OK. I do know why. Easy cash.
But I loathe just about everything NFTs stand for.
Right now we’re in a few days into the Winter Olympics – a games that I’m not overly interested in, if truth be told. The timezone is bad for Europe, the pandemic means that there are sparse crowds at events, and then there is the small matter of it being in Beijing.
But I do follow the Team GB Twitter feed, which is why I was really quite surprised to see this Tweet on Sunday:
A few things about this Tweet stood out for me:
- Team GB has a whole host of sponsors, as do the Olympics overall. But I couldn’t see a specific “NFT” sponsor on the team’s website.
- The official Team GB Twitter feed is nearly entirely comprised of performances by British athletes or reactions to those performances. Despite having lots of “regular” sponsors, they don’t seem to get the same kind of mentions as the launch of this “coin” does. The only other sponsor I can see in recent Tweets are some references to their official podcast which was sponsored by GoDaddy.
- There’s no #ad in the Tweet.
- If you’re an average consumer who just likes to watch ice skating and skiing once every four years, and isn’t clued into the cryptocurrency world, that Tweet will have made very little sense. As well as “NFT”, words used include “minting” and “whitelist.” If you don’t play games or aren’t in tech, do you even know what a Discord server is?
- Even if you do understand all the words, the Tweet makes little sense. What do these “Tokns” get me? (You can just buy a Team GB t-shirt or mug from the official website – but it’s not those).
Looking a bit more closely, it seems that this a white label NFT offering owned by Shopify, the online retail conglomerate. Shopify is the incredibly successful service which allows businesses to easily create retail environments. It seems that they have a beta programme called Tkns and this is what Team GB is using.
But getting back to the basics. There’s no actual URL in that Tweet. While some social media platforms like Instagram always makes you jump through hoops to include a URL (“See the link in my profile…”), Twitter has no such limitation. Nonetheless, to get to a website to explain more you have to:
- Click on the linked @goldlionclubio Twitter link, and…
- Then look for the link there
Except, there’s only a Discord link to, er… Astonishingly, the Discord link in the Twitter bio doesn’t link to any particular server! The link is just: https://discord.com/channels/
No, you need to find the TeamGBNFT website for more information.
Except that I think many users would still be lost.
First of all, what are they actually trying to get me to buy?
Different things it seems. At the top of the site, they’re trying to sell me Team GB 2022 Pins. For £90 (including VAT!) you get a “digital” pin badge and a t-shirt. The pin badge looks like a real one, but it seems to be digital only.
“Your TEAM GB Winter Pin provides you with a memento of the 2022 Games with all the benefits of owning a digital asset including proof of ownership and authenticity.”
It’s unclear what these “benefits” are. I guess that the quite expensive badge that exists only in the digital domain does indeed belong to me.
“Just like the traditional pins you can start a collection or show your friends.”
Hmm. I think that even if I moved in circles where collections of pin badges were admired, my friends would be less excited about me pulling up some JPGs of the badges I own rather than getting to actually handle them, or you know, “pin” them to clothes.
“The added benefit of your digital pin is that you can share your support TEAM GB with the world by using as your social profile.”
I think a proof-reader needs to go through that sentence again.
And there was me thinking I could, you know, just right-click, save the badge and then change my Twitter profile pic. Or include any kind of Team GB logo if I wanted to show my support.
“Not only will you receive a beautifully designed digital collectible to keep but you will also receive the official, special edition T-Shirt including the unique pin design.”
So I’m definitely going to be able to hang onto this “digital collectible” for years to come? Nobody’s going to forget to renew the website’s domain in 10 years’ time or something stupid?
And I can’t help noticing that the badges are multi-coloured, but the t-shirts are mono and all the same. So even if I collect all three, I get three identical shirts? No mention of t-shirt manufacturer, sizing or fit. Are there t-shirts in women’s cuts? What about kids? What kind of cotton or cotton-blend are you using?
