Rebranding is a gargantuan task for any company or public entity at the best of times, but throw in a massive dose of anarchistic decentralization into the mix, and mission impossible becomes mission incredible.
While several articles and press releases have been published in the flurry of the Everscale rebrand, I wanted to use my little soapbox to explore the mechanics of such a move and what can be learned from the experience from a community perspective.
So, read on if you'd like to learn:
Why Free TON felt the need to rebrand to become Everscale in the first place?
Can you 'rebrand' a decentralised community movement while taking every voice into account?
What are the challenges compared to centralized rebranding, and how are these challenges overcome?
A long, long time ago, in a faraway land, a messaging app called Telegram decided they wanted to create a cryptocurrency. So, like many dreamers way back then, they held an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). A lot of people were very excited about this, and threw their life savings at the telegram team to build a better type of blockchain.
A grumpy group of killjoy suits called the SEC decided they didn't like ICOs. So they shouted at Telegram, a lot, and threatened to take them to jail.
So Telegram gave all the money back, and just to annoy the SEC, they released the open-source code of their blockchain development.
That was a lovely story, Ben, but why is Free TON rebranding to Everscale?
Well, why did Google turn tail on the name 'Backrub', or Blue Ribbon Sports become Nike?
Sometimes the sneaker just doesn't fit the foot.
Since the SEC shutdown of Telegram's venture, Free TON has consistently built out and added to the foundational open-source software left behind (including on-chain NFT technology, Rust Nodes capable of world TPS records, and more). But the new name isn't only about proclaiming the power of our evolved technology. By pivoting toward this new positioning, Everscale sheds the weight of the 'Short (and Overtold) Story' above, and welcomes new adopters and entrepreneurs to a fresh page.
Sure, much like I imagine some Google employees and were quite fond of Backrub, a lot of our community remain adamant Free TON was and is fit for purpose. The difference between the former and latter of these examples though, is that Backrub was not striving for decentralization.
I've pondered on topics of decentralization in its many forms throughout several of my Hackernoon pieces (and have even been nominated for a Noonie award in the philosophy category, *blush*), and without cutting to the predictable chase, the short answer is no; you can't keep them all happy.
Decentralization isn't a tea or coffee type binary choice. It's a sliding scale. Ethereum, for example, has in the region of 10,000 miners who process transactions on the network, while Binance smart chain, by comparison, only has 21 (which some argue invalidates its status as a cryptocurrency).
Even in the case of the holy grail of crypto governance, a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), seldom are the choices as diplomatically "of the people" as they may seem.
A famous example is that of blockchain-based blogging social media platform Steem, which was subject to a hostile takeover instigated by Justin Sun (of TRX), Binance, Huobi, and Poloniex in early 2020. Although Binance and Huobi later withdrew from the ordeal, Sun continued to railroad and gaslight community efforts to retain control over voting mechanisms on the site.
The truth is most DAOs are not the systems for the revolution they claim. They are tools of Anarcho-capitalism. Sure, anyone can and may vote on issues, however, the largest holders will have a larger slice of the democratic pie. Call it injustice, or just another example of Chicken Little syndrome, alternative mechanisms are tricky to conceive.
It turns out, like much with real-life, important and/or emotional decisions can (and probably never should) be agreed upon by a sizeable enough group of humans.
When it comes to Everscale, which one rather charismatic Hackernoon editor described as "the chaotic power of decentralization first", and the rebranding process we urgently need to undergo, well, there are some hurdles to overcome.
Soft-Majority Voting (SMV), contest proposals, and subgovernance token distributions are jargon that Everscale community types will be all too familiar with.
Of these solutions, SMV, which could also be described as 'first past the post', is particularly useful for curtailing issues of voter apathy and obtaining a consensus-based decision from those who care most. Combined with a meritocratic system of Thinktank like subgovernance groups who are chosen to vote on topics within their elected SME, the suggestions box was overbrimming with potential names, logos and more for the new direction.
Whittling the numerous lists down to a usable final brand concept suitable for a blockchain community such as ours, however, well this is a little trickier.
The first murmuring of the need to move away from the Free TON identity came to the surface in late September. Since this time, there have been at least 10 separate weekly community meet-up calls in which rebranding has dominated the conversation.
The first unsuccessfully floated proposal was (believe it or not) to rebrand as Meta Chain. All the signs were right, and despite some concerns over the cliché of it all, it looked a promising direction to steer the ship. So, in true decentralized fashion, this concept was taken to a soft community poll vote and was subsequently torn apart (take heed Zucks).
Why? It's debatable, of course, but I would speculate it could come back to the same reasons why SMV is useful for the majority of purposes. In this case, however, it was those who were displeased with the potential rebranding concept who were most rallied. The calmer, more agreeable, side of the community were more passive toward the move.
Following the Meta Chain mishap, many other avenues were explored and SWOT'ed to the point of implosion, until a suitable champion emerged.
Everscale, those responsible for the deeper digging analysis side of things presented, encompasses the unique aspects of our blockchains offering, has EVER lasting gimmick and puns-man-hash-tag-man-ship, and stands out among the multitude of other coins and tokens on the market.
The issue now, as I saw it anyhow, was finding the best way to get this motion to pass without resolving to some obscure Boaty McBoatface compromise.
The answer, unfortunately, did not come from decentralized means. An outside agency within the field was put to work, funded privately by the development team TON Labs. The results of these specialists' work was then first presented to the core contributors to the network: the developers, entrepreneurs, and commercial entities who build their products and services on Everscale.
And then, upon agreement from the majority of these parties, the new name was presented to the wider decentralized community. Only this time it was presented not as a question, but a decision that had to be taken.
I'll be frank here, I expected outcry, and was prepared for the worst. Much to my surprise though, the reaction was considered and appropriate. Even those who hated the name were agreeable to the need to streamline the process.
So, all's well which ends well, right?
Sort of. Nearly. Kinda...
Choosing a name and an identity is only the first step in the overall process, of course. An important one, but just one nonetheless. There are websites to be redesigned and worded, technical documentation to be updated, and an ecosystem's worth of wallets, DeFi and NFT and other services that'll need to smoothly slide into the new shoes as well.
Will decentralization hinder or help these next steps? Well, that depends on the scope of the task. But if you ask me, getting any project of this size through something as stressful as a rebrand requires the best of both worlds to achieve true potential.
Want to tell me I'm wrong or learn more about Everscale? Join us on Discord.