Standing on the Shoulders of Non-Fungible Giants

A Brief History of NFTs

Multidisciplinary creator Josie Bellini is an acclaimed OG cryptoartist behind iconic NFT classics like (un)limited, Yours Truly, and beyond. She’s helped NFTs and cryptoart break into the mainstream, and now she’s on the verge of releasing her most epic project yet: CyberBrokers

(unlimited) by Josie Bellini on Async Art

CyberBrokers brings together the totality of Josie’s experiences as an artist and NFT pioneer. The project will comprise a series of 10,001 unique and programmable cryptoart collectibles, all of them being totally on-chain and with varying traits, jobs, and perks. Better yet? Owning a CyberBroker will give you membership in MirrorWare, a metaverse-native fashion brand that Josie’s also preparing to roll out.

But that’s just a sneak preview. We first have to grasp how we got here. We have to understand the context of the history of NFTs to really appreciate what’s coming and where Josie’s drawn inspirations for her most important work yet. 

So this post will offer exactly that: a brief history of NFTs and how Josie’s arrived at the great possibilities of today. 


In the beginning ...

The prehistory of NFTs can be traced to the spring of 2012 when Yoni Assia first introduced the concept of Colored Coins, a system in which special coins representing assets could be underpinned by the Bitcoin blockchain. 

This model paved the way for the launch of Counterparty in Jan. 2014. Counterparty, a protocol built atop Bitcoin that lets its users create their own assets, eventually became home to two of the most seminal proto-NFT projects: FDCARD, or Spells of Genesis as it later came to be known, and the Rare Pepes

An early FDCARD

Originally announced in Oct. 2014, Spells of Genesis launched its initial assets, and effectively became the first blockchain-based trading card game, in Mar. 2015. Then in Oct. 2016 came the arrival of the Rare Pepes, tokenized memes of Pepe the Frog notably issued by artists and users themselves. These mark the first cryptoart projects and thus the forerunners of the contemporary NFT ecosystem. 

The Modern NFT Era

Speaking of the contemporary NFT ecosystem, the vast majority of it currently exists atop Ethereum, the cryptoeconomy’s reigning smart contract platform. 

You can trace the earliest days of Ethereum collectibles to Rhea Myers, who created and released an Ethereum-powered “Art Market” back in the summer of 2014. The network’s first virtual world project, Etheria, the first inkling of Ethereum’s present-day metaverse scene, launched in the fall of 2015. 

The 1st NFT house

After these early experiments, things on Ethereum’s NFT front stayed pretty quiet until 2017 when the contemporary NFT ecosystem began to take shape. 

That summer Larva Labs launched CryptoPunks, a series of 10,000 collectible pixel characters who were initially all claimed for free and whose design inspired the now widely popular ERC-721 NFT standard. CryptoPunks are now among the most desirable NFTs in the world, in no small part because of their unique and foundational position in the modern NFT era. 

These iconic Punks now trade for troves of ETH

In Dec. 2017, just as the cryptoeconomy was entering the heights of its first truly epic bullrun, CryptoKitties hit the scene. The digital collectibles game has the distinction of being the first project to implement the ERC-721 standard and the distinction of being the first NFT project to achieve breakout success. Indeed, users traded and bred so many CryptoKitties that December that the activity acutely led to historic levels of transaction congestion on Ethereum.

Today’s reigning NFT marketplace OpenSea rolled out its alpha release just before the close of 2017. The beginning of 2018 saw the start of a multi-year cryptoeconomy bear kick off, which had the effect of drying up attention around all things crypto, including NFTs. 

Yet a handful of dedicated NFT teams kept building and honing in on their visions throughout the 2018-19 bear market, and much of their work through this down cycle has supplied the foundations for the ongoing 2020-21 NFT boom we’re seeing unfold today. 

One of these teams is nft42, the minds behind the completely on-chain collectibles project Avastars. They’ve championed on-chain NFTs from day one because such NFTs are entirely self-evident, durable, and always retrievable from the blockchain. This is in contrast to NFTs that rely on hybrid off-chain and on-chain systems, in which media files are often hosted off-chain and thus are potentially vulnerable to loss or manipulation by third parties. So Avastars has become something of a North Star to the current NFT ecosystem when it comes to the importance of on-chain durability. 

Avastars: totally on-chain, totally secure.

New Possibilities

This brings us to today, where all-time NFT sales have crossed the $500M milestone and droves of new mainstream users are discovering what NFTs are and can do. 

Yet it’s not just new users learning and trying new things, it’s also creators. Recent technical advancements around the NFT ecosystem have made it so our NFTs can be more advanced and programmable than ever. Our art and digital collectibles are no longer just for holding, now they can bring utility, identity, and membership in the NFT-driven and Ethereum-powered metaverse.  

This is what CyberBrokers is aiming to do: elevate NFT collectibles to epic new heights of possibility. But again, before we can really dig into CyberBrokers we have to break down its context, so in our next post we’ll be exploring the other big foundation of CyberBrokers besides NFTs, which is the metaverse. We’ll cover what the metaverse is, why it matters, and then in another follow-up post we’ll lay out Josie’s personal journey to becoming a trailblazing metaversal creator. Stay tuned :)

Written by William M. Peaster