“Ability to mint your digital collectible to the blockchain and store in your own crypto wallet. Forthcoming email will provide process for this (minting date to be announced soon).”
This all sounds a bit vague.
The other thing they’re selling is the exciting sounding “Gold Lion Club.”
“GET IN QUEUE TO SECURE YOUR GOLD LION CLUB TOKNS UNLOCKING ACCESS TO THE EXCLUSIVE GOLD LION CLUB.”
So I need to queue up to buy something that in turn gives me access to something else? A club of some sort?
“GET CLOSER TO THE TEAM
SPECIAL EVENTS, ACCESS AND OFFERS AWAIT”
It doesn’t specify what these events are. A party? A meet and greet with athletes? Discounted tickets to sporting events? What?
“GET IN THE GAMES
IF YOUR RANDOMLY ASSIGNED TOKN MATCHES THE MEDAL (GOLD, SILVER, BRONZE) AND SPORT OF ANY TEAMGB MEDAL, YOU WIN!”
So I buy something and then, depending on the number of medals Team GB wins, I have some kind of chance of winning… something… unspecified…?
“SUPPORT THE TEAM YEAR-ROUND
OUR ROADMAP INCLUDES BENEFITS AND ACCESS TO THE GOLD LION CLUBHOUSE, A VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE LIKE NONE OTHER.”
How does my buying a “Tokn” support Team GB year around? I assume they get some kind of percentage which goes to athletes? Maybe?
They have a roadmap!
Except, the roadmap doesn’t appear on the website. What are the benefits? Where is the Gold Lion Clubhouse? That could just be a forum right? Don’t tell me it’s in the metaverse!
“JOIN THE WHITELIST AND GET READY TO MINT GOLD!”
What’s the “Whitelist”? Is that the same as the “queue” you just mentioned?
Why am I “minting gold”? That sounds more like alchemy than anything.
To learn more, I have to “Join Discord.”
This is feeling more and more like one of those timeshare things you used to get pestered with on holiday, or a door-to-door double glazing salesman. You can’t just give me a brochure and let me make my mind up in my own time. I have to come to you. (This is why I don’t hang out in many Clubhouse calls or on randon Twitter Spaces. I don’t want to the hard sell.)
I went looking at their FAQ, and here are some of the things they mention:
What is an NFT?
A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. NFTs can be used to represent items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files. Access to any copy of the original file, however, is not restricted to the buyer of the NFT. While copies of these digital items are available for anyone to obtain, NFTs are tracked on blockchains to provide the owner with a proof of ownership that is separate from copyright.
The NFT market value tripled in 2020, reaching more than $250 million. During the first quarter of 2021, NFT sales exceeded $2 billion.
Technically all accurate. And thanks for the Wikipedia links. But as clear as mud to the average person. And why is that last line there?
This comes back to whether they’re selling me a digital version of the t-shirt or mug that they’ve always sold – essentially a digital souvenir, that has little to no value beyond its function as a garment or drinking vessel. Or is it supposed to be an “investment”?
The FAQ also gets into ETH Wallets:
What is an Ethereum (ETH) Wallet?
Ethereum wallets are applications that let you interact with your Ethereum account. Think of it like an internet banking app – without the bank. Your wallet lets you read your balance, send transactions and connect to applications. It also allows you to securely store digital items like NFT’s. You need a wallet to send funds and manage your ETH. Here’s is a helpful link to learn more and help select an ETH wallet that fits your needs. https://ethereum.org/en/wallets
To transfer your NFT into your Ethereum Wallet, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the public address of your Ethereum Wallet to initiate the transfer. This process can take up to a week, depending upon request volume. In the future, you will be able to do this directly on the platform.
What it doesn’t mention is “gas fees” for transactions related to the wallet.
And nor does any of this get into the environmental cost of the vast numbers of servers being used to facilitate everything. These servers all require power and that power costs money and accordingly has a real world environmental impact.
