NFTs as PFPs

Twitter's new feature & the demand for decentralized marketplaces

Hey everyone, Parker here. Here we go-- NFTs as profile pictures. You knew it was coming.

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First Impressions

Twitter’s NFT PFP opens up delightfully once clicked- displaying details like the NFT’s name, the collection it belongs to, and its caption. I appreciate Twitter’s inclusion of the NFT’s properties and details, here, too. Take Ian’s Crypto Coven, “Octave the sculptural crystal”, whose rising sign is Leo, or Gillette’s gorgeous “Cotopaxi the terrible”, whose archetype of power is occultist.  

Here are Ian’s thoughts on the product experience and where it can go from here:

When Twitter rolled out Twitter Blue, a $2.99/month subscription product, and had a perk that included beta access to Twitter Labs features, I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t think that Twitter would put crypto features like NFT profile pics behind a paywall—a strategic move that could convert a good number of crypto Twitter users into paying subscribers just for the social flex (more on that later.)

Product wise, the flow was super simple: just 3 main screens, and then the profile pic on my Twitter page now has attached details of my NFT (a Crypto Coven!) I took some screenshots and shared them on Twitter if you wanna take a look.

And while the product is simple, there might be some structural backend issues that need tweaks over time. Twitter’s also partnering with two companies on this for now: OpenSea, for NFT data; and WalletConnect to help users connect their crypto wallet. 

Putting on my PM hat and thinking about how Twitter can build on this, this is setting up the fundamentals for Twitter to slowly add a lot of Web3 features for a core segment of Twitter’s user base. First, a key success metric for this project should be wallets connected: I’m super curious to see the percentage of people that connect their Coinbase, Rainbow, or other crypto wallets. In Web3, wallets are essentially the combination of an identity and payment instrument—one of the most important concepts in the ecosystem. On top of that, Twitter could start getting into NFT transactions: imagine a “Buy Now With OpenSea” button when looking at a friend’s NFT. 

The only criticism? For all this hype, it’s still limited to Twitter Blue users, but fully expect this to change over time. Big tech seems to be racing towards crypto and Web3 and wallet’s connected is going to be a key metric. With Twitter’s simple and elegant integration, the social network is well-positioned to be in the lead.

Now, back to Parker...

Something Cringe, Something Based:

Twitter’s decision to use OpenSea’s API to load NFTs may have been a design flaw, one deserving of further attention and consideration. As Jane Manchun Wong noted earlier this week, if OpenSea goes down, Twitter’s new NFT feature goes down with it. Actually- this already happened. Just a day before the feature’s launch, a database outage knocked the OpenSea API offline for a few hours, in turn causing Twitter’s NFT collection pages to lose all of their information.

This echoes a primary critique put forth by Moxie in his most recent and heavily-contended essay, ‘My first impressions of web3’. Throughout the essay, Moxie recounts his own experience developing dApps and creating NFTs. Within his experience, he draws upon specific examples to illustrate some of the most glaring loopholes in claims of decentralization pronounced by some of the most popular products in Web3. Utilizing findings from his own experience as evidence, Moxie swiftly and eloquently rejects the characterization of marketplaces like OpenSea as ‘decentralized’ entirely. 

“Given the history of why web1 became web2, what seems strange to me about web3 is that technologies like ethereum have been built with many of the same implicit trappings as web1. To make these technologies usable, the space is consolidating around… platforms. Again. People who will run servers for you, and iterate on the new functionality that emerges. Infura, OpenSea, Coinbase, Etherscan.”    

A Change In Tastes and Preferences: The Demand for Decentralized NFT Marketplaces

Moxie’s argument was delivered with strength and met with resistance from the crypto community. There’s a lot of interesting tension to explore here, but I’ll save it for another day. For now, I’d like to use Moxy’s argument as a lens to understand how we might expect user preferences for NFT marketplaces to change in the future. As new players enter the landscape of NFT marketplaces, competition increases. Suddenly, optionality has never been higher for minters and buyers alike. These new platforms bring about a plethora of new features and characteristics, allowing users to discover new tastes and preferences.

One of the most prevalent shifts in tastes and preferences I’ve seen in recent weeks is the preference for decentralized NFT marketplaces. 

Decentralized NFT marketplace competitors are already in full swing- platforms like Rarible and Zora are two examples of established platforms pioneering this model. Notable players are around the corner, too. Coinbase’s NFT marketplace, for example, will utilize an “open garden” model, using decentralized metadata solutions like IPFS. In two days, the waitlist for Coinbase’s NFT marketplace had over 1.1M signups, more than OpenSea’s total active user base alone.  Even further, innovative and experimental projects are currently active in the space. Take LooksRare, a community-owned OpenSea competitor that launched less than two weeks ago. Off to a hot start, the community-owned NFT marketplace surpassed OpenSea’s daily volume within 24 hours of launch. 

Final Thoughts

Over time, I predict decentralized NFT marketplaces will become the norm, with increasing expectations for decentralization from users. By way of conclusion, I’d like to return to Twitter’s collaboration with OpenSea with some final thoughts and questions:

  • While the decision to partner with OpenSea feels fairly obvious given OpenSea’s ‘blue chip’ status, I can’t help but wonder which other marketplaces Twitter was in dialogue with for this project. Who were the strongest contenders, and how did they narrow it down?

  • What does the contract look like? Is it time-bound?

  • Will it make more sense for Twitter to partner with Coinbase once they launch their NFT marketplace? 

    • Given the outpaced demand we’re seeing for CB’s NFT marketplace and Coinbase’s early investment in OpenSea, a future acquisition doesn’t seem unlikely. If so, the aforementioned partner pivot is inevitable.

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