0xcAb8
January 18th, 2022

This post is a broad overview of the recently emerging “crypto art” space, including the use of “Non-Fungible Tokens” (NFTs) as a digital art distribution mechanism.

Limited-Edition Tokens

NFTs, or tokens as I’ll refer to them, can be understood as unique digital objects that can be collected and transferred from one user to another in a cryptocurrency network. Under the umbrella label of crypto art, they often represent a media file, a piece of software, or some artistic concept. These can be released to collectors in a limited capacity, with a cryptographic signature and provenance that traces directly back to the artist.

All of this is rather analogous to signed inkjet prints produced from digital media. For example, consider an artist selling a limited-edition run of prints which represent some digital artwork they’ve created. The artist chooses an arbitrary edition size (1, 5, 50, etc), promising not to distribute more than that, and signs each print as if to say “this object is special.” If the work is highly regarded, others may seek to purchase and own it, and perhaps the object will eventually find acquisition and stewardship in private and public collections.

0xcAb8
January 13th, 2022

In this post, I’d like to touch on the ERC-721 protocol standard, which is the basis for many “Non-Fungible Tokens” (NFTs) that we see on Ethereum and other blockchains. This will be a technical post, and I’ll assume you’ve already read my previous post on the distributed ledger to better understand the groundwork for some of these ideas.

Fungibility

In the last post, we talked about how tokens can carry value in these networks, such as Alice paying Bob 2.5 tokens. These tokens are also used to pay transaction fees in the network, to ensure a transaction is accepted into the blockchain. These tokens are fungible: interchangeable and replaceable with one another, much like fiat money. You and your friend can swap each other’s $10 bills, and you’ll still end up with the same value. This is different than a non-fungible object, which is an exceedingly fancy way of saying that each object is unique, and not interchangeable. For example, imagine you and your friend have tickets to a concert, but one ticket is seated much closer to the stage than the other!

This is the basic idea of NFTs: they describe tokens that are in some ways unique, and not interchangeable with another.

0xcAb8
January 13th, 2022

I often see the question “what does a blockchain solve?” Other times, blockchains are presented by critics as solutions in search of a problem, or that the ideas that blockchains aim to solve are simpler to achieve with a typical private database. I think it’s worth analyzing this, to understand the fundamental properties of a blockchain that distinguish it from other solutions.

At its core, you can imagine a blockchain as a list of records; a ledger that is append-only and, once written to, rather impossible to change. The state of this ledger is distributed across nodes in a network, and participants come together via a consensus mechanism to collectively agree on the current state of the ledger. These systems are typically designed with cryptographic proofs so that, ideally, transactions are secure and verifiable.

There are many different blockchains that aim to solve these problems in different ways, but they often provide certain features that are unlike standard databases. Many aim to be: public, decentralized, secure, permissionless, and verifiable. To use a simple analogy, imagine a public and collaborative Google Sheets document that has a growing list of records. Each record has a timestamp, and indicates the amount of “tokens”—which hold some value in the network—that were sent from user A to user B, with an optional message.

0xcAb8
January 13th, 2022

I’m thinking of testing out mirror.xyz specifically to write about my findings with blockchain, NFT, cryptocurrency, DeFi, smart contracts, zero-knowledge proofs, and other subjects as I learn about them.

I have several other blogs, most of them gathering dust, but I enjoy the process of jumping from one blog platform to the next. Each one provides a different space and context for my writing, allowing me to explore different tones, subjects, and writing styles. I haven’t yet had the desire to build my own blogging platform, I’m simply not that interested in web development, CSS design, and the baggage that comes with maintaining your own website or having to learn Jekyll, Eleventy, Vercel, or whatever. I simply want a place to write.

This stream will be fairly different than other spaces I write in:

  • less to do with creative coding and generative art, and more to do with blockchain (although these may intersect at times).
  • hopefully less formal and perhaps more haphazardly written. I’d like to set the bar a little lower so that I don’t feel so much pressure with each new post.
  • you can imagine this like a Twitter stream of thought: “shouting into the void”, but without the character limitations and fragmented threading.