A crypto airdrop is a marketing tool used to promote new crypto projects and tokens from some cryptocurrency startups. It involves giving away free cryptocurrency to current users or those who might be interested. Let's understand how they work and what types of crypto airdrop exist today. 

Table of contents

How Does Airdrop Work?

Airdrop in the crypto world refers to the process of distributing digital assets, such as coins or tokens, of a crypto project to multiple digital wallets. This technique serves as a means for developers to promote their projects and engage current or prospective users.

Airdrops rose to prominence during the initial coin offering (ICO) boom in 2017, and they continue to be a popular promotional tool. They typically involve dispersing a modest amount of cryptocurrency to numerous wallets, often on platforms like Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain. Although less frequent, some projects distribute Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) instead of traditional cryptocurrencies.

While airdrops often entail distributing crypto assets for free, they might occasionally require users to perform specific actions. Such tasks could include following a social media account, subscribing to a newsletter, or holding a certain amount of coins in a wallet. It's important to note, however, that meeting these conditions does not always guarantee token receipt.

In certain cases, rewards are only given to wallets that have previously interacted with the project platform by a specific cut-off date. Arbitrum and Sui employed this method to acknowledge their early adopters. Unlike most airdrops, their rewards had a substantial value, reaching into the thousands of dollars.

Why Do Crypto Projects Conduct an Airdrop?

Blockchain projects often utilize the strategy of distributing free tokens, or conducting 'airdrops', to broaden their reach and amplify their user base. The rationale behind this approach is twofold. 

First, a larger number of token holders enhances the token's credibility and perceived value. Second, it bolsters the project's decentralization, a key attribute highly valued in the blockchain ecosystem. Moreover, airdrops serve as a motivation for recipients to engage with and advocate for the project, which can precipitate a surge in the initial user base prior to its listing on a cryptocurrency exchange.

However, while coin airdrops can accelerate the project's visibility and market penetration, they can also create a deceptive illusion of growth and success. Therefore, it is essential for prospective participants to consider other parameters before deciding to accept a token. A high number of token holders, particularly in the hundreds of thousands, might initially seem like a positive sign, but if the token has minimal actual usage, it raises valid concerns about the project's legitimacy and appeal. This could be an indicator that the project is either fraudulent or it has failed to captivate and retain the interest of the blockchain community.

Types of Airdrop

There are many ways to do crypto airdrop. In addition to the standard process in which cryptocurrency is simply transferred to multiple wallets, there are others, such as reward-based airdrop, exclusive airdrop, and owner-based airdrop.

Rewarding Airdrop

This type of token airdrop necessitates users to complete specific tasks to earn the offered tokens or coins. These tasks often include engaging promotional activities, such as sharing a project's post on Twitter, subscribing to their official Telegram channel, or creating an Instagram post and tagging friends to foster broader awareness.

To claim the reward, participants typically need to complete a form, providing their wallet address and evidence of task completion.

Exclusive Airdrop

Exclusive token airdrops are a specialized form of cryptocurrency distribution, targeting specific wallets rather than a broad user base. To be eligible for such airdrops, individuals often need to demonstrate significant community involvement or early project support.

An illustrative example of an exclusive airdrop occurred when Arbitrum, a layer-2 scaling solution, conducted a crypto airdrop for its active users. Those who had interacted with its protocol by a predetermined date received an allocation of its native token. The received tokens serve not merely as a token of appreciation but also as a tool of governance, allowing holders to vote on crucial development decisions within the project.

Airdrop for Owners

A coins airdrop for owners constitutes a particular type of airdrop in which complimentary tokens are allocated to individuals holding a specified quantity of a certain cryptocurrency. This method usually involves the project team taking a 'snapshot' of users' digital assets at a predetermined moment. If a user's wallet balance surpasses the stipulated minimum, they become eligible to claim free tokens commensurate with their asset holdings at the time of the snapshot.

Numerous nascent projects opt to distribute tokens to holders of prominent cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). The rationale behind this approach lies in these coins' extensive communities, offering a vast pool of potential adopters and contributing to the project's swift penetration into the crypto market.

What are the Risks of Airdrops?

Participating in crypto airdrops may present enticing incentives but it also brings along an array of potential hazards that every participant should be cognizant of.

Firstly, deceitful parties often establish counterfeit projects, enticing users with the promise of hefty returns, especially via large-scale crypto airdrops. They leverage the thrill and potential gains to draw in unsuspecting users. Conducting thorough research about the project, its team, and its standing within the crypto community before participating is vital.

Secondly, many of these deceptive airdrops work on a 'send-to-receive' principle. The scammers ask participants to forward a specific amount of cryptocurrency to a given address with the pledge that they will receive a greater amount in return. This is a typical scam strategy, and vigilance against such propositions is essential.

Lastly, linking your crypto wallet with these fraudulent platforms could result in the loss of the cryptocurrency stored within it. Particularly, fraudulent websites can trigger transactions, and an uninformed user may unknowingly approve them, under the impression of receiving a token airdrop.


This paper has explored the various forms of airdrops — rewarding, exclusive, and owner coin airdrops — each with its own unique operational nuances and implications.

Airdrops offer potential advantages such as fostering a broader user base, enhancing token credibility, and promoting the project. However, as we've noted, not all airdrops uphold the same standards of security and integrity. Therefore, potential participants must exercise due diligence.

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