A non-fungible token (NFT) is a financial security consisting of digital data stored in a blockchain, a form of distributed ledger. The ownership of an NFT is recorded in the blockchain, and can be transferred by the owner, allowing NFTs to be sold and traded.
WHAT IS AN NFT? WHAT DOES NFT STAND FOR?
That doesn’t make it any clearer.
Right, sorry. “Non-fungible” more or less means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. For example, a bitcoin is fungible — trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing.
A one-of-a-kind trading card, however, is non-fungible. If you traded it for a different card, you’d have something completely different. You gave up a Squirtle, and got a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner, which StadiumTalk calls “the Mona Lisa of baseball cards.” (I’ll take their word for it.)
How do NFTs work?
At a very high level, most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain, though other blockchains have implemented their own version of NFTs. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also keeps track of who’s holding and trading NFTs.
How do you pronounce NFT?
Almost everyone spells it out, saying “en eff tee.” The brave call them “nefts.” The enlightened have never had the word cross their lips.
What’s worth picking up at the NFT supermarket?
NFTs can really be anything digital (such as drawings, music, your brain downloaded and turned into an AI), but a lot of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art.
You mean, like, people buying my good tweets?
I don’t think anyone can stop you, but that’s not really what I meant. A lot of the conversation is about NFTs as an evolution of fine art collecting, only with digital art.
But yes, someone could buy your good tweets. The founder of Twitter sold one for just under $3 million shortly after we originally posted this article.
Could you do a real quick rundown of what the blockchain is?
Well, they’re pretty complex, but the basic idea is that blockchains are a way to store data without having to trust any one company or entity to keep things secure and accurate. There are definitely nuances and exceptions there, which you can read about in our blockchain explainer, but when most people say “blockchain,” that’s the kind of tech they’re talking about.
There’s also… a lot of nuance about whether NFT’s are on the blockchain or not, which we’ll dig into in a bit.
I know, I feel like a real writer.
So do people really think this will be the future of collecting?
What’s the point of NFTs?
That really depends on whether you’re an artist or a buyer.
I’m an artist.
First off: I’m proud of you. Way to go. You might be interested in NFTs because it gives you a way to sell work that there otherwise might not be much of a market for. If you come up with a really cool digital sticker idea, what are you going to do? Sell it on the iMessage App Store? No way.
Also, some NFT marketplaces have a feature where you can make sure you get paid a percentage every time your NFT is sold or changes hands. That makes sure that if your work gets super popular and balloons in value, you’ll see some of that benefit.
I’m a buyer.
One of the obvious benefits of buying art is it lets you financially support artists you like, and that’s true with NFTs (which are way trendier than, like, Telegram stickers). Buying an NFT also usually gets you some basic usage rights, like being able to post the image online or set it as your profile picture. Plus, of course, there are bragging rights that you own the art, with a blockchain entry to back it up.
Ah, okay, yes. NFTs can work like any other speculative asset, where you buy it and hope that the value of it goes up one day, so you can sell it for a profit. I feel kind of dirty for talking about that, though.
So every NFT is unique?
In the boring, technical sense that every NFT is a unique token on the blockchain. But while it could be like a van Gogh, where there’s only one definitive actual version, it could also be like a trading card, where there’s 50 or hundreds of numbered copies of the same artwork.
Who would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for what basically amounts to a trading card?
Well, that’s part of what makes NFTs so messy. Some people treat them like they’re the future of fine art collecting (read: as a playground for the mega-rich), and some people treat them like Pokémon cards (where they’re accessible to normal people but also a playground for the mega-rich). Speaking of Pokémon cards, Logan Paul sold some NFTs relating to a million-dollar box of the—
Please stop. I hate where this is going.
Yeah, he sold NFT video clips, which are just clips from a video you can watch on YouTube anytime you want, for up to $20,000. He also sold NFTs of a Logan Paul Pokémon card.
Who paid $20,000 for a video clip of Logan Paul?!
A fool and their money are soon parted, I guess?
It would be hilarious if Logan Paul decided to sell 50 more NFTs of the exact same video.
Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda (who also sold some NFTs that included a song) actually talked about that. It’s totally a thing someone could do if they were, in his words, “an opportunist crooked jerk.” I’m not saying that Logan Paul is that, just that you should be careful who you buy from.
Are NFTs mainstream now?
It depends on what you mean. If you’re asking if, say, my mom owns one, the answer is no.
But we have seen big brands and celebrities like Marvel and Wayne Gretzky launch their own NFTs, which seem to be aimed at more traditional collectors, rather than crypto-enthusiasts. While I don’t think I’d call NFTs “mainstream” in the way that smartphones are mainstream, or Star Wars is mainstream, they do seem to have, at least to some extent, shown some staying power even outside of the cryptosphere.
Ah yes, excellent question. We here at The Verge have an interest in what the next generation is doing, and it certainly does seem like some of them have been experimenting with NFTs. An 18 year-old who goes by the name FEWOCiOUS says that his NFT drops have netted over $17 million — though obviously most haven’t had the same success. The New York Times talked to a few teens in the NFC space, and some said they used NFTs as a way to get used to working on a project with a team, or to just earn some spending money.