Will emojis become the Web3 version of a username? That’s what Nashville-based tech startup Yat believes and with 160,000 sold — worth a combined $20 million — it seems plenty of ordinary people agree.
A Yat is a string of between one and five emojis that can be used as your digital username, website URL and payment address for your digital wallet. It’s sort of a cross between a nonfungible token (NFT) and domain address — though not all Yats are tokenized.
“Yat lets you use emojis as your universal username and identity on the internet,” the company wrote in its Discord server.
“Imagine being known as fire-snake or robot-ghost-crown instead of coffeequeen98 or firstname.lastname@example.org. By owning a Yat — let’s say ocean-trident-palm tree — it’s yours forever. You are the ~only~ one on earth who owns these emojis.”
Theoretically, Yat could be a decentralized alternative to the current Domain Name System (DNS), which is administered by the internet regulator ICANN. DNS uses a centralized, hierarchical system to organize and help users find things on the internet.
Yat owners have had the option to tokenize their string of emojis as an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain for an additional cost since July 2021, but purchasing a Yat isn’t the same as minting an NFT.
To turn the Yat into an NFT, owners must first use Yat’s “visualizer tool” to create a short animation of the emoji string. The visualization is then tied to the Yat, itself, and can be minted as an NFT to be held or sold on OpenSea.
A one- to five-character design can cost anywhere from $4 to hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase initially, plus additional fees to turn it into a NFT. The shorter and more memorable the combination, the higher the price.
The most expensive Yat was the single character of a golden key, which went for $425,000 at the Yat Destiny auction in mid-2021. At the time of writing, Yat has a trading volume of 410 ETH ($1,258,622 USD) on Opensea.
Yat already has several notable celebrity investors, including Paris Hilton (queen crown-sparkle), Lil Wayne (alien-music note) and Kesha (rainbow-rocket ship-alien).
Related: British tween earns almost $400K on NFT sales without a bank account
However, the project has also faced its fair share of challenges. They include the mundane, such as criticisms that Yat URLs can be difficult to find, because it’s not always easy to type an emoji sequence on a standard QWERTY keyboard.
And on the more dramatic end of the spectrum, Yat co-founder and former CEO Riccardo Spagnia “Fluffypony” was arrested in the United States in August 2021, where he waited for extradition to South Africa for fraud. The fraud charges were unrelated to Yat. Yat was launched in February 2021 and has since grown to a team of 55.