Making digital gifts cool

I am on a quest to find the ultimate digital-only gift. Not your 70% coupon, virtual gift card, farmville gifts. Something with the potential to make people say: “Wow! I wanted this more than a 13-inch solid state MacBook Air. How did you know?”.

Here are the criteria, that I thought are relevant:

  • Unique: either something personalized to the recipient, and/or something that would be based on external data like time, temperature, so it would effectively be different all the time.
  • Rival. One owner only at any given time. I would want my digital gift to be rival: if the recipient owns it, the giver does not have it anymore. This could work like this: you get a secret code or URL to access it, which becomes invalid, and a new URL is generated for you to access next time, or gift it so someone else.
  • Re-giftable. This is useful since you may get something you don’t like. It’s also very fun.
  • Economically hard to reproduce. This means it may be the result of a CPU-intensive process that could take several years to complete on a regular PC. Storage-intensive: this would make it unpractical to try to copy. The same goal can be achieved by making the gift very specific to the recipient.
  • some public and social elements: ability to share some aspects of it with the public or specific friends. Starting with the ability to prove ownership of it, for instance by displaying the name of the current owner, or a digital signature. It may be possible to take snapshots of the gift and share them with friends, or perhaps share the experience of the gift with friends if one wants, but only as long as the gift is owned by the person inviting others.

So far, I haven’t found anything matching these criteria. So, let me know your thoughts.

Some ideas that get close: Bitcoin money, DNA analysis service (23andme), digital fashion for virtual worlds.

4 thoughts on “Making digital gifts cool”

  1. Interesting challenge Guillaume…

    I am tempted to counter that the first two attributes, unique and rival, would exclude the third, re-giftable, and vice versa. My thinking is that anything that appears to fit all three is actually functioning like a gift certificate (or money). For example, DNA analysis is unique and rival but once it is run for a specific person it is no longer re-giftable. Likewise, before it is run, while it is still re-giftable, it is not actually unique…it is only potentially unique.

    The condition “economically hard to produce” would also seem to fit the above analysis. I interpret this condition as “requiring some scarce resource”. A scarce resource once used for one product or service can't then be reused for a different version of that product (customizing to someone else). So again it would seem that you must choose between things that are certificate based, providing access to some resource, and things that have already drawn on that resource and are now specific to a given person.

    I will be curious to see what other people come up with…

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