While it is widely acknowledged that art is a significant and compelling application of NFTs, there are valid reasons why traditional art institutions and even authorities at Wikipedia consistently question the association between NFTs and art.
Creators across various disciplines are leveraging NFTs to store, distribute, and showcase their distinct intellectual property (IP). NFTs extend beyond the realm of art and find utility among scientists, healthcare experts, game developers, and numerous other professionals. It is crucial to recognize the differentiation between NFTs as a technology and art as just one application of that technology, as this distinction holds significant importance. Engaging in conversations surrounding this topic is vital if we aim to expand the possibilities of Web3 and encourage a broader and more diverse participation of individuals in the blockchain ecosystem.
What is the difference?
From our perspective, the NFT space encompasses a range of creative expressions such as fine art, profile picture (PFP) projects, photography, and other visual mediums, all of which can be categorized as “art.” Unsurprisingly, the art sector garners significant popularity and profitability within the NFT market, often making headlines due to groundbreaking sales figures. However, it is crucial to recognize that art represents only one facet of NFT use cases and is frequently misunderstood at its core.
Regardless of whether an artist chooses to tokenize their artwork as an NFT, the art itself will always exist independently from the NFT. In the event that the artwork vanishes, which has occurred in the past, the NFT would remain unaffected, securely preserved within its original blockchain block.
Hence, art and NFTs are inherently distinct. This distinction holds true even in the realm of digital art, where a clear division exists between the token itself and the underlying media it represents. In this context, we can view an NFT as the convergence of these two distinct components: the token and its corresponding media.
In straightforward terms, an NFT is a blockchain-based token that visually or audibly corresponds to a media file. This media file can take various forms, such as a picture, GIF, video, song, PDF, or any other applicable format. Although it may appear that a token and its corresponding media are closely intertwined, they are, in fact, distinct entities with unique characteristics.
An NFTs token is not coupled with its media. While the token itself exists on the blockchain, the media lives elsewhere and, in contrast with the token, is quite vulnerable to degradation. This means the media file could disappear, leaving only the token behind.
The functioning of an NFT involves the token being securely stored on the blockchain, while the digital image files associated with it are typically stored using a distributed storage system like the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Such systems were designed to store and retrieve files, websites, applications, and data. IPFS and similar systems exist in a middle ground between centralized file servers and peer-to-peer file-sharing services, offering users convenient access to digitally stored files.
Indeed, file storage comes at a cost. If users themselves are not directly paying for it, someone else is covering the expenses. Similar to website administrators who pay for their sites and media to be hosted on servers, NFT platforms are responsible for paying to store JPEGs and other media files using IPFS. Consequently, when collectors acquire an NFT, they rely on the marketplace to handle the storage fees to ensure the longevity and accessibility of the associated media files.
Certain individuals may contend that the distinction between art and NFTs boils down to mere semantics, suggesting that the storage method is inconsequential in the broader context of crypto-art. However, unlike other forms of art, NFTs possess a significant vulnerability. While it would be challenging to destroy a renowned painting or pilfer a prominent piece of digital art, NFT media, solely due to negligence, could potentially cease to exist.
Undoubtedly, NFTs encompass far more than mere financial transactions, art, and the other commonly associated characteristics that attract attention in mainstream media. However, in order for Web3, driven by blockchain technology, to fulfill its potential, it becomes essential to rectify misconceptions that inaccurately equate NFTs solely with art.