When approaching the cryptocurrency space, one immediate distinction you can make is between tokens that are unique, and tokens that are not.
Bitcoin tokens are not unique. You don’t care which bitcoin token you own, you just care how many of them are in your wallet. The same is true for Ethereum, Litecoin, and any standard issue DeFi.
But non-fungible tokens - NFTs for short - are unique, because you care a lot about “which one”: whether that’s Beeple’s latest drop, or a newly released Handshake tld, or the rare Axies and Cryptopunks and Hashmasks you’ve collected.
The uniqueness of NFTs is what makes them special, because the stuff we cherish in the real world is also unique: There’s only one Lebron James, one Mona Lisa, and one Breaking Bad. And as software eats the world, these real world items will also become represented by such NFT tokens.
In our own quest to better understand the industry, we created a mapping of the important products, players, and protocols. It’s a rapidly growing ecosystem of thriving creators, famous brands, new marketplaces, game studios, whale collectors, and foundational technology that is reimagining the very industries of art, music, gaming, fashion, and more.
With the speed and creativity of this space, we know that our map will probably be out of date - and subject to debate - as soon as it’s released. But, we hope it can serve as a starting point for enthusiasts and builders alike, and we’re open to your feedback to make it better.
Like CEXes, marketplaces are often the first interaction point for new NFT users.
Artists and game designers mint and sell NFT items to the collectors and gamers who purchase them.
Marketplaces tend to form the backbone of a larger online community with additional functionality, such as reselling, showcasing, etc..
The (mostly centralized) companies building and publishing blockchain games, a la the Activision of crypto. Emerging leaders include:
The crypto equivalent of collecting coins and trading cards. Crypto collectibles best illustrate the “unique” quality of non-fungible tokens.
Collectibles often blur the line with games, just like Magic: The Gathering 25 years ago.
The plight of musicians has been well-documented: opaque ownership rights and gatekeepers controlling distribution between artists and fans.
A new generation of music streaming platforms (a la decentralized Spotify) enable fans to own a stake in a musician’s royalty stream and/or the streaming platform itself. This ownership stake via an NFT is transparent and transferable, and can be used to confer other benefits such as exclusive access and governance voting rights.
Investment firms that have an exclusive or concentrated portfolio of NFTs. Many of these “funds” blur the lines between investor and builder - often dogfooding the very concepts they invest in.
Flamingo opens up investment decisions to DAO members. Metapurse recently showcased its NFTs within a virtual metaverse. WHALE mints its own social token that is backed by a diverse collection of NFTs worth $millions.
News & Research
As the NFT space has grown, dedicated outlets covering NFT news and market research have also popped up:
Projects that are building decentralized, permissionless alternatives to the current ICANN-led domaining industry. You can finally own a domain name that can’t be censored or taken away if you forget to pay that renewal fee, and you can even own tlds (“.com”, “.org”, etc)
These are the protocols, blockchains, and building blocks of the NFT ecosystem.
Minecraft, but on a blockchain. James Halliday’s OASIS. These ambitious projects are building inhabited and organic worlds, in which you play, meet, collect, and earn.
Projects that serve specific and useful functions, from minting NFTs, to showcasing your cryptoart collection.
What did we miss? Which projects do you want a deep dive on? Comment below or DM us on Twitter.
We’ll be actively updating this map as the space evolves. We’d like to do this together with you, and have a few fun ideas in store.
Looking for good NFT reads? Check out our NFT Resource Library.
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