Cardstack White Paper

The experience layer of the decentralized Internet

About the Cardstack Project

It all started with the idea of “composeability”, which was synthesized from the fields of design, technology, and social sciences. We have since translated it into an open-sourced platform, where the next million makers can work together to reshape our digital future.

Statement from Chris Tse, Founding Director

I founded the Cardstack project in 2014, when I first noticed the increased level of lock-in imposed on users by the large apps and dominant networks that people rely on in everyday life. In my prior roles, leading research & development and digital product teams inside a Fortune 500 media company in New York, it became obvious to me that the power center had shifted to Silicon Valley. Our millions in R&D budgets can’t compete with their billions. The cards are stacked. The fight has to be taken out into the open. I vowed to use the power of open-source software and collaboration tools, guided by the ethos of the open Web, to organize the creation of a decentralized alternative to the centralized clouds that are looming over our heads.

As a technologist by trade, a designer in practice, and an entrepreneur at heart, I knew that I had to recruit experts and makers from many subject areas to work together, in order to design and build something this ambitious and contrarian. So, I put a team together and got to work. I bootstrapped the development of open source with revenue-generating projects. These projects aligned with our overall goals and allowed us to iterate on the design, technical, and economic ideas that shaped the constitution of this new open, decentralized, and composeable stack.

Time passed and Cardstack grew along with our partners, clients, investors, and the open-source communities that we supported and that supported us. We were fortunate to be introduced to the blockchain pioneers, which gave us the chance to get “on-chain” early and sharpen our understanding of what blockchains do well. I am proud of how our team made this work, getting real users to use our tools daily and give us feedback, while we sketched our project and determined how the whole stack should come together.

Make no mistake: Decentralization of the software ecosystem means revisiting many of the basic assumptions about the way in which the software that runs the world is architected, designed, developed, secured, distributed, deployed, orchestrated, bundled, unbundled, priced, analyzed, monetized, financed, adopted, supported, upgraded, decommissioned, and preserved. Any substantial change to one of the aforementioned factors could shake up the market and lead to a rise or fall of fortunes and power dynamics.

Cardstack’s approach for layering a composeable user experience and data orchestration hub on top of both the centralized and the decentralized infrastructures allows this shift to happen progressively but assuredly. You can build an ambitious, networked ecosystem with our card-based assembly and composeable tech stack today. When the underpinning of the decentralized Internet is ready for prime time, just flip the switch inside Cardstack, and your network will be fully updated for the world of tomorrow.

Project History & Key Milestones

The core architecture and components of Cardstack have been under continuous development for 3+ years. They have been deployed in production in both enterprise and open network environments.

Framework Extracted From Real-World Use

After we announced the public mission of Cardstack — to build an open ecosystem with a card-based architecture and design system — we knew that a vision as expansive as ours would need continuous validation against real-world use cases to stay on track. This is why we narrowed our focus to a subset of the problem, which led to the creation of a content-centric, search-first, and plug-in-based application framework that looks and feels like a next-generation CMS (content management system), but is actually a whole lot more.

This core orchestration architecture was then extracted and refactored in late 2016 to add support for a Git-style branching and merging of a mix of data, content, and code. This distributed versioning approach allows the framework to quickly plug in to various blockchains, private or public, as a means to synchronize state across a set of participating peers.

Use Cases in Development

Leveraging our open-source framework, the Cardstack team collaborates with ambitious projects to deliver the promise of decentralized ecosystems to communities around the world: in media, art, publishing, and more.

Decentralized Content Authoring & Workflows

We need a better way to disseminate knowledge and insights than following the algorithmic whims of Facebook and Google. Independent journalism and publishing upstarts need networked content management tools that give them room to experiment with new syndication, monetization, and amplification topologies. Cardstack is building the engine for a multi-publisher content network that can become the blockchain age’s WordPress, Associated Press, membership card press — all in one.

Decentralized Music Metadata Registry

The music industry is growing again, thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Yet, musicians, especially songwriters and composers, are getting less money through their royalty checks than ever before. The problem in the music industry — which also occurs in other industries, like TV, film, and publishing — is that nobody knows who actually owns what. Cardstack is working with Dot Blockchain Media Inc. to create a decentralized network, which tracks and versions song metadata on a blockchain, built on Intel’s Hyperledger Sawtooth, while connecting to the enterprise systems that run the music business via plug-ins through the Cardstack Hub architecture.

Decentralized Digital-Art Trading System

Monegraph Inc., a New York-based art/tech startup, pioneered the use of the Bitcoin blockchain to register and track provenance of digital art. Cardstack is working to port the current Bitcoin-based OP_RETURN scheme to an Ethereum-based smart-contract approach, so that exclusive or limited-edition artwork in the existing Monegraph catalog can be bought, sold, or traded as ERC20 on the next generation of decentralizing trading protocols. Artists: Get ready to tokenize your work.

