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My thoughts on the LayerZero “Donate to Claim Airdrop” saga

Okay, there have been many takes on things like how LayerZero allocated the ZRO tokens for the airdrop, how users with large-value transactions missed out on a good amount of airdrop, how LayerZero didn’t count in every Aptos wallet for the ZRO airdrop, and finally, the one that overtook all other concerns, i.e., how LayerZero is forcing users to pay $0.1 as a donation for every ZRO token they were claiming. Here’s my take on it.

The airdrop meta has evolved so badly that it isn’t about who’s using what protocol or testing it out, and it’s more about certain individuals farming the possible airdrop from the same, using not tens or hundreds, but thousands of wallets and repeating the transactions in a pattern to make sure they are eligible to get rewarded for the participation in the activities. Sybils have been a major headache for protocols. The bigger headache for the latter has also been finding out these Sybil groups and farms and eliminating them from the users who should be rewarded for their participation or activities.

The recent few airdrops have been receiving a lot of criticism. For example, Starknet (STRK) and zkSync Era (ZK) have been the recent ones where the airdrop eligibility criteria and allocation didn’t seem fair to everyone. But these are the things where you should be counting more on your luck than on anything else because 1. You were never given exact tasks to qualify, and 2. There is no guarantee that you’ll receive these airdrops; you cannot complain if you don’t qualify. Sure, you would bash them and tell them that you won’t be using their dApps or protocols ever from here, but if you were always using them only to farm the airdrop, you were not the user they were looking for anyway.

Now, LayerZero and its CEO Bryan Pellegrino have been sharing different strategies and models on how they are going to remove Sybils or try to, as much as they can, and it was a great example of how they care about legit users who didn’t farm the airdrop of LayerZero from multiple wallets. Sure, they can’t eliminate the Sybils with a 100% win ratio. Still, the effort was commendable, and this sparked off a positive PR about the company and its intentions UNTIL they brought in the compulsory donation part just ahead of the TGE and airdrop claim.


Why would a user have to donate if he is not willing to?

Why was this announced beforehand and only done at the last moment?

Why am I being forced to donate? Should donation not be optional? Why this forcing and compulsion?

Why didn’t LayerZero deduct that much from the airdrop allocation and save themselves from all the bad PR?

How is LayerZero not greedy here when they are charging the users when they can easily donate from the money they have made so far?

To be clear, these are not my questions but those of many users I saw on social media and LayerZero’s Discord server.

Okay, given that this was a last-minute decision, I would have also had a couple of those questions, but I gave it time to understand the flow of things.

First, these questions would come from those who were not happy with the allocation amount itself, so they’d frown further on how now they have to pay even to get that lower-than-deserving allocation. That’s how the general sentiments around any airdrops have been. This is the typical reviews section, mostly filled with large 1-star reviews, though they are less in count than the several 5-star ratings not accompanied by the reviews. When someone’s happy about the product they bought, they’d use it and wouldn’t find it necessary to share positive feedback about it, unlike the ones who were not satisfied and would go full efforts into sharing their poor experience with it. Of the hundreds of thousands of users eligible for the LayerZero airdrop, only a few thousand are unhappy with the donation.

Sure, the timing could have been better, and the announcement could have been a day or two before TGE, according to some, but how does it matter? You’d anyway have to donate regardless, and rather than “Why donate,” let’s jump into “Where’s the donation going,” and maybe that could change the perspective a bit. About $18.5 million is pledged to be donated to Protocol Guild, a collective funding mechanism for +170 Ethereum L1 R&D maintainers. Now that I have donated and claimed my tokens to sell half of them, I feel that the donation is me thanking the core ETH devs for their contribution to the crypto world.

Bryan has been clear here that if you don’t want to donate, you should rather not claim the tokens and move on, looking forward to the next opportunity. Even that message led to some backlash, with people saying that they contributed so much in terms of fees to be eligible for the airdrop, so they can’t be forced to donate anyway, but were the same users invited to use the LayerZero bridges and the partnered projects forcibly? No, there’s no signing up, and it goes back to the same point of being lucky, as no straight-out deal is happening here.

Taking out the same donation amount from the airdrop allocation was an easier option to control the negative sentiment that is going on around right now. Still, there’s no guarantee people wouldn’t cry about it even if that is done because there was enough talk about how LayerZero wanted to reward more users, so the overall allocation for each user got reduced when compared to the other airdrops happening for the same amount of activity from users.

In this world, for things like these, there’s no way you can make everyone happy. Even with free money. Users made efforts to farm the airdrops, and fees were spent by the users. Still, the return for that is multifold, so you can’t say that charging you $0.1 per token you receive is greedy or bad, as these donations are not being made to Protocol Guild and not to LayerZero’s team. There will be enough transparency about it when there has been so much information about airdrop eligibility and Sybil detection. The only issue I see is this concept of donations being replicated by some teams that might not have similar intentions but might still be inspired by this idea to pull funds from people in the name of airdrops. Also, maybe the Sybil operators would consider all these surprise costs while trying to farm airdrops and reduce their overall interest in farming the way they are now. So, there are always positives and negatives to everything happening around us, especially in Web3.

Most of us sometimes use these protocols and bridges to transfer funds across chains, and sometimes intentionally, knowing we are creating volumes to increase our allocation for a possible airdrop. Still, in the back of our minds, we should remember the word “possible” and how you are not guaranteed anything, so stop being entitled and be a part of something done for a cause. Things will change greatly regarding airdrop farming after LayerZero shows the possibility of removing the Sybils with effort, and others will learn from it for good. Take a chill pill and consider why you should be using a bridge anyway; even in the future, I would end up using Stargate to bridge between some chains only because I wanted some funds on the destination chain and because the fee of bridging is comparably lesser than others.

Note: I have no affiliation or deal with LayerZero in any way. My only wallet, which I sometimes used to bridge funds and use the partnered protocols, was automatically marked as Sybil until I DM’ed Bryan to get a form I filled, later to see my address removed. I got about 356 ZRO tokens as an airdrop, so I happily paid the $36.5 USDC as a donation, which I could consider as a presale price itself, but I am calling it a donation itself. My wallet being included in the Sybil list for doing no wrong and then being removed from there, while thousands of actual Sybil wallets being removed from eligibility, made me like the LayerZero efforts even more.

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