity for participating beyond the core game of liquidity exists. Airdrop farming is one such metagame that can be designed by all projects to onboard large user bases and bootstrap liquidity, one that Arbitrum has mastered.
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March 23 – Arbitrum Airdrop: 12.75% of the total supply will be distributed to Arbitrum ecosystem users and DAOs.
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