This post offers a 10,000ft view on the NFT issuance landscape, helping creators better acclimate themselves with the tools, players and resources leading the growing movement around scarce digital content.
Disclaimer: The projects covered in this post are the output of my personal exploration and are by no means a canonical source of truth on the ‘best’ platforms that exist today.
What are NFTs?
NFTs, short for non-fungible tokens, are uniquely distinguishable digital assets.
Non-fungibility means no two tokens are the same. Whereas a dollar bill has the same value as any other dollar bill (meaning they are fungible), one car has a drastically different value from another (meaning they are non-fungible).
NFTs frequently represent scarce digital content, and allow for provable ownership (otherwise known as provenance) of media files which have historically been free to reproduce.
NFTs allow creators to assign scarcity and value to a digital file, including anything from text to images, videos and sound.
Think of a digital version of the Mona Lisa, where anyone can take a screenshot - but there is only one true owner. This is an NFT.
The process of creating an NFT is not scary.
Creators upload files like mp4s, gifs or jpgs to a distributed database like IPFS and issue a token that includes that file in its metadata.
Think of uploading an NFT in the same way you would a picture to Instagram. The difference is that you are paying a fee (in ETH) to upload it to the Ethereum blockchain where it will live forever.
I found this description from the NFT Skeptics Guide particularly accurate as it demystifies the seemingly dodgy world of web3.
‘Token + Media = Cryptoart’
The token itself is not cryptoart. The NFT points to something else and says ‘Hey, this thing and I are joined at the hip. We’re inseparable. Think of us as one’
Everyone knows how to create a mp4, gif, and jpg, but very few people know how to issue a token on a blockchain.
This is where issuers - or platforms that help users create (or issue) tokens come into play.
There are now nearly 50 different platforms to mint NFTs. That's a lot.
Let’s dive into a couple key players and identify what makes them unique in NFT conversations happening today.
SuperRare allows whitelisted creators to issue 1/1 NFTs, exemplifying the name ‘Super Rare’ by leaning on the fact that each and every token is highly exclusive and of the finest quality.
Curation on SuperRare is key, as only about 1% of all applicants make their way onto the platform.
SuperRare places a strong emphasis on the social nature of NFT collecting, allowing users to like posts and share their collection through a username linked to their Ethereum wallet.
All purchases on SuperRare are made exclusively in ETH.
Nifty Gateway is currently leading in sales volume, largely thanks to its fiat onramps that allow collectors to purchase NFTs with a credit card.
While Nifty also offers 1/1 pieces, it’s seen the most success from the issuance of editions - or multiple copies of a specific type of NFTs.
Nifty leverages ‘open editions’ or FOMO-induced drops in which an unlimited number of editions can be created for a finite period of time (commonly 5 minutes or less).
Each open edition is sold at a base price, and after the window closes, no more of that NFT are ever issued. This has led to a vibrant secondary market and the emergence of novel releases including ‘packs’ or NFT drops with different rarities received at the time of purchase.
Nifty also leans heavily on curation, as only whitelisted creators are able to release NFTs, almost all of which are marketed as ‘drops’ that sell out in a matter of minutes.
Not all NFT marketplaces require permission to access.
Rarible allows anyone to quickly and easily issue an NFT, and is underpinned by a governance token - RARI - that gives users the ability to vote on changes to the protocol.
While Rarible has had to deal with its fair share of growing pains including wash trading and fraud, the principle of allowing anyone to mint an NFT in a matter of seconds provides a fantastic testing ground for those new to the space.
Just ask Marc Cuban, who minted his first NFT on Rarible earlier this week.
Zora offers a universal market protocol for media ownership through the standardization of cryptomedia - or NFTs that include both a media and market components.
zNFTs add an order book directly to the NFT, allowing creators to buy and sell the token directly without having to interface through any of the platforms mentioned above.
All zNFTs are issued as 1/1’s and indexed as a part of a global registry, meaning no two NFTs can be replicated.
While still in its infancy, Zora’s push to make NFTs platform agnostic has garnered interest from projects like Catalog and Mirror - both of which are utilizing Zora for the NFTs being issued on their respective products.
OpenSea is an NFT issuance platform that doubles as the first NFT marketplace - offering a novel home for creators and collectors to access an aggregate view of all their NFTs collected from the various platforms listed above.
OpenSea allows anyone to create NFTs, either as 1/1s or as editions.
The marketplace encompasses everything from crypto art to gaming assets and much more, and is long seen as the home for a global secondary market on any and all NFTs that exist today.
OpenSea accepts a variety of different currencies, giving creators the ability to accept payment in ETH, DAI, USDC or custom social tokens like WHALE, COIN or HUE.
The most important aspect of NFTs are the creators themselves - specifically with many of them releasing content across multiple marketplaces in various shapes and forms.
I’ve found the best place to keep up with the top artists to be cryptoart.io by Richard Chen, offering a fantastic breakdown of the top sellers across SuperRare, Nifty Gateway, MakersPlace, Async Art, and KnownOrigin.
Other valuable resources to keep up with the ever changing NFT landscape include but are not limited to:
- NFTs and a Thousand True Fans
- WTF are NFTs?
- Collecting NFTs and Digital Art
- Beginners Guide to NFTs
- Non Fungible Tokens - NFTs are Transforming the Digital Art World
- Into the Metaverse
- NFT Skeptics Guide
- Analyzing Cryptoart Marketplaces
- The First $100M in NFTs
Podcasts / Youtube Channels
The Road Ahead
The next few months will see an influx of NFT creators, capturing everything from musicians to graphic designers, vloggers and journalists.
It’s likely that the average price of NFTs will decline as the quantity of NFTs issued quickly increases.
If you’d like to see more content around NFTs, please consider sharing this post.
I’m passionate about creator economies and plan to share many more thoughts in the near future.
In the meantime, stay up with me on Twitter.
Until next time!