If you’ve been into web3 for a while, you’ll have encountered some trends. You might have even heard people chucking around the word “meta”. For those of you that haven’t, let me explain: The web3 space has grown its own niches – or metas – over time. While some become movements, others get re-introduced to the mainstream, or fizzle out of existence. The question is: How do you know if the latest meta will stand the test of time?
Well, truly you don’t.
The History of NFT Trends
NFT trends come and go, much like in the physical world. But just sometimes, a trend has the power to spark off a whole movement. Even rarer still, some movements lay the groundwork for mass adoption.
But before we get there, let’s go back to the beginning. You can’t mention web3 trends without mentioning the greats: CryptoPunks inspired a wave of pixel art such as Fast Food punks, CryptoPhunks and many more.
Bored Ape Yacht Club is probably responsible for sparking off half of the trends we see in NFTs today. Don’t tell me you don’t have some kind of cartoon animal sitting in your hidden folder that ripped something off from BAYC.
While the cartoon animal trend was never really going to spark mass adoption, ‘Roadmaps’ caught on far further than anyone could have imagined. For more context, read the NFT 101, but basically the Roadmap Meta was an important step in web3’s evolution. It was the first time projects started making future plans for token holders.
Truthfully, most roadmaps in this period were loose timelines filled with perks you had to pay for and (what would become) broken promises. But these were the good old days where everything mooned, so no one paid much attention.
From the attack of the budget blockchain Pokémon, to the showdown of anime projects, the bull market era laid the groundwork of what is still popular today. Back then there were so many types of people in the scene that every trend sparked an anti-trend too, just like the “no roadmap meta”, championed by Sartoshi’s mfers.
But before I lead you down the dark path of memory lane, I’m sure you’ve gathered that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are way more arcs of the web3 story and each of them make a lasting mark on the industry.
Even if the mark is a disappointing mess of pixels called Kevin.
NFT Trends Today Shape the Web3 Industry of Tomorrow
But in all seriousness, every NFT trend—no matter how stupid—shapes the future of the industry. So it’s down to us to support trends putting the average user first.
A good example of this is the more recent trend of Open Edition art. Creator-centered minting platforms, such as Manifold and Zora, offered artists new opportunities to share their art with bigger audiences. These platforms don’t charge exorbitant fees, unlike OpenSea, and let creators set their own royalties and use burning functions.
Personally, I loved this particular trend. Being a struggling millennial, I found this the perfect opportunity to pick up some amazing art from some underrated artists. Even some of the most popular living digital artists also dropped open editions, which was a big win for both artists and collectors. If you haven’t seen it already, just check out how “This is not Normal” by Kevin Abosch is doing. Spoiler alert: It’s still smashing it.
Another example of a project which used this traction in a positive way is ‘Checks’ by Jack Butcher. Whether you like the art style or not, the collection inspired a ton of derivatives and blew his name up in the art world. Even major web3 projects such as Rug Radio released their own Checks-inspired mints.
It’s not just that Jack Butcher’s art is interesting; it’s the way he makes use of blockchain technology to keep collectors engaged. His choice to involve developers helps him create more active minting and owning experiences. If you don’t know what I mean, make sure you check out his original checks collection and his Opepen Edition. They’re really making some waves.
Waves are all well and good…but is the whole movement sustainable? If something is trendy, it’s going to last forever, right? ….right?
Will Today’s Trend Spark NFT Mass Adoption?
It’s the big question everyone asks with each trend. So I’ll just go ahead and answer that for you:
You’re damn right! Of course it will!
Just kidding. Life isn’t that easy, and nor is the answer to the question. It’s not all sunshine and roses in the meta-verse (sorry).
While people want to hear their cartoon jpeg will be worth hundreds of millions in 2050, none of that is guaranteed. Even betting on Yuga labs is still speculation. Blindly following trends can only get you so far, and will almost certainly get you into trouble.
For the novices reading, there are two easy ways to lose money trading NFTs; acting on FOMO or getting duped. Even beyond the more obvious rug pulls, many well-respected projects have made some questionable moves. We all know how Zagabond washed his hands of 3 failed projects before Azuki’s success. Then what about Frank DeGods admitting to stealing, hacking and starting a business with lime hire scooters. And, well… I’m not allowed to mention Beanie anymore.
But the point is: It’s the wild, wild west out here. Not everything is going to “make it” and it’s your job to decide what will.
The Web3 Handbook of Being Inaccessible
While founders still have the audacity to fake their deaths twice in a space of hours, we’re we’re still pretty far off mass adoption. Just look at the advert for Doo-key Dash really objectively for a second. Even better, take a look at this little bro (almost) doing the worm at the DeGods NFT Paris party.
Whether you see the funny side or not (and I hope you do), it’s not difficult to see how crypto and NFTs enthusiasts like us don’t have the best image on the outside world.
Further still, web3 interfaces are still so complicated. Our tools are confusing, our jargon is nonsensical and…does anyone else get the feeling they are in a cult?
I asked a group of speakers in a twitter space, “How many of your real life friends know you’re into NFTs?”. The room went silent before each speaker sheepishly explained why they keep their web3 lives secret. The only consensus in the space is that web3 has become kind of embarrassing.
So, What Do We Do About It?
For our ecosystem to catch on, we need to assess whether certain trends can even attract people before worrying about the onboarding process. An exclusive club is only cool if people know about and want to be in it.
For most of us, the onboarding journey involved a lot of trial and error. Even today we’re all still learning. How can you blame us when some of the industry’s founders still struggle to manage their assets correctly?
But Web3 can disrupt the very way in which we live our lives. We know how this technology is already making its mark on several industries; such as art, film, and even science. In the future it stands to impact a lot more than just those sectors too.
A blockchain has features like no other kind of network: It’s permissionless meaning anyone can use it. This alone opens up a world of possibility for those limited by location or social status. It’s immutable, meaning it can help us document and record with better accuracy and assurance. Most excitingly, it’s decentralized. It removes the need for middlemen and centralized governance. It allows people to vote, publish, create and own without centralized interference. Combining these features, its power is really limitless.
Since I’ve descended into sounding like every other NFT column you’ve read this week, let me give you another tired cliché to top it off: The future of web3 is in our hands.
Yes, I do know how cringe that sounds but there’s an element of truth to it. How the industry progresses is completely down to us.
Accessibility + Innovation = Mass Adoption
So let’s break down what drives adoption of new technology: It needs to offer something people don’t already have and it must be available for everyone to use. This is why I’ll be focusing on innovative and accessible trends and projects in this series.
Take a moment to consider if roadmaps would be so popular today if they were exclusive. Further, consider how popular open editions would be without platforms innovating new functionalities.
These are the kinds of projects that will define this digital era, and that’s why they will be the main focus of this column. While I promise to focus on more positive trends like this, in a characteristically downbeat fashion, I’ll also focus on some trends that are better left as passing fads.
All in all the plan is to shine a spotlight in the face of the trend, assess its worth in the grand scheme of things, and then cruelly decide if we’re going to give it a French-kiss or the cold shoulder.
Because it’s inevitable: Mass Adoption will arrive. The question is; what will that look like?
Got something you want to share with me? Reach out to me on twitter via @downbeatdegen