Applications and Use Cases

NFTs: Future of Art, or Internet Fad?

March 15, 2021

It seems that almost every day the internet reveals some new obscure trend that skyrockets in popularity, only to quickly descend into the abyss after the next trend pops up five seconds later. Remember dabbing? Or planking? Or the tide pod challenge? These viral sensations had their short window of fun, then everyone went on to the next one.

But there are exceptions.

Once upon a time, bitcoin and other crypto currencies were thought to be a fad. Now, bitcoin is valued just shy of $57,000 per coin, and crypto is completely overhauling the financial industry. The point is, the internet hosts a lot of absurd ideas that come and go, but every once in a while there’s one that sticks. It appears that the latest idea might be one that rides the line between brilliant and ridiculous.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are gaining widespread attention among internet enthusiasts as a way to purchase the rights of a digital piece of artwork. Using blockchain as a basis, content creators can sell digital pieces by giving customers complete ownership of the coding behind the digital piece. It’s not much different from walking into an art auction and buying artwork from a dealer.

So,who cares? Well, for starters, just about everything on the internet can be copied for free. The Mona Lisa is a priceless painting worth millions, yet anyone can hop on google images and copy it for their desktop background. Artwork on the internet has the disadvantage of essentially being open source to the public, and not much can be done about that.

This is where NFT’s get complicated, at least in terms of purpose.  There’s currently a debate as to why a person might be motivated to purchase an NFT. To some, buying an NFT is nothing more than having bragging rights to point out how special they are (not unlike physical artwork). Others argue that NFT’s have significant financial value, and could bring some investors millions of dollars by holding out to the right buyer.

Big money is already being spent on NFTs. Just last week, NPR released an article that discussed how Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey listed his first tweet ever as a NFT collectible. The latest bid was for $2.5 million, and will likely continue to rise. Beeple, a digital artist who created a new piece of art for 5,000 consecutive days, just sold his entire digital collection as an NFT for $3 million.

Critics are already sounding the “bubble” alarm, saying that the value NFT’s are purely speculative and could be investment traps for people jumping in on the craze. Frankly, it’s too early to tell. The concept of NFTs could expand beyond novelty and lead to an entirely new market for owning and selling digital property. Or they could plummet in value over time, if the internet collectively decides to move on to the next trend for something better.

The idea of NFTs, as well as the technology behind them, is certainly interesting and worth looking into. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the internet has the collective attention span of a five year old, and could be over before it truly begins.

Edited by Maurice Nagle



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