There’s a very entertaining section in their Terms & Conditions page:
4. Assumption of Risk
The Site and the products advertised on the Site use smart contract and blockchain technology, including NFTs, cryptocurrencies, consensus algorithms, and decentralized or peer-to-peer networks and systems. You acknowledge that such technologies are experimental, speculative, and inherently risky. If you intend to purchase items on the Site, you acknowledge and agree that you are fully aware of the nature of your purchase including, but not limited to, the following associated risks:
- To the extent there is a price or market for a blockchain asset such as an NFT, such markets and prices are extremely volatile and there is no guarantee that your Licensed NFTs will have or retain any value.
- There are risks associated with using an Internet-native assets (e.g., NFTs, cryptocurrencies, etc.) including, but not limited to, the risk of hardware, software and Internet connections and/or failures, the risk of malicious software introduction, and the risk that third parties may obtain unauthorised access to information stored within your digital “wallet” or elsewhere, and neither Tokns nor the BOA will not be responsible for any of these, however caused;
- Upgrades to any blockchain, a hard fork or other change in the blockchain, a failure or cessation of the blockchain, or a change in how transactions are confirmed on the blockchain may have unintended, adverse effects on all blockchains using such technologies, including without limitation Licensed NFTs.
- The risk of losing access to Licensed NFT due to loss of private key(s), custodial error, or purchaser error.
- The risk of mining attacks, hacking, security weaknesses, fraud, counterfeiting, cyber-attacks, and other technological difficulties.
- The risk of changes to the regulatory regime governing blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies, and tokens and new regulations, unfavourable regulatory intervention in one or more jurisdictions or policies any of which may materially adversely affect the use and value of the Licensed NFT; and
- Risks related to taxation.
I’ve bolded a few of the more scary bits. Everyone’s all clear on what a “hard fork” is in the blockchain? Yes?
I’ve no problem with people collecting things. I’ve done it myself. People buy packs of trading cards, with some cards being rarer than others. Lots of artists produce “limited editions” perhaps with a specified number of prints. They’re artificially constraining the number of things, which may infer a sense of value. But that value is only realised if you actually sell your items.
But while the back pages of Sunday supplements are full of adverts for “collectibles” we all know that for the most part, the value isn’t maintained. You only need to watch about twenty minutes of daytime antiques programmes on TV to see that most “collectibles” are anything but.
I go in with my eyes open.
If I buy a print from an artist, it’s because I actually want to put that picture on my wall and enjoy it. I don’t buy it as investment. I’m effectively buying it to support the artist and their work.
If I buy a book, even a signed first edition, the amount I paid for it new is probably the book’s maximum value. Sure, there’s the odd “first edition of the first Harry Potter book” thing where the value soars. But mostly, the book I bought for £20 today, is worth £10 tomorrow (it’s “used” now), and about £0.50 if I try to sell it to a second hand bookshop in a couple of years time.
And the other thing is that beyond the energy that went into making and shipping the print/book/whatever to me in the first place, there’s little environmental impact by me selling my belongings at a discounted rate, or just dropping them in at a charity shop. I don’t have to pay “gas fees” on the blockchain, and I don’t have to feel guilty about the energy being used to maintain the servers that are all doing their proof of work calculations at the same time, using the equivalent electricity of a medium-sized company.
NFTs, which feel like their exploding in the sports sector right now, with ex-pros selling them in football, and even cycling commentators flogging them too, feel too much like a ponzi scheme that hasn’t crashed just yet.
The intrinsic value of a cartoon version of a sports-person is surely quite limited? (I mean, good luck to all the cartoonists who must be churning these things out right now before the bubble eventually bursts. My top tip would be to accept payment in cash and not in kind).
And the only “NFT” I’m interested in is the one that is now called BFI Southbank, and is a cinema near Waterloo in London. Before it was rebranded, NFT stood for the National Film Theatre.