Author | X-explore and Wu Shuo Joint Release
Since Uniswap adopted the airdrop strategy to reward its early users in 2020, airdrops have caused a huge craze in the Web3 field. Under this influence, many projects have emerged to search for the next “free lunch” (new airdrop projects). Now, nearly three years have passed since Uniswap’s first airdrop, during which many large projects have followed suit and used airdrops to reward users or attract attention. According to X-explore’s estimation, in the March airdrop of Arbitrum this year, more than 20% of the airdrops were obtained by airdrop hunters using witch attacks. Therefore, we hope to answer the following two questions through in-depth analysis of users who have successfully claimed multiple airdrops:
- 1. Who are these “airdrop masters”?
- 2. What are their subsequent “targets”?
In order to answer these questions, among the numerous Ethereum and Layer 2 network projects, we have carefully selected 5 projects with “more than 100,000 airdrop addresses claimed” and “airdrop total value exceeding $140 million”. They are Uniswap, ENS, Optimism, Blur, and Arbitrum. In the following articles, we will analyze the users of these five projects in depth, with special focus on the “airdrop masters” who have received multiple airdrops from these projects.
Note: The basis for calculating the token price in this article is the data from CoinMarketCap on June 7, 2023. Most of the screenshots in the article are from June 14, 2023, so there may be slight differences in prices, please forgive any confusion caused.
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Who are the Airdrop Hunters?
We define the addresses that have claimed airdrops at least three times in the five projects as Airdrop Hunters; among them, the addresses that have claimed airdrops three to four times are called Standard Airdrop Hunters; and the addresses that have claimed all five airdrops are named Premium Airdrop Hunters. In this analysis, we have found a total of 34,547 Standard Airdrop Hunter addresses, with an average airdrop income of $9,384 per address and a median airdrop income of $6,497 per address. As for the Premium Airdrop Hunter addresses, we have found a total of 932, with an average airdrop income of $18,935 per address and a median airdrop income of $14,288 per address. From the average and median income, the Premium Airdrop Hunters truly deserve the word “premium”.
1. X-explore Tag Analysis
In order to better reveal the characteristics of the Airdrop Hunter addresses, we combined X-explore’s self-developed on-chain tagging system to conduct in-depth analysis from dimensions such as behavior, assets, activity level, and trading profitability. We found that both Standard Airdrop Hunters and Premium Airdrop Hunters have much higher trading volumes on decentralized exchanges (DEX) and non-fungible tokens (NFT) than ordinary users.
Airdrop Hunters' Tag on X-explore
- Median Dex Trader: Users who have trading volume in the top 10% on DEX
- Median NFT Trader: Users who have trading volume in the top 10% on NFT
- Heavy Dex Trader: Users who have trading volume or number of trades in the top 1% on DEX
- Heavy NFT Trader: Users who have trading volume or number of trades in the top 2.5% on NFT
These data show that airdrop hunters are more active than regular users in the cryptocurrency market. They demonstrate higher enthusiasm in trading digital assets, especially in DEX and NFT transactions.
2. Ethereum First Active Time
First active time of airdrop hunters on Ethereum (cumulative)
By combining the airdrop time of on-chain projects and the first active time of airdrop hunters on Ethereum, we found that the majority of airdrop hunters are actually early users of Ethereum. When airdrops were conducted on Uniswap (September 2020), more than half of the airdrop hunters had already become active on Ethereum. The distribution of the first active time of premium airdrop hunters is also significantly earlier than that of regular airdrop hunters.
3. Ethereum Activity
Activity of airdrop hunters on the Ethereum chain
We randomly sampled over 30,000 account addresses created before June 2021 and compared their activity with that of airdrop hunters. As shown in the graph, airdrop hunters are active users on Ethereum, with premium airdrop hunters averaging over 50 transactions per month on Ethereum, while regular airdrop hunters have over 21 transactions per month. In comparison, the average monthly transactions on Ethereum for the randomly sampled addresses were only 0.16. This result emphasizes once again the enthusiasm and activity of airdrop hunters in on-chain activities, as they significantly surpass regular users in terms of transaction volume.
4. Performance After Project Airdrops
Activity of airdrop hunters after project airdrops
We tracked the performance of users who received airdrops (including regular users and airdrop hunters) after five project airdrops and found that the activity of all users decreased, especially for regular users. Airdrop hunters consistently exhibited higher activity levels than regular users during any given time period.
