What is a “Soulbound NFT”, Vitalik Buterin’s latest idea?

Finding Web3’s Soul via a decentralized society

Adrien Book


We are connected in a thousand different and non-transactional ways, and our tech needs to reflect it. Web3 came to be because of a lack of social links🔗. To reach wide-spread adoption, it needs to reinforce these links💪, not erode them. This is where “soulbound” NFTs come in.

This type of NFT is not transferable, and creates digital proofs of our social links. It embodies the theory of identity proposed by G. Simmel, in which individuality emerges from the intersection of social groups👪, just as social groups emerge as the intersection of individuals🧍‍♂️.

It will serve two purposes. Firstly, aggregate online the specific social elements that make us unique. Secondly, highlight and categorize social connections between entities🏢 and people, creating a spiderweb of networks that enables a wide variety of use cases👇.

1. 🌐Reducing online manipulation : A system can be put in place to ensure that only socially “rich” or “reputable” crypto wallets can participate in projects, ensuring that no one can create many wallets to influence governance in decentralized projects.

2. 🤝Improving social links : Some parts of society are heavily lacking in social contextualization. Years of racism, sexism and homophobia will do that. Public wallets can help identify very specific social groups to onboard them and link them tighter to the rest of the world.

3. 👩‍❤️‍💋‍👨Increasing plurality : Soulbound tokens can ensure that when decisions are made online, highly socially correlated wallet are given less power of vote to ensure we have real pluralism. In the same way, we can over-weight a minority of highly plural voices.

4. 💰Making more informed decisions : Taking out an insurance policy entails reviewing every part of one’s life. Why can’t this also be applied to loans? The strength of someone’s character is not limited to their income, and we KNOW many people just need a shot.

5. 🎶Finding a community : Soulbound tokens are by nature accessible by all. This means we could more easily find people like us in some ways… but who are also very different in others. If you look at your friends and family, it’s likely you see that this is rare.

I don’t love NFTs💀, and there are MANY dangers with such a technology : Creating a social credit score, foregoing privacy, losing an irreplaceable wallet… This is why we need to remain informed, and continue to participate in conversations with innovators.

E. Glen Weyl, Puja Ohlhaver and Vitalik Buterin get all the credit for these ideas, having written the very accessible white paper “Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul”.

This article is a very short summary of a longer article which you can find by clicking this link. I encourage you read it if you enjoyed the above.



Adrien Book

Strategy Consultant | Tech writer | Somewhat French