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History of NFTs

Key Takeaways
  • The concept of NFTs started in 2012 with a paper written by Meni Rosenfield titled “Coloured Coins.”
  • Fast forward to 2017, new token standards like ERC-721 for the Ethereum blockchain were introduced to create new models of value & interaction between parties.
  • NBA Top Shot, an officially licensed sports memorabilia, and the Bored Aped Yacht Club, a 10,000 unique digital primate collection, are now the leading gateways for NFT adoption, recording more than $1 billion in total sales.

Although NFTs have only recently gained popularity, this kind of technology has been around for quite some time. Given all the growth that has happened with NFTs, it's hard to believe the youngness of the space! Let's look at the events that took place when it all started.

2012 - 2016

Before Ethereum was born, the concept of NFTs started in 2012 with a paper written by Meni Rosenfield titled “Coloured Coins.” It was previously introduced under the Bitcoin blockchain.

At the time, however, Bitcoin's blockchain wasn't designed to represent ownership of real-world assets in the form of tokens, which is why the "Colored Coins" concept didn't take off. This laid the foundation for future NFT innovations.

On May 3rd, 2014 — Kevin McCoy, a multi-awarded creative designer, minted the first NFT known as “Quantum” on the Namecoin blockchain. The NFT portrayed a digital image of a pixelated octagon that changed its color and pulsates, just like an octopus.

This event started significant developments in the industry as platforms like “The Counterparty” were established as enablers for creating digital assets, along with Spells of Genesis, who pioneered issuing in-game assets.

Furthermore, Pepe the Frog — one of the oldest internet memes - inspired a crypto art collection called RarePepe. This collection included an NFT named “Pepenopoulos” which sold for a whopping $3.6 million at a Sotheby’s auction. This spurred the growth of NFT communities in the industry.

2017 - 2020

Fast forward to 2017, new token standards like ERC-721 for the Ethereum blockchain were introduced to create new models of value & interaction between parties.

Following the success of RarePepe and the significant shift of NFTs into the Ethereum blockchain - two software developers, John Watkinson and Matt Hall, released an experimental project in June 2017 named “Crypto Punks.” The NFTs for this project were given for free to 9,000 Ethereum wallet users, with the team keeping the remaining 1,000 pieces.

Fast forward, the Crypto Punks collection is one of the most valuable and significant NFT collections today.

​​A few months later, Decentraland, a 3D browser-based VR platform, was released that essentially allowed its users to explore, play, create, and collect items on the Ethereum blockchain and buy virtual plots of land as NFTs via the MANA cryptocurrency.

In October 2017, during the world's largest hackathon for the Ethereum ecosystem, Axiom Zen, a Vancouver-based venture studio, introduced "CryptoKitties," the first virtual game based on the Ethereum blockchain, which enabled players to adopt, breed, and trade virtual cats on their Ethereum wallets.

Did you know that shortly after CryptoKitties' launch, the game caused massive transactions on the Ethereum blockchain and accounted for 25% of its whole traffic at one point leading to network congestion.

A year later, CryptoKitties inspired the idea and concept for "Axie Infinity," where players collect and breed creatures called 'Axies' that battle each other, paving the way for play-to-earn (P2E) games and applications. P2E games finally allowed gamers to earn while having fun playing a video game.

2021 - Present

Over the past few years, public attention toward NFTs exploded and became quite popular among investors and collectors.

According to research conducted by Finder.com involving 28,000 people in 20 countries, it was found that the Philippines ranked first in NFT adoption worldwide at 32%, followed by Thailand (27%), Malaysia (24%), UAE (23%), and Vietnam (17%).

The global expectancy for metaverse is expected to rise from $12 billion in 2020 to $72.8 billion in 2024. Various tech giants like Microsoft, Epic Games, Facebook & Nvidia are now positioning themselves in this emerging ecosystem.

NBA Top Shot, an officially licensed sports memorabilia, and the Bored Aped Yacht Club, a 10,000 unique digital primate collection, are now the leading gateways for NFT adoption, recording more than $1 billion in total sales.

This recent rise of NFTs is further proof of the excitement around this new application of blockchain technology. Despite market volatility, one thing is certain: NFTs forever revolutionized digital assets and will continue to innovate further in the coming decades. Let's hop on to the next module to know what problems NFTs can solve!

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