Sartoshi is dead. Long live Sartoshi.
June 11th, 2022

Yesterday, Sartoshi -- the pseudonymous founder of mfers -- vanished into the ether. To most of the world this means nothing, of course. But for a small, yet disproportionately vocal community of very-online mfers, it was a startling event, inducing all manner of mixed-feelings.

Indeed, Sartoshi’s disappearance has raised a whole variety of questions and concerns; about the present and future of the mfers project, specifically, but also about the role and responsibility of project founders, more generally.

Perhaps naturally, many are feeling a sense of abandon and now find themselves wondering, why? Why would Sartoshi leave his fellow mfers, to whom he had brought so much mfing joy? Others, however, consider it a masterful display of performance art and the highest exemplar of the crypto / decentralization / headless brand ethos. Some are not so inclined, going so far as to call his formal exit from the project a “rug” -- an epitome of the perils of CC0 and testament to the need for a reputable, centralized, and commercially-minded team behind every project. The difference here is a fundamental one, and reflects a deep split in sensibility within the space, a radically divergent sense of what NFTs and NFT communities ought to be.

No matter where one comes down on the above, everyone concerned is now asking, what does it mean for the future of mfers? Can the project endure without its fearless memelord? Is this, as Sartoshi claimed (hoped?), the beginning of “next era”, fr? In other words, is the show just getting started? Or, is it instead the end of the story -- another NFT project bound for the graveyard of now-irrelevant JPEGs.

Before I venture to answer such reflections, though, I’d first like to set the scene; to introduce mfers, from one mfer’s perspective.

Let us start with the most basic question:

What is mfers?

Mfers is a collection of 10,000 PFPs, hand-drawn by artist and supreme shit-poster, Sartoshi. They look like this:


They originally minted back in November of 2021, at a price of Ξ0.069 and are now worth, well, a fair amount more than that.

The best way to understand mfers is not to analyse or deconstruct the art, however, but in terms of the context in which it was ushered into the world.

See, where the majority of NFT projects at the time were promising the world, sporting elaborate roadmaps with nebulous yet far-reaching claims -- "We’Re BuiIDiNg the mEtAvERse!!” -- Sartoshi did things different.

No IP rights. No Discord. No roadmap.

Just vibes.

With mfers, there was no reality-distortion field at play. What you saw was precisely what you got -- a hand-drawn stick figure and some vague sense of solidarity and communion with a bunch of other mfers. That’s it.

To many of the early participants in this experiment, this irreverence for the prevailing dogmas of the moment, the rejection of false promises and corporate bullshit, was utterly refreshing. (Part of Sartoshi’s genius is how well he captured this irreverence in the artwork itself.)

Of course, people were attracted to mfers for a variety of reasons. Where many were purely in it for the memes -- a good enough reason, to be sure -- others were intrigued by some of the more heady aspects of the project. For instance, the notion of CC0 and the idea of a truly “headless brand”.

And yet mfers was never really a headless brand. It was decentralized, in the sense that its community was spread all throughout the world. But it still had a figurehead, a fearless shitposter -- Sartoshi.

That is, of course, until yesterday.

While Sartoshi’s disappearance was without warning, it wasn’t without words. After hyping the “next era” of mfers, at 12PM EST on June 9 (6/9 lol), he posted this note along with a link to an open edition work of art, his final piece.

In the post, Sartoshi announced that he would be leaving and that he would be handing over a percentage of future royalties to the mfer community (2.5%, or half of total). At the beginning of the piece he references posts from early members of the community suggesting that mfers couldn’t really claim “Web3” while Sartoshi remained at the helm. In the same way that Bitcoin required Satoshi to retreat into the shadows, certain folk felt that Sartoshi must do the same.

Whether or not the move by Sartoshi was necessary is impossible to say, inherently subjective as it is. Either way, it’s not hard to appreciate the artistic value of Sartoshi mirroring the actions of Bitcoin’s founder -- as a work of performance art, it’s not without its merits.

Aesthetic value aside, however, people have -- quite understandably -- begun to wonder about the ethics of the situation. Does Sartoshi have a responsibility to the community? people are asking. Must he continue to steward it in perpetuity? Moreover, having officially left the project, should he really remain entitled to a percentage of royalties? And what about the open edition NFT? What’s up with that?

People are bound to conclude differently here, as they evidently already are. Some love it, some hate it. That’s the way of this world.

Irrespective of the underlying Truth here -- the objective morality of the situation -- the story that is mfers has just become considerably more interesting. The mfers project is about to answer, definitively, what a group of crypto-native mfers can do when left to their own accord. Can they, as many might hope, build a generational brand? Or will they instead succumb to the tyranny of structurelessness?

This and more remains to be seen.

For the next era has only just begun.

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