Social media app Twitter now supports non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and Meta (Facebook, Instagram) is also apparently working on a feature that would allow users to display NFTs on their profile. NFTs – now probably familiar to most – are digital tokens that are stored on a blockchain and are therefore unique. They serve as proof of ownership for digital artworks, primarily images.
NFTs are increasingly becoming status symbols for bored millionaires who want to emphasize their personality with a cool avatar and position themselves in emerging digital markets. Rapper Eminem, for example, recently spent $462,000 (about 123.45 Ether at the time) on a “bored ape” cartoon to get his own avatar and, by the way, the Bored Ape Yacht, which is trending in NFT circles to join.
NFTs represent a turnover of one billion dollars. Especially wealthy newbies to the cryptocurrency scene, but also many celebrities like to show off on social media with the profile picture of a disgruntled monkey or with a pixelated cyberpunk photo. Behind it, there may then be a digital work of art that was acquired in the form of an NFT – and was certainly not cheap.
On Twitter, NFT-powered profile pictures will now appear in a hexagonal frame to distinguish them from regular profile pictures. Clicking it brings up a page that explains uniqueness and reveals the identity of the creator and the blockchain address. Of course, Twitter detects a business model behind it: the NFT function is currently available for iOS users of the premium service Twitter Blue.
Internet group Meta is reportedly working on similar plans, but the company has so far declined to comment. However, speculation is circulating in the market that Facebook and Instagram customers can expect some sort of digital trophy cabinet to display their NFTs for their friends and followers.
As the Washington Post interprets, NFT content is designed for social media, where people are known to love showing off what they’ve got. There, affiliations to certain identity groups could be documented and one’s own place in social hierarchies could also be highlighted. The Post quotes technology analyst Eugene Wie summarizing the trend as service status. In a widely acclaimed 2019 essay on social media, Wei wrote that on a deep psychological level, humans are “status-oriented apes” who must constantly display their identity group memberships and place in hierarchies. social.
Thus, social networks have the best chance of developing if they manage to offer their users an attractive way of acquiring social capital. They succeed on Instagram by showcasing their looks or their fashion sensibilities, or by showcasing their skills – for example in the field of photography -. Twitter is more the platform where people score with a pithy joke or an ideological commitment. And TikTok lets visitors impress with their musical tastes, dancing skills, and original video ideas.
In this respect, social media is a mirror of the real world, in which status is also exchanged – in the form of real works of art, chic vintage cars or fashion, for example. Exclusivity plays an important role here, and that’s exactly where NFTs come in. Anyone who owns one wants to show off their taste, richness and trend – preferably before something goes mainstream. As such, it makes perfect sense that Twitter and Facebook allow users to show their identity and social status in the form of NFTs as well.
As Wei points out, it’s probably not just about social status. Cryptocurrencies and the crypto trend as a whole have had a strong influence on certain demographics. With an NFT as their profile picture, for example, they could emphasize their affiliation. Anyone dealing with cryptocurrencies and NFTs is signaling that they are at the forefront and considering building a new decentralized internet – also known as Web3. It definitely has a revolutionary touch, as this approach is all about breaking the dominance of individual businesses on the internet. However, it doesn’t seem to be causing sleepless nights on Facebook and Twitter. They see NFTs more as an artistic aesthetic trend that can be capitalized on.
NFT owners have long since started using images of bored monkeys and also CryptoPunks as avatars to show their membership in the exclusive Bored Ape Yacht Club or CryptoPunks. In fact, at least monkeys are quite comparable to yachts in price and craziness.
However, it is doubtful that the trend will continue in the long term, because on the Internet, an image is initially just an image. You don’t have to buy it right away as an NFT to adorn yourself with it on Twitter. Users can simply copy the photos and make them your profile picture – just like you can buy a fake Gucci bag from the Far East if the original seems unaffordable.
To put an end to it, it is important that Twitter can prove the originality of NFTs. The social network ensures that users can see the authenticity of avatars on the Ethereum blockchain. However, according to the Washington Post, there are still problems. Tech-savvy users immediately noticed that Twitter’s feature cannot distinguish between valuable NFTs, which are part of a verified collection on the world’s largest NFT marketplace, OpenSea, and worthless NFTs. These can be copies of valuable digital images, which anyone can eventually organize themselves on a blockchain for little money.
Meanwhile, there has also been a backlash from Twitter users, who view the whole idea of NFTs as a scam and encourage others to mute or block anyone using Twitter’s NFT feature. A developer even programmed a browser extension supposed to block NFT users (find it on Github). Probably the most prominent critic is Tesla founder Elon Musk, who has spoken out vehemently against verified NFT profile pictures on Twitter:
Twitter is spending engineering resources on this bs while crypto scammers throw a spambot block party in every thread!?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2022
The background is that the entrepreneur and multi-billionaire, who is particularly popular on Twitter, often gets into trouble with cryptocurrency scammers who regularly prey on his followers.
In addition to the Bored Ape Yacht Club, there are a variety of other NFT projects on the web, such as the spin-off Bored Ape Kennel Club, which awards a free pet dog to anyone who owns a digital ape cartoon. But that’s not all:
Before the monkey club came CryptoPunks, released in 2017 by Larva Labs, one of the first NFT projects on the Ethereum blockchain. Around 10,000 pixel avatars have been made available there for free for every user with an Ethereum wallet. CryptoPunks have now burst into the mainstream art world, making headlines at auctions at major art houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Some NFTs are traded here for several million dollars.
In April 2020, the Avastars “Replicant Factory” were launched. Here users can self-generate their NFTs, the trading price is based on the scarcity of the properties created. To date, there are five generations of so-called Prime Avastars, each with 5,000 unique Avastars per generation. These are all already complete, so replicants can only be created by combining traits from existing Avastars.
Hashmasks launched in late January 2021, shortly after Beeple’s Everydays collage auctioned at Christie’s for a whopping $69 million. Based in Zug, Switzerland, the project collaborates with more than 70 artists from around the world and currently has 16,384 digital works.
Meanwhile, Meebits, also from Larva Labs, has been building three-dimensional voxel characters to use as avatars in the metaverse since May last year with the help of its visitors.
Less politically correct than pets and punks are CryptoJunks.wtf, which focuses on algorithmically generated genitals.
The opposite applies to World of Women: the project only supports female avatars and is committed to diversity.
However, the Vogu Collective is mindful of its own aesthetic: Here an artistic style is cultivated that combines streetwear fashion with robot characters.
Other interesting NFT projects: