Traditionally, using NFTs for memberships was a yes-or-no proposition: If someone held the NFT for a project, they had access to the project’s perks or community for as long as they held the NFT — potentially forever.
From a creator standpoint, this is ok, but not great. Every NFT sold was, in effect, giving “lifetime access” to those who held the NFT.
Unlock changed all this in 2019 by innovating membership NFTs that take into account the concept of time and that have an expiration date. Using Unlock, a creator can issue an NFT that grants membership for a week, a month, a year, or any other length of time.
When the NFT expires, it’s just like when the gym membership card in your old-school wallet expires. The card is still in your wallet, but anyone looking at it can instantly tell it’s expired and out of date.
Hundreds of creators, developers, brands, and projects have built on top of Unlock since we launched to manage member access to content, conversations, credentials, and ticketed events for their communities. And in listening to those building their projects and businesses on top of the open-source Unlock Protocol, there was one particular need we heard time and time again: can Unlock do NFT-based recurring subscriptions and memberships that don’t need to be manually renewed?
The answer is “yes.”
Unlock Protocol launches Web3 recurring subscriptions
Today, Unlock is excited to announce that we’ve created the first-ever mechanism for recurring subscriptions using membership NFTs. This groundbreaking upgrade to the community-governed Unlock Protocol paves the way to replace legacy subscription systems that use centralized payment processors with a decentralized Web3 model.
From news to music to streaming, there are many great reasons why subscriptions have become a fundamental business model. Subscriptions are predictable, time-bound, and convenient for both the creator and the purchaser. But having a handful of Big Tech platforms acting as middlemen and locking in creators and their audiences is far from ideal.
Now, creators using Unlock have full control to flexibly monetize or provide access to their content in the ways that best suit them and their communities.
Furthermore, creators, fans, developers, and supporters all have the opportunity to earn governance tokens in the Unlock Protocol itself every time someone uses Unlock.
How does it work?
Unlock's approach to recurring billing through NFTs uses a novel smart contract design that is the first in the industry, bringing the recurring revenue model into a decentralized web3 world. Functionally, a user begins a subscription by agreeing to a smart contract transaction that recurs each month (or at whatever interval the subscription is billed), and the user’s membership NFT maintains its validity as long as the payment occurs each time.
Example lock in Unlock Dashboard with recurring subscriptions enabled. This publication’s subscription is 30 XDAI ($30) per month. Subscription duration, price, renewal terms, and currency are all configurable by creators.
Critically, by building in this manner, the relationship between the creator and the subscriber is direct. There isn’t a platform determining what type of content is allowed or disallowed, there is no opaque algorithm to decide what content is surfaced or submerged, and there is no payment platform between the parties that can withhold payments from a creator based on an arbitrary policy change.
For too long, perverse attention economics have both shaped and dictated the content we consume and the way we connect online. Unlock invites and enables an alternative to the eyeballs-at-any-cost business model, so we can all read, listen to, watch, and experience what’s actually interesting to us, not just what grabs our attention the most by its shocking or outrageous nature. Creators using Unlock don’t have to conform to producing clickbait that algorithms are likely to promote, and audiences can enjoy content that’s curated by those creators on their own terms.
- Unlock Protocol’s recurring subscription membership NFTs are available today.
- Recurring memberships can be enabled for locks using v10 of the protocol.
- Locks using v9 can be upgraded to v10.
- We will be holding a Twitter Space launch event on May 25th.
Documentation and demo
Community & Support: Join the Unlock Discord
Developer documentation: Recurring Memberships
Try it out on a test network: Try out Unlock's recurring subscriptions