At the same time many people wonder how tokens on the internet worth money at all could be — especially when many of them just represent “ownership” of an online image or animation that you could, in principle, download a copy of for free.
It’s easy to see why NFTs inspire both excitement and deep skepticism: They’re a completely novel asset class, and we don’t see new asset classes appear that often. But what drives the value of an asset that’s really just a digital token people can pass around? To appreciate NFTs properly, we first have to think through what they actually are and the types of market opportunities they enable. And once we unlock that, we can understand how to build businesses around them.
NFTs build markets around new types of transactions — buying and selling products that could never be sold before or enabling transactions to happen in innovative ways that are more efficient and valuable.
As the name “non-fungible token” suggests, each NFT is a unique, one-of-a-kind digital item. They’re stored on public-facing digital ledgers called blockchains, which means it’s possible to prove who owns a given NFT at any moment in time and trace the history of prior ownership. Moreover, it’s easy to transfer NFTs from one person to another — just as a bank might move money across accounts — and it’s very hard to counterfeit them. Because NFT ownership is easy to certify and transfer, we can use them to create markets in a variety of different goods.
But NFTs don’t just provide a kind of digital “deed.” Because blockchains are programmable, it’s possible to endow NFTs with features that enable them to expand their purpose over time, or even to provide direct utility to their holders. In other words, NFTs can do things — or let their owners do things — in both digital spaces and the physical world.
Thus, owning an NFT effectively makes you an investor, a member of a club, a brand shareholder, and a participant in a loyalty program all at once. At the same time, NFTs’ programmability supports new business and profit models.
NFTs enable new markets by allowing people to create and build upon new forms of ownership. These projects succeed by leveraging a core dynamic of crypto: A token’s worth comes from users’ shared agreement — and this means that the community one builds around NFTs quite literally creates those NFTs’ underlying value. And the more these communities increase engagement and become part of people’s personal identities, the more that value is reinforced.
Newer applications will take greater advantage of online-offline connections and introduce increasingly complex token designs.
Source: Harvard Business Review
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