Optimism is an exception: Before the Optimism airdrop, the activity level of regular users on the OP chain actually exceeded that of premium airdrop hunters. However, after the Optimism airdrop, the activity level of regular users continued to decline. In contrast, the activity level of premium airdrop hunters on the OP chain increased after receiving the airdrop. In fact, in the following month after the airdrop, their activity level surpassed that of regular users. Through our in-depth analysis, we found that this is mainly because the OP airdrop rules consider the activity level of addresses on Ethereum. The results show that many premium airdrop hunters who were previously inactive on the OP chain became interested after receiving the airdrop and actively interacted with different projects on the OP chain.
After sampling and analyzing the detailed on-chain behaviors of many airdrop hunters, we have found further confirmation of the above analysis. The on-chain activity characteristics of airdrop hunters can be summarized as follows:
- Most airdrop hunters are enthusiastic about DEX or NFT trading.
- Airdrop hunters are mainly composed of early users.
- The activity level of airdrop hunters is significantly higher than that of ordinary users.
- Well-designed airdrop rules can have a positive effect on airdrop hunters.
What is the “next target” of short sellers?
After having a certain understanding of the airdrop hunter group, we are curious about their “next target”. Which projects do they still believe in? In order to answer this question, we have studied the projects they are involved in and their behavior patterns when interacting with these projects through on-chain data. While helping readers understand which projects are worth interacting with on-chain, we further reveal the methods by which airdrop hunters interact with these projects. It is worth mentioning that we have included these airdrop hunters in our monitoring, and X-explore will continue to keep an eye on the latest developments of these airdrop hunters in the future, bringing more valuable analysis to everyone.
We have categorized the projects preferred by airdrop hunters into several tracks, and selected projects with a participation rate greater than or equal to 25% in each track, ranked by the proportion of participation by high-quality airdrop hunters. If a project has multiple contracts, we choose the contract with the highest participation rate. The following are the categories of tracks and projects:
1. Decentralized Finance (DeFi): Uniswap, SushiSwap, 0x, Metamask Swap, Balancer, 1inch, LianGuairaswap, Aave, Rarible, InstaDApp, dydx, Compound
2. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): Opensea, Blur, LooksRare, X2Y2, Foundation
3. Layer 2 Solutions and Cross-chain Protocols: Arbitrum, Polygon, ZkSync lite, Optimism, HOP, ZkSync Era, Starknet
4. Decentralized Applications (DApps): DeBank
Airdrop Hunters' Preference
Among them, projects marked in bold and with a red box indicate that the project has not yet conducted an airdrop or issued tokens. We will analyze the behavior of airdrop hunters on these projects in depth.
1. DeFi Track: Metamask: Swap Router
Through our analysis, the total trading volume of airdrop hunters on Metamask is 191,438,051 USD, and the median trading volume of airdrop hunters is 1,255 USD. In addition, after excluding airdrop hunters from the total of 1,811,782 users of Metamask Swap, and randomly selecting the same number of other Metamask users from the remaining 1,776,303 addresses, we found that their trading volume on Metamask is 205,673,503 USD, with a median trading volume of 474 USD. Although there is not much difference in total trading volume, the median indicates that the trading volume of airdrop hunters is more evenly distributed, and most airdrop hunters have a trading volume of over 1,000 USD.
Below are the transaction pairs and related information for airdrop hunters and other users:
(Common Coin represents coins with a market cap in the top 50 on CoinMarketCap excluding stablecoins)
We found that airdrop hunters have very similar preferences for coin pairs on Metamask Swap and Uniswap. Compared to general users, airdrop hunters tend to trade stablecoins and mainstream coins such as USDC, USDT, WETH, DAI, WBTC, etc. These stablecoins and mainstream coins have higher liquidity and relatively stable prices, reducing trading risks. In addition, stablecoins and mainstream coins are also easier to transfer and trade between multiple trading platforms, increasing the flexibility of funds. This indicates that while airdrop hunters pursue profits, they also pay attention to risk control and flexible use of funds.
2. NFT Track: Foundation
We randomly sampled three airdrop hunters who participated in Foundation and found that their interactions on Foundation are not frequent. Most of their interactions involve placing bids on NFTs, but two of the airdrop hunters actually purchased NFTs.
Airdrop Hunters' behavior on Foundation
The Blur airdrop rules can give us inspiration. Some people can earn considerable airdrop rewards by simply swapping coins and placing bids, even if they don’t purchase NFTs. Therefore, when interacting with project parties, we can try different functions of the project, actively participate, and try out the project, and there may be unexpected surprises.
3. Layer 2 Solution Track: zkSync lite, zkSync Era, Starknet zkSync(lite)
We randomly selected 4 airdrop hunters who have cross-chained to zkSync lite. Next, we will use screenshots and explanations to show you the behavior patterns of these airdrop hunters on zkSync. If you want to know the complete behavior of the airdrop hunters, please refer to the link we provided.