Cardstack Foundation

The Cardstack Foundation exists to conceptualize and realize the software-driven ecosystem that offers users a cohesive user experience while rewarding makers and miners through a fair allocation of value created.

About the Cardstack Foundation

The Cardstack Foundation is a non-profit foundation based in the Canton of Zug, Switzerland. Its goal is to promote and develop the Cardstack software, architecture, protocols, and applications. The foundation can support and finance research and development activities that promote the Cardstack software, architecture, and protocols. It will be responsible for the planned fundraiser and ensure that the funds raised are budgeted and allocated to fulfill its founding charter.

The foundation is overseen by the Foundation Council, consisting of three members at the time of publication: Chris Tse, who acts as the president, Justin Thong, and Guido Schmitz-Krummacher. The Foundation Council is expected to expand as the ecosystem grows, to ensure that the composition of the council reflects the diverse perspectives of the community.

Foundation Charter

  • Act as steward for the continual development and improvement of the Cardstack software, architecture, and protocols
  • Encourage the publishing of open-source code, data formats, and documentation within the Cardstack ecosystem
  • Facilitate a well-functioning market that encourages adoption and usage of the Cardstack software, architecture, and protocols
  • Develop and refine economic and statistical models, which guarantee a fair allocation of rewards to the participants of the Cardstack ecosystem
  • Educate the world on the value of the Cardstack approach through advocacy, training, events, and all other means of communication
  • Fund pioneering research initiatives that can unlock the potential of the ecosystem
  • Support the foundation’s continuous operation through direct or indirect contributions from users
  • Design and implement cryptography-based trust models that reward good-faith actors and resist attacks from bad actors
  • Foster an inclusive, welcoming community of contributors who believe in tolerance, respect, inclusion, and hard work
  • Delegate the responsibilities to carry out the functions of the foundation through the selection of competent agents around the world

Cardstack Syndicate

Since 2014, the Cardstack Syndicate has shepherded the growth of the ecosystem. It will work with the foundation to expand the core development framework as well as the end user experiences.

About the Cardstack Syndicate

The Cardstack Syndicate is a New York-based product design studio that was founded in 2014 by Chris Tse to build the underlying framework and align with real-world use cases, so as to realize the Cardstack vision in an incremental manner. Through the syndicate, the Cardstack ecosystem has coordinated over USD 3 million worth of research and development efforts, which have resulted in the open-source codebase as well as partner projects that have gone live into production.

After the fundraiser, the Cardstack Syndicate will engage the community to find areas of shared interest, in order to continue expanding the development, design, and product management expertise across the spectrum of use cases. Our goal is to develop a feature-rich, out-of-the-box experience for Cardstack, so that developers from both the cloud and the blockchain world will gain leverage and greatly accelerate the timeline of their projects, if they choose to build on the Cardstack ecosystem.

Functions of the syndicate

The members of the Cardstack Syndicate serve as leaders of the open-source software stack, design systems, and product architecture.

Software Development: The syndicate coordinates the open-source development work via GitHub. It will work with both paid and volunteering open-source contributors to increase the breadth and depth of the Cardstack software, architecture, and protocols in a collaborative manner.

Crypto-Economic Design: The syndicate will research and propose enhancements to the token mechanisms and the reward allocation model, based on empirical analysis as well as sound economic principles. Research will be published with academic rigor and be available for peer review.

Interaction Pattern Library: The user experience team of the syndicate will create, refine, and catalog a reusable library of interaction and orchestration patterns for building cohesive user experiences that span the blockchain and cloud infrastructures. The patterns will be available as open-source code, to ensure ease of integration for developers and designers who have experience with traditional Web development.

Training and Events: The syndicate will work with local organizers to plan training workshops and educational conferences. It will promote the Cardstack vision and tools to teams around the world.

Media Creation and Advocacy: The syndicate will continue to produce a wealth of materials, ranging from videos to articles, documentation, marketing collateral, etc. The goal is to help people understand the offerings in the Cardstack ecosystem and encourage participation from makers and miners, end users, and customers.

