Mapping the Emerging Non-Fungible Token Landscape
Over the past few months, I have become fascinated by the concept of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Below I outline our current thinking and understanding of the space in the hope to connect with like-minded interested folks, spread the news and hopefully get some feedback to further and improve our understanding of NFTs and related applications.
It all started with kitties…
The launch of Cryptokitties last November took the crypto world by storm, with some kitties selling for up to $300,000 and transactions from its users slowing down the entire Ethereum network. While user activity at Cryptokitties and in the space in general declined considerably off its year end peak, many variations of crypto collectibles have sprung up.
The growth behind crypto collectibles is fuelled by the emergence of the non-fungible token standard for Ethereum (ERC 721). Non-fungible tokens are unique: they can be distinguished from one another and have varying properties. This is unlike traditional cryptocurrencies, which are fungible tokens: they are not unique and can be interchanged with other identical tokens. Bitcoin, ZCash, Ether and any ERC20 tokens are all examples of fungible tokens.
The concept of unique crypto tokens is not new though. Colored coins, which came to prominence in 2013, were one of the first attempts to tie unique properties to a digital asset. Colored coins are bitcoins (or in most cases, the smallest measurable fraction of bitcoins knows a satoshis) which have been ‘colored’ to represent real world assets. (e.g. a deed for a house, stocks, bonds, commodities). Counterparty went a step further allowing users to create their own virtual assets on top of the Bitcoin blockchain. Both colored coins and Counterparty have struggled to gain broader adoption as attention has shifted towards ERC20 tokens which seem better suited for this use case.
Cryptocollectibles, through the ERC721 standard, are building on top of this success and now seem best placed to fulfil the initial promise of colored coins i.e. tying unique properties and in certain cases real world assets to crypto assets.
But what can NFTs be good for?
As a passionate Magic the Gathering player in my early high school years, I can totally relate to the promise NFTs bear for digitizing collectible cards and see a natural initial application for them when it comes to gaming. This is also the area in which most of the current NFT projects are experimenting.
However, I believe applications of NFTs can go far beyond that. For one, NFTs seem like a good platform for tokenizing all types of assets, digital or real, and to enable all the interesting crypto features for dealing with them, such as trustless transfers, trading or fractional ownership. This field of applications is frequently referred to as security tokens and I believe NFTs have many properties that might help security tokens start happening more broadly.
Certificates is another interesting potential application area. Our IDs, school transcripts or even software licences can be seen as (unique) certificates. If the community finds a way to establish a reliable repository of trusted issuers of such certificates, one could easily think of a wallet-like piece of software in which to store all of the certificates a person owns which would give one automatic access to certain services, for example.
NFTs could also represent identities on the web, with attached transaction histories, content and reputation. Think open source Facebook profiles — for fictional or real identities.
Ideas for applications are plenty, but devil is in the detail and execution, and I am very eager to see what the community comes up with.
The current landscape of non-fungible tokens can be split into 4 groups: NFT publishers, NFT marketplaces, NFT infrastructure (as a term for tools to build NFT experiences with) and NFT resources. Let’s look at each of the groups:
Cryptofighters — a game which allows you to collect, battle and level up your fighters to win new fighters.
Cryptokitties — most advanced and popular — it allows you to buy cats :) It will be exciting to see what they come up with going forward, seems like they will be doubling down on the collectible and gaming use-cases.
Decentraland — an open source virtual world platform with ownership of items on it being tracked as Ethereum based collectibles, pieces of land. You can buy MANA, the native currency of the platform and pieces of land that are ERC721. It will be great to follow how this “metaverse” evolves.
Etherbots — a cool game where you can put together a robot from various (NFT) parts and have them fight against each other.
Ethermon — pokemons on the blockchain.
Rare peppes — one of the early crypto collectible implementations based on Counterparty.
Spells of Genesis — a digital card game with some elements of trade-ability of cards enabled through Counterparty.
There are many more projects out there, especially around gaming, so we cannot cover them all here. But if you feel like we missed a particularly significant one or would like to be mentioned in a future edition of the landscape, please let us know!
Crafty — a platform which allows users to combine fungible and non-fungible tokens to create an entirely new non-fungibles or to assign attributes to non-fungible tokens.
Superrare — create and collect unique digital art.
Terra0 — initial attempt at combining a crypto collectible and physical asset. Users will be able to buy, trade and speculate on tokenized sunflowers via an online marketplace.
Unico — turns videos, images, 3D models and even VR/AR experiences into collectibles.
An interesting thing about NFTs is that they are tradeable in a somewhat different way than traditional crypto-tokens, as every NFT is a bit different. Thus, it is natural that we see an emergence of trading platforms dedicated to them.
Openbazaar — one of the first blockchain-based distributed marketplaces. Crypto collectibles have recently started being listed on the platform.
Opensea — one of the first NFT dedicated marketplaces.
OpSkins — a leading marketplace for video game skins and other digital items. They recently launched their own cryptocurrency for use on their platform.
Rarebits — auction-based marketplace for crypto collectibles.
I am looking forward to more of them emerging, coming with cool unique feature sets. It will also be interesting to watch whether traditional crypto exchanges enter that market. The market is not huge yet though — for example, the “market cap” of all cats is below $100m.
0xcert.org — developer tools for issuing and managing NFTs.
Bitcrystals — based on Counterparty, Bitcrystals aims at creating a platform for games to leverage crypto features. Quite a few games are using it (most notably Spells of Genesis and RarePepe).
Codex Protocol — a decentralised registry for unique assets like art, fine wine, watches and more.
Counterparty — enabling “old school ERC721”, based on Bitcoin ;)
Ethereum — main platform for the latest waves of collectible projects.
Fanbits — allows creators to turn their content into unique crypto collectibles that their fans can purchase and resell.
Metamask — browser plug-in ethereum wallet commonly used to access ETF apps.
Mokens — design and create your own crypto-collectibles with a simple web interface.
Userfeeds — abstracted blockchain access infrastructure, used to “make cats talk”, amongst others.
Wax — “a decentralised platform that enables anyone to operate a fully functioning virtual marketplace with zero investment in security, infrastructure, or payment processing”. Launched by the founders of OpSkins.
NonFungible — a promising source of information on the developments and activitiy in the NFT space.
StateOfThedDapps — explorer of dApps.
Please reach out if you feel like chatting about the above. We are eager to dive deeper into the NFT area, connect with entrepreneurs, operators and investors and of course to back strong teams and projects in this space.
As for the landscape, we are fully aware it might be missing important elements and, given the speed of development in this space, we expect it to become outdated soon. We might be publishing an update in the coming months, please let us know if you would like to be included in it.
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