Meta could be researching an NFT Marketplace within Facebook and Instagram, according to a report by Financial Times. But, what could such a move mean for photographers finding footing in a young but exploding market? Could NFTs work to prevent image theft on social media?
The report, which is based on several anonymous “people familiar with the matter” suggests that Meta is building support for NFTs that would allow users to display the digital collectibles on their profiles, as well as buy and sell on the platform. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a digital file—often art or a collectible—that uses blockchain technology to authenticate and prove ownership. While NFT collectibles have been around for a few years, last year’s success of the first NFT to be sold by an art auction house brought many photographers and artists to the space, minting their art as authenticated digital collectibles.
While the report hasn’t been confirmed by Meta, it doesn’t come as a surprise. The company launched its own digital currency wallet last year, while Instagram head Adam Mosseri said that the social media platform was “exploring NFTs” in a Story last month. The company rebranded as Meta late last year to highlight a shift to the metaverse, a virtual world built on several major technology concepts including virtual reality and NFTs.
But, while a move to NFTs isn’t surprising, the reports leave questions as to how, exactly the digital collectibles could be integrated and how adaptation by a platform with well over two billion users would influence the NFT market.
We reached out to Daniel Yurcho, a blockchain entrepreneur, NFT consultant, and founder of Yurokat Inc. who theorizes that such a move would bring NFTs to more people, while initially creating higher prices before leveling out. “Meta’s involvement in the NFT market would really increase the exposure of NFTs to the average person,” he says. “Initially I think the market would be flooded with more buyers than NFT creators, resulting in generally higher prices. The value of NFTs still has to be based on something, and not created out of thin air. Both NFT projects, and individuals who already have a large follower community could likely charge higher prices with a sudden flood of consumers.”
While Yurcho believes a major social media platform’s involvement could spike prices at first, that accessibility could make NFTS more affordable down the road. “I think a widespread launch would certainly give more legitimacy to the technology, and likely bring some of these excessive prices you see today back down to reality,” he says. “This is going to happen on its own over the course of time, with the underlying blockchain technologies improving and marketplaces allowing easier creation.”
NFTs are backed by blockchain, a record of ownership that’s saved over multiple servers to make hacks more difficult. Because NFTs have a record of ownership, the technology could potentially help thwart image theft on the social media platforms or serve as another income stream for creators. In a video posted in December, Mosseri called NFTs “an interesting place that we can play and also a way to hopefully help creators.”
“Photographers and meme creators usually want their content to be viewed as many times as possible,” Yurcho explains. “Creating NFTs out of their images would not only help protect against fraudulent ownership, but could serve as a digital copyright on their content. This would ensure only the creator, or owner of that token has the ability to profit from that specific image.”
As with any new technology, there are a number of potential pitfalls for the company that’s made headlines for privacy breaches. One of the biggest risks is launching the technology to billions of people at a time when NFTs aren’t widely understood. “Any emerging technology field is filled with scams, and there certainly are many NFT projects which are looking to take advantage of uneducated consumers,” Yurcho says. “If it became widely accessible for users to tokenize their content, I don’t believe the average person would understand the benefits and pitfalls of doing so.”
Meta hasn’t provided further details about the possibility of an NFT Marketplace, outside of Mosseri’s post that Instagram is “actively exploring” NFTs. Exactly how an NFT space would look on the platforms—and how they would benefit creators and users—is still up for debate.