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A deep dive on ERC-721 in preparation for ECF’s NonFungible Summit

By September 21, 2018 March 1st, 2021 153 Comments

Words by Chris Robison (Hoard), Matt Condon (XLNT), Matt Stephenson (Planck) and MP Fernández (Golem)

Thanks to Adora Goh (Hoard)

“Rules of Basketball” – 1891, James Naismith (sort of a real-life NFT)

2018 has been quite a year in the world of Non-Fungible Tokens. The Ethereum Community Fund has seen many projects related to these particular tokens and their potential — and awarded grants to many of them! As the use-cases flourish, it has been extremely interesting to follow the creativity and ingenuity of the developer community in building use cases for NFTs / building applications for NFTs.

Some of the highest potential use cases of these non-fungible tokens rely on interoperability, and the ERC-721 standard helps projects work together by defining a minimum interface a smart contract must implement to allow unique tokens to be managed, owned, and traded. When projects use the same standards — like ERC-721 — to communicate, the entire ecosystem benefits.

ECF has chosen to make their upcoming event a journey through this topic, as it brings up many novel areas of discussion that can spur new projects and research. Gathering the NFT community together, supporting productive conversations, as well as welcoming and educating newcomers is our biggest goal. If there’s one thing to keep in mind, it’s that we’re still just scratching the surface, hence our decision to organize the NonFungible Summit.

NFTs have multiple uses and verticals to explore: the philosophical benefits of self-sovereignty and censorship resistance; the possibilities of open, decentralized markets, trustless atomic swaps of unique assets, and true digital scarcity.

Another relevant use of NFTs that is being largely adopted is in gaming, and there are platforms being built to provide tools for game developers. They are also relevant in the discussion and application of licensing and IP in a self-sovereign and decentralized world. Further, they help to effectively establish digital identities where owning an NFT can signal your values and beliefs.

When we consider the numerous amount of digital things we own, it’s clear that representing these items as unique non-fungible tokens holds enormous potential.

We asked the experts (and Summit speakers) about their opinions, in order to get some further insights before the NonFungible Summit:

Chris Robison, from Hoard, considers NFTs instruments of inclusion:

“The simplest characteristic of a non-fungible token is also its greatest strength: there is only one. Compare this to fungible tokens. Fungible tokens enable users to hold any sum or balance of a particular coin. As a result, they quantify a person’s stake in a network. Non-fungible tokens, on the other hand, qualify a person. You either have one or you don’t — you’re either part of a network or you’re not. Thought of in this way, non-fungible tokens are a much more inclusive network instrument. And this is particularly interesting when considering how communities work.”

Matt Condon, ECF Grantee for XLNT Project (which specialized in self-sovereignty and digital ownership) mentions the philosophical aspects and the real uses:

“True digital scarcity is a paradigm shift in how we interact with our digital world, and this application of scarcity excels, to me, in three main segments: identity, currency, and assets. That last section — assets — is huge: it’s every unique thing you digitally own — things like your video game items, your mortgage, your social networking usernames, and more. Right now we don’t actually own any of that stuff; they’re lent to us by centralized servers that have full rights to take our digital things away from us at will. Non-Fungible tokens are how we represent self-sovereign ownership, and I couldn’t be more excited to leverage this digital scarcity in the real world.”

Matthew Stephenson from Planck, explains NFTs from a real-world perspective:

“To better understand what may drive the value of unique and scarce digital objects, consider an example provided by Sotheby’s auctioning off the original manuscript for the “Rules of Basketball.” In 1891, James Naismith drafted his invention of Basketball on the newly invented typewriter. When Sotheby’s auctioned off this document in 2010 (sold for $4.4 million), they emphasized something important: the document was “typed up the very morning that Naismith introduced his new sport to the world’”. They seem to suggest that the value came from the document’s unique identity, an unbroken lineage tracing back to the very emergence of Basketball.

In studies of cognitive development in infants, an unbroken lineage appears highly important to our conception of identity and value. Eminent researcher Elizabeth Spelke describes continuity as the “central’’ concept of identity. requiring an object to trace “exactly one connected path over space and time.” For example, young children seem to have no problem understanding that a prince can turn into a frog and then back into a prince. A decentralized ledger like blockchain, with an auditable chain-of-custody, may newly enable this kind of identity and continuity in the digital world.”

Indeed, NFTs are much more than cats, pandas, or other hot potato crypto-collectibles. During the NonFungible Summit, on October 12th in San Francisco, you will be able to dig deeper and collaborate on ideas with experts and other passionate developers. We look forward to this one-day deep dive into this flourishing community and the tech behind it.

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E-mail Ken: ken@buildeth.io and cc hello@ecf.network