Cardstack Contributors

Chris Tse

  • Founder & Head of Product, Cardstack Project
  • Co-Founder, Monegraph & Dot Blockchain Media
  • Previously: Head of R&D, McGraw-Hill E-Labs; Sr. Dir.of Innovation, BusinessWeek
  • BSc in Computer Science, Columbia University

Ed Faulkner

  • Lead Developer, Cardstack Project
  • Core Team Member, Ember
  • Creator of Liquid Fire
  • Previously: MIT Media Lab; Akamai
  • MSc in Computer Science, MIT

Hassan Abdel-Rahman

  • Sr. Blockchain Developer, Cardstack Project & Monegraph
  • Previously: McGraw-Hill Education; Sun Microsystems
  • BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science, Colorado School of Mines

Justin Thong

  • Data Scientist, Cardstack Project
  • Author of the paper titled “Proportional Attribution and Allocation Model”
  • MMath in Mathematics (First Class Honors), University of St. Andrews

Ken Rossi

  • Lead UX, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Creative Director, USTA/US Open
  • BA, John Jay College, City University of New York

Chris Gardella

  • Lead Designer, Cardstack Project, Monegraph & Dot Blockchain Music
  • Previously: Huge; R/GA; Area 17; Apple
  • BA in Graphic Design, University of Michigan

Wilfred Chan

  • Managing Editor, Cardstack Project
  • Formerly: Social Editor, Gizmodo Media Group; Writer / Producer, CNN
  • B.A. in Political Science, Columbia University
  • Freelance Writer / Editor

Will Bagby

  • Sr. Developer, Cardstack Project & Monegraph
  • Previously: Bloomberg L.P.
  • BSc in Computer Science, City University of New York

Aaron Sikes

  • Sr. Developer, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Dockyard; MOTU; Hubspot; HedgeServ

Isla Bell Murray

  • Interaction Designer & Producer, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Bustle; The Bold Italic; Findery
  • BSc in Psychology, University of Edinburgh

Venkat Dinavahi

  • Contributing Developer, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Coderly; WhoWentOut
  • MSc in Management Science & Engineering, Stanford University; BSc in Computer Engineering, University of Maryland

Alex Speller

  • Contributing Developer, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Nature Publishing Group
  • BSc in Artificial Intelligence & Computer Science, University of Birmingham

Maximillian Kirchoff

  • Interaction Designer & Producer, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Lifion, ADP; Google; The Bold Italic

Balint Erdi

  • Contributing Developer, Cardstack Project
  • Author of Rock and Roll with Ember
  • MSc in Information Technology, Budapest University of Technology and Economics

Jacqueline Thong

  • Head of Operations, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Vestadia International; Advisoray
  • BA in Sustainable Development & Economics, Columbia University

Katrin Nusshold

  • Editor, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: Pluto Vermögensverwaltung GmbH
  • MA in English, University College London; BA in English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Steve Bobrov

  • Sr. QA Engineer, Cardstack Project
  • Previously: BusinessWeek; Bear Stearns; Citigroup
  • BA in Computer Science & Psychology, Stony Brook University

Anne Wright

  • Event Producer, Cardstack Live
  • Previously: Women in the World Media / Tina Brown Live Media; NBA Entertainment
  • BA in Ancient History, Middlebury College

Organizing the Makers

A growing ecosystem needs input provided by makers from many disciplines to work in synchrony. Early cooperation, coordinated by Cardstack organizers, will make way for healthy competition down the line.

Getting a Running Start

Since our team works at the interesting intersection of blockchain and cloud, we have met many talented makers who are intrigued by the promise of decentralization, but do not know where to start their journey. They are developers, designers, product managers, writers, storytellers, videographers, data scientists, and digital strategists. For many of them, there is no clear path from their current positions within the firms that employ them to blockchain. We see this as a great opportunity for Cardstack to become the on-ramp to the blockchain world for these makers. We want them to join the Cardstack movement and offer their expertise, energy, idealism, and practical knowledge to move the project forward. We will recruit, hire, subcontract, partner, educate, promote, and collaborate in any way we can to channel the work of these makers into the base of the ecosystem that, in turn, rewards them through a virtuous cycle.

Regulatory Compliance

At Cardstack, we have worked closely with top legal and tax advisors in the blockchain space, in order to design our token mechanisms and structure our fundraiser in compliance with regulations in Switzerland and the United States.

MME Legal | Tax | Compliance

MME is the advisor for the Switzerland-based Cardstack Foundation and is helping the foundation to structure and conduct the Token Generation Event (TGE) for the Cardstack ecosystem. MME will continue to advise the foundation on legal, tax, and compliance matters going forward.

McDermott Will & Emery

McDermott Will & Emery is the legal counsel for the US-based Cardstack Syndicate Inc. They will advise the organization during and after the Token Generation Event in regards to its operations, business arrangements, and regulatory compliance.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Debevoise & Plimpton has analyzed the Cardstack Token Mechanism for compliance with US regulations around Securities Law, FinCEN regulations, and other applicable laws.

Bitcoin Suisse AG

Bitcoin Suisse is the preallocation partner for the Cardstack Foundation and will conduct Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) due diligence for early contributors ahead of the crowd fundraiser.