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Cryptocurrency is a mess. The amount of energy required to generate and keep records of it is staggering, with Bitcoin mining alone generating around . Its carbon footprint is absolutely enormous, on par with that of entire countries.
Yet there is nothing terrible in this world that humans cannot make worse, and it seems cryptocurrency is no exception. Please welcome to the stage: NFTs. They are awful, and I hate them.
Put simply, a is a unique type of cryptocurrency. Whether crypto or not, currencies are typically fungibles, meaning they’re identical and interchangeable with one another. One dollar bill has the exact same value as another, so it doesn’t matter which one you have.
In contrast, a non-fungible is unique and cannot be interchanged. While both “The Starry Night” and “The Birth Of Venus” are paintings, you can’t simply swap them because they’re two very different, unique artworks. Similarly, every NFT is unique and immutable, created on the blockchain and tied to a singular object such as a digital artwork or photograph (or a GIF, or a tweet).
A recent surge of interest in NFTs has seen a huge rush to tokenise non-fungibles, with even Taco Bell jumping in with some taco GIFs. However, having an NFT doesn’t give you exclusive use of a work. It doesn’t add any improvement to it. It doesn’t bestow any worthwhile rights you can exercise, beyond the right to sell it.
An NFT is merely the very costly, environmentally disastrous, tech bro equivalent of peeing on a hydrant.
to anybody wondering why we’re telling ALL creators on this site to block NFT-related accounts right now, think of NFT twitters/replies telling bots to tokenize your content as the “i w*nt th*s on a t-sh*rt” thing but a million times worse for you and the environment
— charlesbian (@alterego) March 9, 2021
Sure, Ethereum, the platform where most NFTs reside, is planning to switch its model from proof of work to proof of stake, which would make it more environmentally friendly. But it’s taking an awfully long time, and the actual changeover may not happen for years.
And even setting aside the fact that NFTs are actively accelerating our already sound barrier-breaking race toward climate catastrophe, they are also completely and utterly meaningless.
What are you purchasing, really? This isn’t like comparing an original oil painting to a print, where the copies are very clearly different to the original. Your tokenised artwork is exactly the same as every copy ever made of it, and every copy yet to be made. You don’t have some unique version only you can enjoy.
The only thing you have is bragging rights. And really, who cares? Who do you imagine you’re impressing with that? Maybe Elon Musk, if you ever actually encountered him and he deigned to speak to you. But then you’ll have done something to impress Elon Musk and will have to live with that for the rest of your life.
I imagine you stumbling through a post-COVID, post-apocalyptic party, gripping a half-empty beer and shouting in strangers’ ears over pounding EDM.
“You can’t own someone else’s tweet,” replies your unimpressed victim as they subtly scan the room for friends. “It’s text on the internet.”
You falter. “No you don’t get it — I tokenised it. I got the original. All… Everything else, the retweets, they’re all just copies. They don’t… Mine has value.”
You can’t explain what this value is, but you paid so there must be value. The thudding song blasting over the speakers drops its beat. The beat is always dropping. The beat has never dropped. The beat dropped 13 years ago.
Before you can untangle your reasoning your target’s roommate intervenes, assimilating them back…