Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) have generated mainstream interest over the last year. A yearly market report from NonFungible found that the total value of all NFT transactions worldwide surpassed more than $17 billion in 2021, up from $82.5 million in 2020. The report also pointed out that “NFT” was selected as Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2021.
Given the increasing amount of interest NFTs create, a number of events dedicated entirely to nonfungible tokens are also taking place, attracting a mix of both crypto enthusiasts and non-crypto natives. This was recently seen during NFT LA, a four-day-long conference that took place in downtown Los Angeles from March 29 to April 1, 2022. The organizers behind NFT LA told Cointelegraph that the event attracted over 3,500 people.
Web3 education and onboarding were major themes
While NFT LA featured a number of panels on different topics from over 250 speakers, there was a large focus on Web3 education and ways to onboard new users into the space. For example, Johnna Powell, global co-head of ConsenSys NFT — the NFT wing of Ethereum software developer ConsenSys — told Cointelegraph that the organization is particularly focused on enabling users to easily utilize a MetaMask wallet. Powell explained that she spoke about ways to ensure that Web3 resonates with the mainstream during her panel discussion at NFT LA:
“When people get excited about NFTs, it’s not necessarily because they are thinking of Web3 or crypto. Rather, people are thinking about collectibles like stamps or trading cards. When NFTs are purchased through our platform, we want to create an easy user journey that introduces individuals to Web3.”
Powell noted that ConsenSys NFT works with large brands and IP owners to enter the NFT space. In turn, these organizations are able to drive users to the ConsenSys NFT platform. “We then ease individuals into Web3 wallets like MetaMask,” said Powell. Once non-crypto natives become comfortable using a Web3 wallet, Powell believes that newcomers will eventually start to collect more NFTs.
Powell also explained that ConsenSys NFT is working on NFT use cases that will resonate with the mainstream. For example, she said that ConsenSys NFT recently partnered with MAC Cosmetics on its first-ever NFT collection featuring the work of the late artist and activist Keith Haring.
While Powell discussed ways to get the mainstream involved with Web3, Monica Long, general manager of RippleX — Ripple’s innovation arm — told Cointelegraph that she spoke about the evolution of Web2 to Web3 during her panel at NFT LA:
“I talked about the role big tech companies play in the Web3 world. Overall, I think moving from Web2 to Web3 won’t happen overnight. We will see a blend of centralized and decentralized finance. I also talked about OpenSea and their role to make NFTs more user friendly.”
According to Long, while NFTs are attracting mainstream interest, there are still a number of challenges that exist in terms of self-custody and user-friendly interfaces. “Web2 developers are great at ensuring user-friendly experiences, which we urgently need in the NFT space,” she remarked.
Echoing Long, Matt Mason, chief content officer at Palm NFT Studio — a technology firm that partners with artists, creatives, IP owners and entertainment companies to onboard them into Web3 — told Cointelegraph that he spoke about how to launch NFT drops at scale, noting that user experience must be seamless.
Palm NFT Studio recently launched an NFT project with Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ DC Comics. Known as “The Bat Cowl Collection,” the drop featured 200,000 unique 3D-rendered Batman cowl NFTs.
When launching an NFT project this large, Mason explained that both consumers and intellectual property holders need to have a user-friendly experience:
“For fans, it’s about thinking about how to ensure they have a good experience with NFTs from the start. To ensure this, we’ve created a custodial wallet inside our platform where consumers only have to click a button to get their NFTs. This provides a better experience.”
Mason added that as time progresses, consumers will become more interested in nonfungible tokens, which will eventually allow them to move assets around on the Ethereum network. “Roadmapping third-party wallet integrations are down the line for Palm NFT as we scale but, we have a large mainstream audience, so we need to make the NFT process as easy and as seamless as possible.”
Regarding intellectual property holders like DC comics, Mason explained that many of these companies require conservative approaches to NFTs centered around compliance and regulations. “We stay close to what the Securities and Exchange Commission is doing and thinking, so compliance is a major aspect for us,” said Mason. As an example, Mason shared that The Bat Cowl Collection will be the first major NFT collection with sales tax built in. Specifically speaking, Mason explained that if users in Europe purchase one of these NFTs, they will be required to pay a value-added tax (VAT), while United States users will pay a sales tax:
“We know sales tax is coming to the NFT space — by next year everyone will be doing this. If you are a brand as large as Warner Brothers, for instance, doing anything in the space dings your brand in terms of tax, compliance and regulation. Everyone in the NFT space talks about scale, but none of that will happen without regulation.”
