The real use case for NFTs: Merch

This post is wildly off topic for me; afterwards we’ll return to the regularly scheduled programming.

Recently I’ve seen a lot of knee-jerk negative reactions to the idea of NFTs. Words like “scammy”, “immoral” and “irresponsible” get thrown around, often with reference to some specific implementation (i.e. NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain) or project (i.e. Cryptopunks).

I can admit to not knowing enough about NFT implementations to be able to “prove anyone wrong”. I can recognize outrageous price movements and the gut feeling that “that shouldn’t be”.

What I can’t understand for the life of me is why people reject out of hand the idea of unique digital things. I suspect that there at least two things that cause the negative reaction

Current NFT use cases are hard to relate to

I think when the average person thinks of an expensive profile picture that they can use on their socials, they’re thinking about a professional headshot for a couple of hundred dollars. And by and large, being able to track the provenance of art is… not a problem that most people have.

The language used to describe NFTs is off putting

One of the most common descriptions I’ve heard of NFTs is that they are a way of providing digital scarcity. A big part of the zietgiest of the last couple of decades in self help is moving from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. By and large, people don’t seem to associate scarcity with good things.

From scarcity to rarity

People collect rare things, and already associate rareness with value. Instead of scarcity, people who want NFTs to be a thing should talk about digital rarity.

From art to merch

Merch is a way that people show their support for and membership in a community. Instead of trying to force a community around some esoteric art project, the NFT projects that seem likely to see the most adoption are the ones that that make it easy for existing communities to provide something unique to their members.

Think “NFT for $20 if you buy the record” or “digital conference lanyard” that people can use to say “I was there, man”.

I suspect that one of the results of this perspective on NFTs is that the secondary market for them is less of a thing. Rare virtual things created by and for niche communities are way less likely to be worth squillions of dollars. That is fine by me.

Have you seen interesting NFT projects along these lines?

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