Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are the latest cryptocurrency phenomenon to go mainstream. And after Christie's auction house sold the first-ever NFT artwork — a collage of images by digital artist Beeple for a whopping $69.3 million — NFTs have suddenly captured the world's attention.
So what are NFTs?
In the simplest terms, NFTs transform digital works of art and other collectibles into one-of-a-kind, verifiable assets that are easy to trade on the blockchain.
Although that may be far from simple for the uninitiated to understand, the payoff has been huge for many artists, musicians, influencers and the like, with investors spending top dollar to own NFT versions of digital images. For example, Jack Dorsey's first tweet sold for $2.9 million, a video clip of a LeBron James slam dunk sold for over $200,000 and a decade-old "Nyan Cat" GIF went for $600,000.
But NFTs aren't exactly new. CryptoKitties, a digital trading game on the cryptocurrency platform Ethereum, was one of the original NFTs, allowing people to purchase and sell virtual cats that were both unique and stored on the blockchain.
So why is the NFT phenomenon taking off now?
"Some of that interest is from people who enjoy supporting the work of independent creators by purchasing their works," Artsy CEO Mike Steib told CNN Business. "Others are intrigued by the idea of taking a digital asset that anyone can copy and claiming ownership of it. The recent headline price records for NFTs seem to have been largely driven by newly minted crypto millionaires and billionaires looking to diversify their bitcoin holdings and more interest to the crypto ecosystem."
What are NFTs?
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are pieces of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital database underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. Unlike NFTs, those assets are fungible, meaning they can be replaced or exchanged with another identical one of the same value, much like a dollar bill.