Just tell me what NFTs are and move along

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If you’ve visited any kind of social media or news website in the last month chances are you’ve come across this acronym, creeping around the corner, into more and more stories, “NFT”. But what is it? Should you even care? AND HOW THE HELL DID THAT GUY JUST SELL A JPEG FILE FOR $69 MILLION ?

Well, to answer the first question swiftly, NFTs or Non Fungible Tokens can be lots of things, in the same way the word cryptocurrency means lots of currencies and tokens, not Bitcoin only. The Non-Fungible part means that one NFT does not equal to another NFT in the same way that at any given time one Bitcoin equals to another one Bitcoin. Thus the value of an NFT depends mostly on the content to which it is assigned to, in lots of cases NFTs can have market value just because of the creator, or the seller.

Saying that it’s just a JPEG file, and does not have any other function other than sit in your crypto wallet is similar to saying that a Monet painting is just some paint and a canvas. You see, now we get a split in our audience, some people somewhat agree, and others are typing comments on how dare I compare a JPEG file to a Monet painting.

A huge advantage that NFTs provide over just selling on other platforms without NFTs is that they ensure the authenticity of an artwork by leveraging the power of the blockchain. Because the most sensitive identification information is not stored on a single server, no one can tamper with the information, thus making it a close to perfect way of proving ownership and creatorship rights. Of course anyone can always download the JPEG and list it as their own, but now you have a way of proving creatorship by exact token IDs and transaction dates. Just like anyone could sit in front of a Monet painting and try to duplicate it down to the signature, the original will always be the original, no serious art collector would prefer a cheaper duplicate over the original.

One thing to keep in mind, though, in the case of the collage sold for $69 million (you can read more about it here), we are talking about art. Art is subjective, each person may interpret a Monet painting in a different way, and it is not mandatory for everyone to agree. For some people a black square is just a black square, others may find subjective meaning or relate somehow to the artist, thus initiating one of the most basic brain responses humans can have — if I like it, than I shall own it. And to be honest a Monet painting hanging on a wall in your living room does not have extra functionality compared to a JPEG file.

Almost any kind of digital content can be turned into an NFT, so why is art especially booming? The answer to that contains a couple of aspects of art trading which have been present since the very beginning of art trading. NFT art marketplaces are in a sense similar to the art boom that was happening from 14th to 16th century around the world, with open art marketplaces popping up all over.

To imagine a simple art trading scenario, there is an artist who wishes to sell the art, and a buyer who wishes to purchase art, either for trading later on or collecting for the sake of owning something they like. So, art trading for the artists was a huge revelation, all of a sudden what they made had actual worth. This meant that an artist could support his craft and even make a living by doing what they were passionate about.

Now let’s imagine a 24 year old digital artist, who makes digital paintings on his iPad, just because he loves creating art. There aren’t many ways an artist like this can profit from the actual art he makes, this does not include working in an IT company as a graphic designer, or making the logo BIGGER. This means that the artist can create art, which for many artists is something unexplainable, putting your soul into something that you believe communicates a meaning, or makes a point, a political statement, etc. and make a living out of it. No more balancing a “day job” with your passion.

Art is evolving, it has been evolving ever since the first paintings made by humans on cave walls. Digital artists can put as much work and soul into a piece as did the greatest artists we all revere today.

So the next time you think about NFTs and how they are just worthless JPEG files, take a moment to gaze into the past and remember that only a couple of centuries ago a Van Gogh painting was considered just a canvas with paint. Should you care about NFTs?

For the more curious minded, you might want to look around a couple of NFT art platforms, so here’s a couple with great content you can check out — Makersplace, and Superrare focus on quality, and have mandatory artist verification you must go through before you can mint (fancy word meaning making an NFT). Other platforms like Rarible or VeriArti allow you to mint NFTs without being a verified artist. There are also a couple of other huge ones including The Foundation, Nifty Gateway, and more.