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NFTs – The Next Stop On Our Trip Through The Metaverse

There’s nothing like a new concept to the digital world, to make us go “what in the hell is that?”. At least that’s the feeling I get and I’m sure many others do when hearing about and trying to understand these things called NFTs. You might be wondering what they are? So am I. After some time researching this growing concept, I have an idea or at least the start of one. I am also emotionally stressed. You may have seen stories about people paying huge money for digital clip art of rocks, monkeys, or cats that they can’t even physically touch or hang on their wall. An idea that still baffles me and makes me realize that I may have finally reached the “what will they think of next” mindset of my parents. Well that much about them is technically true. However, like everything, there is more to it.

Clearly NFT, like all annoying acronyms, has got to stand for something. In this case it stands for non-fungible token. “Non-fungible” meaning that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. Look at it like the Mona Lisa. There is only one. Copies can be made that you own but there is only one person who owns the original. An NFT is that original Mona Lisa.

NFT’s are a technology that allows digital content like videos, songs, or images to become logged and authenticated on cryptocurrency blockchains, primarily Ethereum. Once that content is logged onto the blockchain, each transaction is recorded on-chain, creating an easily accessible ledger of price history. The main idea of this shemozzle is making it easy to own and sell digital content. Before, digital artists could build up large followings on social media, attract freelance commercial work, and maybe sell prints and other merch with their designs but had trouble monetizing digital art directly. Because why should I buy what I can screenshot for free? Right? It’s easy to joke about it now, but one day when my digital home in the metaverse doesn’t have a NFT image to hang on its wall, I may not be laughing.

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So how technically does this work? A creator will mint their work on an NFT marketplace. Minting is the act of creating an NFT, which means creating a smart contract that will be stored on the blockchain. The smart contract contains a lot of important information, listing the creator of the work and ensuring that the creator, or any other parties, receive royalties each time the NFT is sold. The fact that artists can automatically collect money on resale value is part of the recent popularity and draw for artists. But like all new concepts in their early stages and digital features in general, there are setbacks. Technological glitches can make it so that parties don’t always receive royalties. To top that, a smart contract does not have the legal significance of copyright, so it will take a relevant court case in the future to see how these smart contracts are regarded by the law.

While artists are constantly encouraged to make big bucks making NFTs of their work, there are obstacles. The largest being that minting an NFT is not free. Are you saying that its going to cost me to sell my digital Mona Lisa? Yup, it costs money. And the more congested the Ethereum network is, the more effort is needed to mint something. Therefore, that minting is going to cost more. However, minting isn’t always done by the creator of an NFT. Certain platforms will offload that process which get dumped on the consumer or buyer of the NFT.

Over the past year, NFTs have been mentioned more and more and have found their place in the spotlight. But are they technically considered mainstream yet? My answer? My mom doesn’t own one. She doesn’t know what it is and I’m not mentally strong enough to even consider explaining it to her. But mainstream brands and celebrities like Marvel and Katy Perry have launch their own NFTs. I personally don’t think they have reached the title of mainstream yet, but they have shown some staying power as of recent. And with the growing popularity of the metaverse and crypto world there is plenty of reason to believe NFTs could take hold. Perhaps 2022 will let the public to come to their own conclusions. We still have lots to learn about this concept and plan to do so.

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