Airdrop Hunter 1:
Hunter 1’s first transaction occurred on 2021-11-01, when they transferred funds from another address. It is worth noting that their two subsequent swap transactions occurred only 15 seconds apart. They first exchanged ETH for USDT and then exchanged USDT back to ETH. This rapid sequence of transactions appears to be an attempt to increase activity.
Airdrop Hunter 1 (1)
I have omitted some cross-chain and address transfer operations in between. About 8 months ago, on 2022-10-20, Hunter 1 performed a similar transaction (changing from USDT to USDC) with a time interval of approximately 30 seconds.
Airdrop Hunter 1 (2)
Two months ago, the address conducted a series of similar transaction operations (a total of 39 transactions), with an average time interval of about 20 seconds:
Airdrop Hunter 1 (3)
Airdrop Hunter 2:
Hunter 2’s behavior is relatively simple. It crossed from the mainnet to zkSync on 2021-11-10 and made its first transaction three months ago (exchanging ETH for USDC). Then the address had another transaction crossing from the mainnet, and there have been no other transactions since then.
Airdrop Hunter 2
Airdrop Hunter 3:
Hunter 3’s behavior on zkSync lite is very similar to that of Hunter 1. They both crossed from the mainnet to zkSync at the end of 2021, then used zkSync’s transaction function to convert ETH to stablecoins, and then converted the stablecoins back to ETH (ETH <-> USDT). They also conducted multiple transactions with a time interval of about 20 seconds. This may indicate that they are trying to increase activity through frequent trading:
Airdrop Hunter 3 (1)
The intermediate sporadic transactions are temporarily ignored. Hunter 3 made a similar operation on 2022-05-25, and the transaction time intervals were also about 20 seconds.
Airdrop Hunter 3 (2)
Airdrop Hunter 4:
Hunter 4 made several transactions after the cross-chain operation, and then made another cross-chain operation after a period of time. This behavior pattern may indicate that they are trying to maintain a certain level of activity on the zkSync chain and transfer and allocate funds when needed.
Airdrop Hunter 4
zkSync Era: In addition to zkSync lite, many airdrop hunters also choose to cross-chain to the mainnet of zkSync Era for interaction. It is worth noting that on the first two days of the launch of zkSync Era’s mainnet, a considerable number of airdrop hunters started to interact here, which reflects the high attention and active participation of airdrop hunters in the zkSync Era project.
Airdrop Hunter 1:
Airdrop Hunter 1 exhibited almost the same behavior pattern on zkSync lite and zkSync Era. After zkSync Era went live on 2023-03-24, Airdrop Hunter 1 immediately carried out cross-chain operations on the second day, showing high attention and quick response to this new project. Then it used the SyncSwap contract to perform currency exchange operations.
Airdrop Hunter 1 (1)
Airdrop Hunter 1 took similar trading actions to improve activity after the first interaction seven days later (2023-04-02). This timing seems very clever, raising suspicions of whether he is trying to increase activity in different weeks.
Airdrop Hunter 1 (2)
Airdrop Hunter 1’s last operation on zkSync Era occurred a month ago (2023-05-19), and this operation was still a currency exchange between ETH and USDC using SyncSwap.
Airdrop Hunter 1 (3)
Airdrop Hunter 2:
Airdrop Hunter 2 crossed to zkSync Era on the day zkSync Era mainnet launched, demonstrating the same level of attention and activity to the project as Airdrop Hunter 1. His multiple transactions on zkSync Era were conducted through the Mute project. Unlike Airdrop Hunter 1, who exchanged between different currencies, Airdrop Hunter 2 exchanged ETH for ETH through a contract. This approach not only incurs lower transaction fees but also avoids the risk of currency price fluctuations, leaving activity traces on zkSync.
Airdrop Hunter 2
Airdrop Hunter 3:
Airdrop Hunter 3 crossed to zkSync Era on the same day (2023-03-25) as Airdrop Hunter 1 and had very similar on-chain operations. The only difference is that Airdrop Hunter 3 used the SLianGuaiceFi project to exchange between ETH and USDC.
Airdrop Hunter 3 (1)
Airdrop Hunter 3 returned to zkSync Era after the first interaction week (2023-04-03). This time, Airdrop Hunter 3 used SyncSwap instead of SLianGuaiceFi. While boosting activity, he also participated in multiple projects in the zkSync Era ecosystem.
