Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): A New Trend In Crypto

27 April 2021
NFTs: the future of art or just the latest crypto asset bubble?

A craze that seems to have just boomed out of nowhere, NFTs are currently taking over the internet. From cat memes, NBA collectables, to animations from Daft Punk or Grimes, and even tweets from Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey – people are investing millions of dollars into getting their hands on some of the rarest NFTs on the market.

But what’s the deal? Is this just a passing fad? Or are NFTs here to stay and change the future of crypto assets and ‘ownership’ as we know it?

What’s an NFT?

Let’s start with the basics.

A non-fungible token (NFT) refers to scarce, one-of-a-kind digital items that are traded on the Ethereum blockchain. Much like traditional crypto assets, NFTs are stored in digital wallets which allow them to remain secure. These tokens are a type of crypto assets, but instead of being treated like currency, they’re assigned to assets like digital works of art, video clips, and even music.

In fact, American rock band The Kings of Leon released their new album titled ‘When You See Yourself’ in the form of an NFT – becoming the first band to ever do so.

But I can still copy, paste and share digital art… So what’s the point?

As NFTs operate on a blockchain, anyone can see the details of any NFT transactions, meaning you can trace the original artwork back to its owner. There’s no faking ownership of these assets which is why they’ve become so valuable.

The value of NFTs are completely subjective and therefore fluctuate.

The valuation of the NFT market is skyrocketing and has already breached the $1 billion market. Some experts predict that the market will continue to grow at an accelerated rate, as more interest and demand from individuals and brands build for NFTs.

What are some non-typical applications of NFTs?

Beyond the typical use cases and applications of NFTs, which are predominantly focused on the modern digital art world, developers around the world are finding new ways to demonstrate their value.

While gaming companies like Ubisoft are experimenting with NFTs to create new virtual blockchain-first worlds, other companies are using NFTs to connect to domains to create an immutable history of their journey for tracking purposes.

Luxury fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton are testing NFTs to help solve their counterfeiting problems, by linking real-world objects to NFTs to verify their authenticity.

American fast-food chains like Taco Bell recently debuted its NFTacoBell collection, which consisted of five taco-inspired GIF illustrations. Each GIF had five copies for a total of 25 NFTs, which sold out within 30 minutes.

Data companies are also playing around with the idea of using NFTs as a representation of specific data.

As the NFT market grows, developers are looking to make improvements on the ERC-721 token standard and offer consumers more flexibility. Most NFTs are built using the ERC-721 token standard, an Ethereum-compatible identifier that was created by the developers of CryptoKitties.

For instance, ERC-1155 is a standard that allows for a single smart contract to manage multiple token types including fungible tokens, non-fungible tokens and tokens that fall in between the two classifications.

What’s the future of NFTs?

The NFT space is only just starting to reach its initial adoption phase, despite them actually technically existing since 2012 with Colored Coins.

Coloured Coins were created to represent a multitude of assets and have a plethora of use cases including the ability to issue your own crypto assets, issue shares of a company, subscriptions, and digital collectables.

As blockchain technology reaches new heights in terms of adoption, it’s expected that NFTs will soon be traded and auctioned just like any other traditional asset or masterpiece.

NFTs have the potential to vastly alter our relationship with the digital world by introducing object-based verifiable digital scarcity.

However, there are a number of flaws that surround NFTs that still need to be urgently addressed and ironed out. One of the major issues is NFT transactions are unsustainable from an environmental perspective.

As NFTs exist on the energy costly Ethereum blockchain, they are created (or minted) based on a process known as proof-of-work, which requires the use of large networks of processing machines that emit CO2.

Ethereum’s developers are planning a shift to the less energy-intensive proof-of-stake model of validating transactions, yet the timeline for the switch remains unclear.

With climate protection another reflection of the era’s zeitgeist, some artists have decided not to offer their work as NFTs.

Could this be an ongoing trend? Or will it pass within a blink of an eye? Only time will tell.

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This content was reviewed by Content Producer Marissa Hayden as part of our fact-checking process.

Mena Theodorou is a digital currency veteran, accomplished IT professional and co-founder of Australia cryptocurrency exchange Coinstash.

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