Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) have exploded in popularity throughout the last year, but many people are still unclear on what an NFT really is to begin with. As 3air celebrates the launch of its first Africa-focused NFT marketplace which features African artists and creators, we wanted to take some time to explain what NFTs are and how to purchase one for yourself.
The term “non-fungible” refers to something that cannot be changed or replaced once it’s created—for example, the Mona Lisa. You can create a duplicate of the Mona Lisa, but the original can never be replaced or changed as it represents an immutable object. In the digital world there has never been a way to authenticate if something is real or an original ever before, like artwork that becomes a meme or even a concert ticket that gets sold online.
You likely know the history behind a meme like this, but you’d have a hard time being able to find the original photo that was uploaded to the internet to become a meme in the first place. If you could, and if you could own that photo and prove that it was the first ever version then it would probably be worth a lot of money, right? Like an original version of the Mona Lisa.
NFTs are an immutable token that lives on the blockchain. Once a person has created (minted) an NFT on the blockchain it has a permanent set of numbers and letters attached to it that live on the blockchain for as long as it exists. If you sell or trade that NFT, the transaction gets recorded on the blockchain—a public ledger—and transfers that set of numbers and letters to the wallet you’ve sold the NFT to.
So let’s go back and say the original version of a popular meme was originally minted on a blockchain as an NFT. Each time that meme was reposted or changed and uploaded as something different, it adds value to the original photo because that NFT becomes more recognizable, but there is only one original. NFTs are a way to issue ownership to digital goods such as art, event tickets, or even subscriptions.
The idea of digital ownership has never been achievable before, at least not in a decentralized way. Individual websites could issue a similar form of an NFT within their own network, but without using blockchain as the underlying technology behind that network, you would not be able to take your item off of that website and put it somewhere else where it would have the same meaning.
For example, if Facebook opened an NFT marketplace that let you purchase digital goods and display them as your own, those goods would only be transferable among websites and products that are shared within the Meta network. If you wanted to, say, move that item from Facebook to Twitter, it wouldn’t carry the same value because the internet as we use it today has no ability to trace each transaction. On a blockchain network, each time an NFT is transferred from one place to another, it records that transaction within the NFT itself to show a linear path that the item took from its inception in order to get to where it is now.
The value in being able to not only issue digital ownership to an immutable object but transfer its ownership from person to person without the help of a centralized entity is monumental for the role of the internet as a whole. There is not one way to sum up why NFTs are so popular without getting into the many use-cases behind the technology, but many NFT projects today demonstrate its use for trading collectibles such as art and web content.
The use-cases for NFTs are virtually endless, and why someone would want to purchase an NFT ranges depending on what that NFT can give to the purchaser. NFTs as investments are common today, with users flocking to projects on marketplaces like OpenSea and Solsea to flip the collectibles for a profit. Even in a bear market, NFT trading is starting to show potential as a major trading strategy.
Outside of investing, users purchase NFTs simply to collect art and support an artist, become part of a community, purchase ownership of a project’s intellectual property, or gain access to a good or service in the real world. The long term use-case for 3air NFTs is to provide internet subscription services through the sale of NFTs. They demonstrate an entirely different use of the tech that will change how the world uses data, and how consumers purchase goods and services online.
If you’re interested in purchasing NFTs, take some time to research projects with a mission that you really believe in, or with a community of enthused members that genuinely want to grow the project long-term. We previously covered a few of the many use-cases for NFTs on our blog, but didn’t describe how to purchase one for yourself. Here are some instructions on how to purchase an NFT:
Large marketplaces such as OpenSea on Ethereum and Solsea on Solana make it easy to buy and sell NFTs. 3air’s own NFT marketplace focuses on African art and works to uplift African artists. The first thing you’ll need to do if you want to buy an NFT is open a cryptocurrency wallet and purchase cryptocurrency. If you already have cryptocurrency on an exchange, you’ll need to open a wallet and transfer that cryptocurrency into the wallet to be able to use it.
Once you’ve set up your cryptocurrency wallet you can access an NFT marketplace that can connect to your wallet. For Ethereum wallets like MetaMask, OpenSea is a good marketplace to start with. You can either find an NFT right on the platform, or you can mint an NFT on your own from a generative NFT project and then resell it on OpenSea.
If you have a specific NFT in mind that you want to purchase—let’s say one of the popular Crypto Punk NFTs, for example—you’ll need a wallet that works with the network that collection sits on. MetaMask, in this case, will work. When you search for an NFT project on OpenSea you’ll want to cross-check the project’s contract address with the contract address you find attached to the creator’s social media or website. With the Crypto Punk project, you can find a link to the real project in the Crypto Punk Twitter bio (or just find the verified project on OpenSea). Check the contract address on both links to make sure that they match on Etherscan. If they do, you know you’re purchasing an authentic Crypto Punk NFT.
You should check the contract address each time you purchase an NFT to avoid getting scammed, and make sure that you’re on the correct website for the NFT marketplace in question. For OpenSea, that would be OpenSea.io. For other NFT marketplaces, do your due diligence to make sure that the marketplace you’re on is the correct domain. It might sound like a lot of extra steps, but misspelled domains and incorrect domain addresses is a common scam in the crypto market.
You can purchase the NFT you want by clicking “Buy Now” or placing a bid on the NFT you’ve picked out. To actually purchase the NFT you’ll be prompted to log into your cryptocurrency wallet. Once you log in, you can view the transaction one last time before confirming it on the network. This is where you’ll be given an estimate on the gas fees that the network will charge, so you can deny the transaction if the gas fees are too high at that time and try again later when they may be lower. Once you approve the transaction, your new NFT will live in your wallet.
The 3air NFT marketplace aims to showcase African artists by putting them at center stage. The 3air NFT marketplace uses the Binance Smart Chain, which also has MetaMask integration, and allows users to buy and sell NFTs. Today many African nations are the fastest growing cryptocurrency markets around the globe. 3air’s goal is to not only make cryptocurrency and DeFi more accessible to African people, but help magnify the attention being put on the talent and individuals in African countries as well.
You can access the 3air marketplace to check out the NFTs that African artists have created for yourself here.