A mostly identical version of this was first published at combatdavey.com
I’m a relative newcomer to the NFT space (because of NBA Top Shot, which I wrote about a few weeks ago) and it seems as though I got into it right before Top Shot specifically and NFTs generally became part of the public discourse.¹ This is not to suggest that NFTs just started existing recently, or with Top Shot — obviously they’ve been around for longer than that — just that I’ve always found it interesting when a digital thing tips.
I was on Facebook in early 2005, but it took until mid-2007 for it to tip, and for everyone I’d gone to high school with (and not talked to in a decade) to friend me and ask “so, how’ve you been?” (I also remember when Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest tipped.)
The difference, as I see it at least immediately right now, is that 14 years ago Facebook was an explicable curiosity with a low barrier to entry: you signed up and boom, you were there, and because social networks like MySpace, Friendster, and hi5 existed, Facebook wasn’t an entirely new concept for most people.
In the (contemporary) NFT space as it pertains to the digital collectibles (NBA Top Shot, Cryptokitties) and/or artworks (Nifty Gateway, Rarible, etc), having a moment right now, it’s not quite the same. Facebook was an online version of something that people fundamentally understood: a personal/social network. In re: digital collectibles/art, people have a weird concept in re: ownership and value.
A thing I read over and over, including in the Reuters piece making the rounds (and linked to below), is the notion that the collectible or artwork isn’t inherently valuable because someone can look at it for free, as if ownership of a thing implies hiding it away from the world in a safety deposit box.²
The lede of the Reuters piece:
“Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile spent almost $67,000 on a 10-second video artwork that he could have watched for free online.”
It’s a fair point, I guess, but not nearly as clever as it seems. Creators have been coming up with new paradigms vis-à-vis what creating is for as long as creation has been a thing and so the concept of “ownership” is pretty mutable.