7 years ago I wrote an article for Computing magazine entitled "Bitcoin - what is it for?". Back then I wasn't sure what the problem was that cryptocurrency was trying to solve. Outside of MMOGs (massively multiplayer online game) and virtual worlds there didn't seem to be a compelling reason to get very interested about unregulated virtual money - especially while the legal regime was playing catch-up. Could I buy a pizza with it?
I was, however, writing as someone working in digital media and not financial services. And, since 2014, a lot of people have been very interested, with investment levels to match and many real world examples of block-chain technology in action. Yet, by most people's assessment, using Gartner's famous hype-cycle, it has had to travel through something of a "trough of disillusionment" of late. It is also in need of some green-washing. And I am still waiting for my large Hawaiian.
Now, riding even higher on hype, headlines and top heavy valuations comes the Non-Fungible Token. A phenomena stoked by the art biz, celebrity You-Tubers, crypto-felines and Captain T. Kirk. Surely this can't be another tech bubble? Well, draw your own conclusions. But perhaps it doesn't matter if it is, because this time around I can see the point.
At one level the world of media and entertainment from collectibles to gaming to music and even art are all about the highs and lows of success and failure, gambling on hits and misses, and the excitement and risk of that. More fundamentally, however, concepts of ownership and acquisition but also rarity, and, yes, non-fungibility, are often a key component in the value of physical intellectual property which the world of digital content and unlimited perfect copies has never been able to replicate. Add in the promise of the blockchain and smart contracts delivering reliable accounting of royalty revenue streams or automated droit de suite and there is certainly something here that the content business to take notice of.
That's not to say that there aren't plenty of things to scratch your head over - from the small print of NFT terms and conditions and the legal liability of the parties to the commercial valuations and technical reliability. But the reason for interest is clear. Order in the Quattro Stagioni.
What are NFTs and why are some worth millions