Airdrop Hunter 3 (2)
Airdrop Hunter 3 continued with transfers and other activities, including participation in the iZUMi project and transactions between ETH and ETH. It is worth noting that there were multiple outgoing transfers recorded on this address on 2023-05-15.
Airdrop Hunter 3 (3)
StarkNet: Due to the relatively small number of airdrop hunters crossing to StarkNet and the similar transaction behavior patterns between airdrop hunters and zkSync, we have chosen a representative address for analysis and examples.
1. About two months ago (2023-04-12), an airdrop hunter crossed to StarkNet and used the myswap project on StarkNet to trade between ETH and USDC on the same day.
2. On StarkNet, the airdrop hunter also minted some NFTs.
3. 15 days ago (2023-06-01), the airdrop hunter conducted a trade between ETH and USDT through myswap.
Airdrop Hunter on StarkNet
4. Dapp Track: DeBank
DeBank is a decentralized finance (DeFi) data analysis and asset management platform that provides users with a panoramic view of their investments and debts in different DeFi projects. It also provides real-time project data, transaction records, and risk assessment to help users make informed investment decisions. DeBank has also been expanding its DeFi business recently, including swap functionality, and the community is eagerly awaiting airdrops from DeBank. However, the airdrop hunter’s approach and the community’s approach to Debank tutorials are different. Most high-quality airdrop hunters only registered with DeBank and did not use DeBank’s swap functionality like in the airdrop tutorial. Here is a demonstration of how the high-quality airdrop hunter interacts with Debank:
Airdrop Hunter's operation on Debank (1)
Airdrop Hunter's operation on Debank (2)
From the behavior of the high-quality airdrop hunter, it seems more like they registered with DeBank for on-chain analysis purposes and not like other users with obvious intentions of taking advantage. They use DeBank’s swap functionality to increase their potential for receiving airdrops.
After analyzing the airdrop hunter’s project choices on the chain, we have identified the key driving factors behind the airdrop hunter’s project selection:
1. Industry influence: Most hunters tend to choose projects that have wide influence and popularity within their respective fields. Apart from DeBank, these projects have had astonishing contract interactions on Ethereum, exceeding 700,000 times.
2. Preference for Layer 2 solutions: Airdrop hunters clearly prefer Layer 2 projects such as Arbitrum, zkSync lite, and zkSync Era. Layer 2 solutions offer faster transaction confirmation speeds and lower transaction fees, which are obviously important for hunters who frequently participate in DeFi and NFT projects.
Through in-depth analysis by X-explore, it is concluded that although the airdrop hunters on Arbitrum and Optimism have exhibited high-quality behavior patterns, they have shown a phenomenon of volume and activity brushing on zkSync and Starknet. This is closely related to the completeness of the on-chain ecosystem. Optimism and Arbitrum have already had a period of development and accumulation before the airdrop announcement, while zkSync has never stopped the demand for airdrops before the launch of the Era mainnet. This finding forces us to rethink: what is the true meaning of airdrops? How can we find truly valuable users in formulating the rules for airdrops, instead of those who engage in a large number of meaningless interactions just to take advantage of airdrops? These are issues that project parties need to delve into.
Inspiration from Airdrop Hunters
1. Airdrop hunters are mainly real and high-quality users: they actively participate in various blockchain projects, engage in cross-chain transactions, and maintain stable activity on multiple platforms. Although there has been a heated discussion about “witch addresses,” we have not found obvious “freeloader” behavior among airdrop hunters. On the contrary, their behavior patterns reflect deep involvement in projects and a passion for the blockchain world, rather than just seeking short-term airdrop benefits.
2. When formulating airdrop rules, successful examples can be used as references: when analyzing the traces of airdrop hunters on Optimism, we found that many high-quality airdrop hunters received a large number of OP airdrops due to their activity on Ethereum, and eventually became loyal users on the OP chain. Therefore, when formulating airdrop rules, project parties can take the behavior of airdrop hunters into account to ensure that airdrops are more effectively distributed to these high-quality users. This also helps project parties use airdrops as an incentive mechanism to improve project participation and user loyalty.
3. A good airdrop needs to meet two core conditions: reasonable airdrop rule design and a complete ecosystem. With appropriate airdrop rules and a sound ecosystem, we have witnessed how high-quality users on Arbitrum/Optimism maintain sustained activity. However, if airdrop information is released hastily without a complete ecosystem, it may lead to superficial prosperity, and even high-quality airdrop hunters on zkSync/Starknet may engage in activity brushing. In the upcoming X-explore articles, we will delve into the behavior of low-quality users on ZkSync/Starknet and the phenomenon of “witch attacks,” revealing the true situation behind the superficial prosperity.