Use cases today and in the future
While education was a major topic of discussion at NFT LA, the event also allowed for the exploration of current use cases today while providing a glimpse into the future.
Alex Salnikov, co-founder and head of product at NFT marketplace Rarible, told Cointelegraph that the NFT space is currently undergoing a massive market shift:
“The year 2020 was all about crypto art, which is still generating about the same amount of volume this year. But, now profile picture NFTs like Bored Apes and CryptoPunks are skyrocketing. PFP NFTs are responsible for 90% of volume across the NFT space.”
According to Salnikov, PFP NFTs are serving as aesthetically pleasing tickets to exclusive clubs and communities. “This is an entirely new concept,” he remarked. Salnikov added that NFTs also function as important assets in metaverse environments, acting as land, digital fashion for avatars and much more. “NFTs represent the ownership of goods in the digital universe we are building,” he remarked.
In addition to PFP NFTs, enterprise-focused NFTs are also coming to fruition. For instance, Long explained that Ripple is seeing interest in real-estate NFTs or carbon credit marketplaces that use nonfungible tokens. “Ripple has spent years working on the enterprise side, so we have operations skills to serve this area,” she mentioned.
The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) — a member-led organization focused on enterprise Ethereum use cases — has also started to pay close attention to enterprise NFTs. Dan Burnett, executive director of the EEA, told Cointelegraph that Palm NFT Studio recently joined the EEA board, representing the first NFT-focused participant:
“We’ve definitely been paying attention to NFTs for a long time, but we’re really pleased to have experts joining the board who can help us make sure that we are providing the information background that businesses, individuals and solo entrepreneurs need in order to operate in this space. We’re not here for speculation. We’re here for real business.”
Dan Heyman, Palm NFT Studio CEO and EEA board member, further told Cointelegraph that he has recently been seeing every enterprise with a consumer presence have discussions around NFTs. “Even the companies that haven’t done anything with NFTs yet are talking about what value they can bring.” Although this may be, Heyman pointed out that the efforts in the NFT space from large IPs have only gone so far, yet he referenced the recent DC Comics NFT collection as one of the first to demonstrate a long-term commitment to engage with consumers and fans through NFTs.
What to expect moving forward
With education and innovative use cases in mind, NFT LA presented attendees with a better idea of where the NFT space currently stands. While adoption is well underway, much work needs to be done in order to really bring use cases to the mainstream. For instance, Salnikov believes that the industry is still very much in the ideation stage:
“Everyone is excited about NFTs being applied to everything right now. Part of these use cases will prove to be valuable and drive the market forward, and others will prove otherwise.”
In terms of what to expect moving forward, Salnikov mentioned that the rise of PFP NFTs is resulting in community-led marketplaces versus traditional NFT marketplaces. “Every community wants their own marketplace now to ensure a seamless user experience.”
Salnikov elaborated that today, when a PFP collection launches, there is typically a website where users can mint, connect their wallets and buy items. There is usually a Discord group as well and a secondary marketplace where NFTs can be traded. “Secondary marketplaces break the customer journey,” Salnikov stated.
He added that communities want users to stay on their website for secondary trading, which is why the space will see an influx of community marketplaces in the future.
Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are also becoming more common with community-focused NFT projects. Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands — a Hong Kong-based gaming and venture capital company — told Cointelegraph that DAOs will start to govern NFT communities moving forward.
Another interesting trend the NFT sector can expect to see is stories being woven into nonfungible tokens. Mason explained this in detail, noting that The Bat Cowl NFT collection will soon appear in comic books. “We have a director of storytelling working closely with the DC Comics editorial team.” According to Mason, NFTs will pave the way for decentralized storytelling. “Transmedia is about telling stories across different platforms — NFTs are built for that.”
Although it’s hard to predict the future, Salnikov added that he believes the NFT industry is moving toward a trillion-dollar market in the next 10 years, or even sooner. “This wouldn’t be possible without the ideation stage we are currently in.”