The Twitter NFT banner.
Twitter

Without social media, NFT owners would have no place to show off or sell their expensive digital assets. So it’s no surprise that Facebook and Twitter want a piece of the pie. Both platforms are racing to adopt NFT technology and culture, starting with their users’ most popular request—verified NFT avatars.

NFTs or “non-fungible tokens” are digital contracts that prove you purchased something, usually a regular old JPEG or GIF that’s sitting on some server. Like cryptocurrency, NFTs are decentralized and have no inherent value—communities that buy and trade these digital assets decide whether they’re worth money.

As reported by The Financial Times, both Facebook and Instagram are interested in NFT technology. These platforms could let users set verified NFT images as profile photos, and may even open NFT marketplaces to help people create, buy, and sell the digital goods. Mark Zuckerberg has also discussed how NFTs could play a part in the metaverse—users could buy blockchain-verified clothing for their digital avatars, for example.

Of course, Facebook and Instagram are already late to the game. Twitter just launched NFT profile photo support for all Twitter Blue ($3 a month) subscribers in the United States. All NFT avatars on Twitter have a unique hexagonal shape to help distinguish them from regular avatars (a necessary step, given that the NFTs contracts just point to regular JPEGs that anyone can copy).

Reddit also launched its NFT avatar system late last year, but unlike Twitter, it’s actually selling NFTs to users. Twitter is simply pushing its subscription service by offering NFT avatar support.

The end goal for Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter is a bit unclear. Do they just want to sell or promote NFTs, or do they want to build their own centralized crypto and NFT economies? By centralizing these digital assets, social media companies could enforce NFT ownership, preventing people from copying NFT profile pictures, for example.

At the time of writing, anyone can save the JPEG image that an NFT points toward. You can also mint your own duplicate of an NFT and set it as your Twitter avatar—you won’t have the same NFT contract as the “original” owner, but virtually zero people will notice the difference. (I suggest avoiding the latter option. It costs money to mint an NFT and Twitter Blue is stupid.)

And like cryptocurrency, NFTs have faced a ton of backlash due to their impact on the environment, their speculative value, and their popularity among scammers. Most businesses and platforms that have tried to adopt the technology, including Discord, have immediately changed their minds following public outcry.





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