Twist in the token: A means for buyers to show off or just a quirky fad? Jazzy journey of NFT

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By Shubhangi Shah

A revolution or just another fad, NFTs attract opposing views. Short for non-fungible token, an NFT can be anything digital – a JPEG image, a GIF, an audio or a video clip. Powered by blockchain technology, these are traded via cryptocurrency. You can think of it as an art auction. Just like you bid for artwork and purchase it in exchange for money, the same happens with respect to NFTs – only in this case, the artwork is any digital asset.

The first NFT was created way back in 2014. It was a digital artwork named ‘Quantum’ created by New York-based artist Kevin McCoy. On the face of it, NFT appears to be a great deal. It gives artists the platform to sell their digital creations, which otherwise might not get them the same money. Among the several pieces of artworks sold as NFTs were some quirky ones that grabbed widespread attention.

Canadian musician Grimes grabs headlines frequently, be it for her past relationship with billionaire Elon Musk or the eccentric name (X Æ A-Xii) of the ex-couple’s first-born. Last year, she made it into the news for selling her digital artworks as NFTs for a whopping $5.8 million, that too in just 20 minutes. One of her artworks featured a sword-bearing winged baby who appeared to guard Mars. (Did it ring any bells?)

If cherubs fetched $5.8 million, a naked Donald Trump with ‘loser’ inscribed on him raked in $6.6 million. The digital artwork titled ‘Crossroads’ was created during the 2020 US presidential elections by artist Mike Winkelmann, famously known as Beeple.

Not just artists and celebs, several brands have also joined the NFT bandwagon recently and have churned out products that can surely leave you scratching your head. Ever heard of digital toilet paper? That is what the US toilet paper company Charmin offered as an NFT in exchange for $4,100. No, you cannot do your actual business using it but can sell the image of a toilet paper roll, something you can easily download on your computer, for more money. Yes, it can fetch you more than 4,000 bucks.

Charmin wasn’t the only one. The American fast-food chain Taco Bell had last year put a taco-themed GIF up for sale, which got sold out in just 30 minutes. Pringles, too, came up with CryptoCrisp, the “NFT-flavoured” crisps. That ‘NFT flavour’ was a five-second video of animated spinning golden Pringles. The price? $1,500, only.

If NFT-flavoured chips weren’t enough, there was digital perfume on the shelf for $1,000 apiece. So much for the digital smell!

After digital toilet paper and perfume, the world of NFTs cannot go any farther, you might think. Wrong. Not just you, this world caters to the canines, too. Otherwise, what can explain the idea behind NFT sticks? Not a real stick your dog can play with, but a picture of one for $1,200. Outlandish, right? We can no longer tell.

While we are at images, let’s delve into the most famous ones. You must have stumbled upon the ‘disaster girl’ meme at some point, the one with a little girl grinning while a house is on fire behind her. The picture of the four-year-old ‘disaster girl’ Zoe Roth was taken in 2005. Decades later, when the now-adult Zoe put out the original picture for sale as an NFT, it got her $500,000. Now that’s profiting from a ‘disaster’.

While Zoe’s picture is a world-famous meme, 1,000 expressionless selfies of a 22-year-old Indonesian student, which he sold as NFTs, got him twice the amount.

Just when we thought that the world of NFTs cannot go any more bizarre, we stumbled upon a stinky one. During the Covid-induced lockdown, when many didn’t have much to do, American film director Alex Ramirez Mallis decided to audio-record his farts. If that wasn’t enough, he put out the 52-minute-long audio clip up for sale as an NFT. With this, was he profiting or mocking people’s intellect? That, only Ramirez can tell.

As most were selling digital assets, Croatian tennis player Oleksandra Oliynykova sold a section of her right arm as an NFT for $5,000. The owner can commission a tattoo or body art. “I will bring your art object or message to every tennis court I play,” the tennis player wrote in the listing. Not a bad deal, right?

Clip arts, GIFs, audio and video files are fine, but can someone sell the world wide web? Not the Internet, but the ‘www’ source code, its creator Tim Berners-Lee sold it as an NFT for $5.4 million last year. While we are speaking about the firsts, do you know what was the first tweet ever? It was “just setting up my twttr,” by none other than Twitter co-founder and former boss Jack Dorsey. Do you know its worth? A zilch, you might think, given the platform doesn’t pay in exchange for money. True! But this one is no ordinary tweet and got Dorsey over $2.9 million when sold as an NFT.

Going through this list, one cannot help but think about the NFT phenomenon. What is it? A tool for people to earn millions, a means for buyers to show off, or just a quirky fad that will gradually fade away? Only time will tell.