Sam Altman’s Worldcoin launches token with more than two million sign-ups

Quick Take

  • After delays, Worldcoin today released its WLD tokens into the wild.
  • The project frames itself as an antidote to some of the problems posed by the explosion of AI tools like ChatGPT, but it has faced harsh criticism from privacy advocates.

Worldcoin, the controversial crypto project co-created by Sam Altman, has today announced the launch of its WLD token — which it will distribute to more than two million people around the world.

The project is among the crypto sector’s most divisive. Its focus is on helping people prove their identity online with credentials verified in person by iris-scanning orbs. More than two million people — the bulk of them in the Global South — have already been verified, and all of them stand to receive their share of the WLD token today.

“It’s a really, really big day for the project on Monday,” said Tiago Sada, head of product, engineering and design at Worldcoin’s main developer, Tools For Humanity. “Hopefully, we will see a lot of people excited to visit the orbs that will start showing up in a bunch of different cities around the world.”

Today’s launch comes after multiple delays and lands at a precarious time for token issuers, with regulators in the United States growing increasingly aggressive towards operators in the sector. Worldcoin’s team has been careful to stress that its tokens will not be available in the U.S.

“There’s a lot of different components to the project,” Sada said. “We offer each of those where we can and where we feel quite confident that we’re being respectful of each country’s rules.”

In today's announcement, Worldcoin promised to accelerate sign-ups by deploying orbs in more than 35 cities across 20 countries globally. The Block revealed in March that Worldcoin had signed a deal with contract manufacturer Jabil to ramp up production of the controversial devices. Sada said the number of orbs in circulation would increase from roughly 200 to around 1,500 by year-end.

People who have been verified by an orb will initially receive 25 WLD tokens, as well as periodic grants going forward. As of today, people will also be able to reserve tokens on the World App until they’re able to visit an orb, Sada said.

An investor deck prepared by Worldcoin in December 2022, the contents of which The Block reported previously, states that there will be a total supply of 10 billion WLD tokens, with 80% reserved for users, operators and the ecosystem, and 20% set aside for the Worldcoin team and its backers. 

The token launch comes after Worldcoin completed its migration to the OP Mainnet, a Layer 2 scaling solution, last week.

The age of AI 

Worldcoin co-founder Altman is simultaneously the CEO of OpenAI, creator of the wildly successful ChatGPT. In numerous blog posts and announcements, the Worldcoin team has framed the project as urgent in the context of the rapid rise of tools like ChatGPT and the implications they may have for the future of work.

In a written statement in today’s announcement, Alex Blania, CEO of Tools for Humanity, said, “In the age of AI, the need for proof of personhood is no longer a topic of serious debate; instead, the critical question is whether or not the proof of personhood solutions we have can be privacy-first, decentralized and maximally inclusive.”

The project and its backers have mooted a wide array of possible use cases for the protocol and its verified credentials, including in uncollateralized lending programs, for universal basic income models and even in the metaverse — virtual worlds underpinned by blockchain.

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