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How Twitter Could Make NFTs Mainstream?

Today, just four months after announcing it was exploring the idea, Twitter started letting some people in use non-fungible tokens as their profile pictures. Subscribers to the $2.99 ​​per month Twitter Blue service can now connect a crypto wallet and list all the NFTs they own on their profile. These users are easily distinguished from those who have yet to be encrypted by the shape of their avatars: a hexagon instead of the traditional circle.

Back in September, when Twitter first came up with the idea, I suggested that: the company’s adoption of NFTs could bring the technology mainstream. Twitter users have already invented the hashtag, the @mention, and the retweet; by using profile pictures to display their (unverified) NFTs, I argued, owners of CryptoPunks, Bored Apes and other popular collections had invented the NFT profile. And now it’s here, as an official Twitter product.

In keeping with the polarizing nature of blockchain-based projects in general, Twitter’s introduction of NFT profiles has been met with great disdain. Recent criticism of NFTs has emphasized: the extent to which technology fails to deliver on its own promises: of decentralization of power, or even of verifying ownership. (For the most part, NFTs today don’t encrypt their own media on the blockchain; instead, what’s encrypted is essentially a receipt for it.) Viewed through this lens, Twitter could be accused of legitimizing a technology that can leave people open. for theft, fraud and other dangers.

At the same time, millions of people are about to see those hexagons every day and wonder what it’s all about. The question is whether Twitter — and all the other platforms racing to build NFT integrations — can brutally force digital collectibles into popularity, despite strident objections from critics.

Coincidentally, we tested that question early in the game industry. The past months, several top developers have announced plans to integrate NFTs into their games, in the form of digital goods. The resulting stories generally contain the phrase “mass slack”.

Gamers’ complaints are clear. The game industry has gradually shifted from a model where you are charged a one-time fee to own a game to one where you may have to pay multiple times (to download new expansions or buy cosmetic items); or continuously (via subscriptions). Loot boxes, which randomly assign items to players, introduced an expensive and much hated form of pseudo-gambling in the game world. As a result, gamers often feel cheated by developers, without making the games generally feel more fun.

The idea that playing a video game in the future could mean plugging in a crypto wallet, paying high fees to trade the market, buying scarce digital goods, and then working to protect them from thieves — well, It’s not clear how that would make games even more fun. (One of my favorite YouTubers, the game critic SkillUp, now has a recurring feature about NFTs in his weekly overview of games news: it’s called “No damn thanks.”)

And thus Ubisoft got roasted after announcing a plan to put NFTs in its shooting game Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Square Enix, creator of the Final Fantasy series and others, was criticized for suggesting that it could “possibly” offer crypto tokens in the future. Mobile gaming company Zynga seems to have avoided a lot of backlash for hire a blockchain chief, but then Zynga games are based on asking players to make constant, frustrating trades from the beginning.

For potential operators of thriving NFT trading platforms, this setback represents more than a series of negative public relations cycles. Silicon Valley’s collective vision of the next version of the internet, the one we’ve dubbed the metaverse, hinges on video games as the thing that will entice the masses to buy augmented and virtual reality headsets. The basic idea, as Mark Zuckerberg told me last summer, is that you buy virtual clothes or other digital goods like NFTs and take them from VR experience to VR experience, starting with games.

If players continue to hate the idea of ​​NFTs forever, the metaverse will look very, very different. And developers who have raised money at skyrocketing valuations based on the idea that games will bring billions of people to web3, like the team behind Axie Infinity, will suffer.

It’s not just players who are skeptical. In a survey published today by the Game Developers Conference, 70 percent of studios said they have “no interest” in NFTs. Jay Peters is here The edge:

When asked how they felt about the possibility of cryptocurrency or NFTs in games, some called it ‘the future of gaming,’ the survey said. “However, a vast majority of respondents spoke out against both practices — pointing out their potential for scams, general concerns about monetization and environmental impact.”

Many quotes directly from developers were damning. “How this has not been identified as a pyramid scheme is beyond me,” one person wrote. “I’d rather not advocate burning down a rainforest to confirm someone ‘owns’ a jpeg,” said another. “Burn them to the ground. Ban anyone involved. I am currently working at an NFT firm and am quitting to get rid of it,” said another.

Another way to read this data, of course, is that nearly a third of game developers today say they are at least interested in NFT integrations. But for now, at least they are in the minority.

All of this brings us back to the question of how this dynamic will play out on Twitter. There are some key differences between games and tweets: gamers hate NFTs largely because they fear they will be forced to buy them; on Twitter, buying and displaying digital art you purchase is optional. And while the audience for video games songs in the billions and easy to categorize, I imagine Twitter’s diverse audience could have an even wider range of responses to NFTs in the timeline.

Today I saw two types of reactions: from crypto skeptics, dunking on hexagons; and, from crypto enthusiasts, dunk at those who love hexagons.

Who will be victorious?

Sometimes a technology is so reviled from the start that it is expelled from civilized society. ask everyone who wore Google Glass in a bar in 2013 how that turned out.

Other times, though — and this feels especially true on Twitter — things get ridiculed to legitimate popularity. (People who research extremism have a term for the way jokes are often used to smuggle ideas into the mainstream: irony poisoning.) And crypto enthusiasts have been masters of co-opting insults flung at them in badges of honor. For example, when critics derided their artworks as “JPEGs,” the community quickly started using that term—with a wink—to refer to their collections.

If Twitter just can’t get NFTs mainstream, it won’t be the last to try. The Financial times reported on Thursday that Meta plans to let people create and sell NFTs on its platforms. Google now officially has a blockchain team, and YouTube will certainly fit into his plans.

It is far too early to gauge the prospects of any of these efforts, which are still in their earliest stages. But in the meantime, we can look back on Twitter’s hexagonal launch the day NFTs became accessible to a broad, mainstream audience.

Now we wait to see if the mainstream really wants them.

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