They had a sudden boom in 2020, generating a lot of interest and expectation. A short time later, some suffered great disappointment, while others continue to believe that these tokens have a great future ahead of them.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, began to gain popularity amid a pandemic and have remained a topic of conversation to this day. Tweets, digital works, and the famous bored monkeys (those of the Bored Ape Yacht Club) were sold for millions of dollars. Everything seemed (or seems) likely to be created or “minted” on the blockchain and go on to immortality. Even the original internet code was auctioned, in 2021, for 5.4 million dollars.
Although the euphoria for these unique and unrepeatable tokens seems to have subsided, the numbers indicate that they are still relevant. A DappRadar report revealed that 101 million NFT sales were recorded in 2022, 67.57% more than the previous year.
What seemed to be a niche for a few connoisseurs became popular and even the most conventional institutions began to try them. In sports, we can mention the case of the NBA or the AFA, which launched their personalized NFTs. And Play-to-Earn video games (they reward the most active players) such as Axie Infinity or Decentraland are just a few examples of the many forms these digital assets can take.
Like all stages of changes and redefinitions, there is still a lot to know about the future of these tokens. Will keep growing? What will be the main use that will be given to it within the framework of web3? About this and other topics of the new internet, Julieta Schulkin, author of Vuelta por el metaverso, from Galerna publishing house, speaks in this interview. A preview of some of the themes of the talk that she will give at Virtuality Talks, an event organized by Virtuality Latam and the Government of the City of Buenos Aires, which will take place on March 17 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at La Usina del Arte. The meeting is free, but tickets must be reserved through Eventbrite.
NFTs are “the candy of the internet”
Because in 2021 they sweetened the web. They were the object of desire, in a closed circle, in a kind of vanguard of the internet. They came to sweeten a particular moment within the pandemic, about the lives of millions of netizens around the world who experienced an internet different from the one we know. It was not well understood what they were, but they appeared everywhere on social networks and news. First, they sweetened, and then they generated a lot of bitterness, confusion, and even anger. It was not understood if you had to invest in non-fungible tokens, if you had to have them (hold them), or what they were for.
Can you say that the NFTs failed?
I don’t think they have failed. On the contrary, 2021 made them known and the first impulse was given. There was indeed a lot of smoke. Nobody quite understood why millions of dollars were paid for what we began to know as “crypto art”. The crypto bear market (the downward price trend in that market) did not help them, it lowered their reputation. And there were even cases where we found out that the same people who sold them were the ones who bought them.
What are the benefits they can bring?
It is a great technology that can have various functionalities. After all, they are smart contracts that certify that an asset belongs to someone. In turn, they can also be used as show tickets or to include experiences with the purchase of a ticket (a meet and greet, For example). Since 2021, when the trend exploded, I got hooked on the topic because I met so many multimedia artists and musicians who started to get curious about the topic.
An NFT can be an article of clothing for an avatar in a video game or a metaverse like Decentraland, where users of the platform design a press that another user can buy (with the cryptocurrency called MANA) and use. I know that maybe it may seem crazy for those of us who had childhoods without the internet. I think that talking seriously about digital assets on the internet today is very new. In fact, just last year they organized the first Digital Objects conference (FDO2022 Conference) where one of the fathers of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, was present.
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Did you create one? Did you sell or buy?
I tried creating and uploading to OpenSea. And also, I was disenchanted with that platform, which is a great marketplace for these assets, where anyone uploads their NFT and sells it. There are so many NFTs that many get lost in the crowd. It’s a big messy repository. I have never sold an NFT, and I was not motivated by that. They gave me several NFTs that I still have in my Metamask wallet. I have POAPs from crypto events that I went to, which are NFTs. They are a kind of “stamps” of important moments that I chose to keep.
Is there one that has a special value for you?
For a few days, I also have in my wallet an NFT of a drawing by Luis Alberto Spinetta. With the endorsement of his family, Enigma. art sells a series of previously unpublished illustrations of El Flaco. I have the file on file, I’m going to frame it and make a painting for my living room. The NFT of the Skinny drawing gives you access to a community of fans. It comes with a vinyl that you can choose. These kinds of things motivate me. In these two years, I focused on talking to artists who venture into this world. An NFT can give an artist true sovereignty over their work. Through a smart contract, there is no way to change the percentages when spreading the profits.
Is there any story of artists who use these assets that you would like to share?
Two years ago, I learned the story of Lajos, an artist who commercialized his digital artworks as NFTs. He put together a campaign to sell his works and raise funds for his leukemia treatment. I was touched by his story because he was passionate about NFT technology. He died a few months ago. Knowing its history made me realize that, at least for me, an NFT has to have a purpose behind it, which can be collecting, a crowdfunding campaign, showing that you have something that nobody else has, experimenting, or, whatever I like the most. interest, a new way to monetize the work of many artists. Not everything that is uploaded is art, not everyone who uploads an NFT is an artist.
The crypto world helped the metaverse a lot. Because many developments come from there, from what they call “decentralized metaverses.” We have to wait. On the other hand, Facebook, when it changed its name to Meta, started talking to us non-stop about the metaverse. So there was a lot of confusion. We started to think of the metaverse as a virtuality experience, but it goes beyond that. Today the numbers for Meta’s unit, Reality Labs, which develops software and creates VR headsets, are in the red. This was coupled with the crypto bear market, the wave of layoffs from technology companies, and the crisis in the United States.
So, how would you define the metaverse?
The metaverse is not exclusively in virtuality and is the next evolutionary stage of the internet. Today he is in diapers. We are in an early stage, similar to when mobile technology began. I think it’s a good sign that there’s not so much talk about the metaverse. Meta was too ambitious and started talking to us about something very long-term. Whether it is called a metaverse or another way, I am convinced that we are experiencing the transition to the next evolutionary stage of the internet, with a more immersive internet or “embodied internet”, as it is also called. There is a new way to embody our digital, shopping, leisure, work, and socializing experiences.
The generations that play Roblox, Fortnite, or Minecraft understand this very well. So the metaverse will be reinvented many times. Meanwhile, the creativity of the machines (I mean generative AI), the new ways of composing content on the internet, and the ways even of relating to chatbots that are forms of artificial intelligence mark the path towards new virtuality. We are at the beginning of something new, with the advantage of having experienced web 2.0.
What ingredients does a platform or digital solution have to have to be part of the metaverse?
Once, the journalist Juan Ruocco told me something that stuck in my head: “the metaverse is the definitive video game”. But not every video game is a metaverse. The factor of social interaction is essential. For many boys and girls, playing is just an excuse to interact with their friends. I mean, they can be in Fortnite, but playing takes a backseat, it’s a form of entertainment. As a new virtuality social club that has definitively won its place for boys, girls, and adolescents, in 2020. An avatar in a virtuality environment is an avatar and nothing more. The issue is also that many companies and entrepreneurs went out to sell their metaverses. And it is not easy to develop them.
We are talking about platforms with open maps that allow you to have many experiences in virtuality. Decentraland is a nice case because they host events all the time. It happened to me from entering the platform, always with headphones, browsing the map, and suddenly, entering a party with a DJ, who sounded very good, and I stayed there. Maybe then I would go to another tab on the computer, but I would stay listening to the music that was on Decentraland. Fashion brands are the ones that have exploited the metaverse the most, with parades, showing their products, or simply doing branding work.