Non-fungible tokens are unique digital assets that are mostly represented as digital arts or collectibles. Most people outside the crypto community got to know about NFTs in 2021, when an artwork by Beeple called The First 5000 Days was sold for record $69 million. However, NFTs have been around for a much longer time. Let’s see their history.
The forerunners: Colored coins
Appeared in 2012–2013, Colored Coins are thought to be the very first NFTs to exist. These digital assets are made of small denominations of Bitcoin and have multiple use cases, including property, coupons and digital collectibles. The downside was they could only have value if everyone agrees on their worth; otherwise the entire system falls apart.
Counterparty and first in-game assets
In 2014, a peer-to-peer financial platform Counterparty emerged, aiming to extend the possibilities of blockchain and digitals assets. A year after, game creators of Spells of Genesis were the first to issue in-game assets on blockchain via Counterparty. Later, more and more gaming projects started releasing their trading cards on the platform.
What was next? Memes, of course
It was only a matter of time before memes started to move to the blockchain. In 2016, crypto enthusiasts began to issue “rare pepes” on the Counterparty as assets. Those were memes featuring Pepe the Frog character. There was even a directory and “experts” who certified the rareness of memes. And people started trading them.
A year later, pepes moved to Ethereum: in 2017, a project named Peperium was announced to be a “decentralized meme marketplace and trading card game”. Peperium also had its token RARE, which was used for meme creation and paying listing fees.
First 10,000 collection: CryptoPunks
In 2017, two technologists, John Watkinson and Matt Hall, decided to create their own NFT collection on the Ethereum blockchain. The idea was that NFTs would be limited to 10,000 and no two characters would be the same. So appeared Cryptopunks.
Surprisingly, the developers let anyone with an Ethereum wallet claim a Cryptopunk NFT for free. All 10,000 Cryptopunks were swiftly given away, and started thriving on a secondary marketplace. You know how the collection is popular till now.
Cats on the blockchain
The same year, NFTs hit the mainstream with the blockchain game CryptoKitties. It was the first of its kind, allowing players to adopt, raise, and trade virtual cats using digital crypto assets. Moreover, people were making crazy profits in the game, and by selling NFT kittens.
In addition, the hype over CryptoKitties coincided with the 2017 crypto bull market, which added more fuel to the fire. All this allowed many people to see the true potential of non-fungible tokens.
Modern history & future
Nowadays, NFTs are literally everywhere, and they are becoming more accessible to everyone than ever. Brands like Nike sell NFT sneakers in the metaverse, artist like Banksy burn their real-world works to make it live in digital form only, eco activists create collections to raise funds and prevent global warming… Lots of marketplaces and launchpads discover new collections every day.
NFTs have become more than just digital arts, as people realised their technical potential and values: decentralization, governance by the community, uniqueness and digital immortality. What will be next? Let’s just wait and see.