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NFT blockchains overview
An overview of the pros and cons of the leading NFT blockchains
NFTs are now a very popular use case for blockchains and it is no surprise that most blockchains with smart contract capabilities have developed NFT frameworks. However, it does not mean all blockchains are built equal and have the same level of infrastructure to support the current state of the crypto art industry.
Ethereum is the reigning king of NFTs and crypto art today, as it kickstarted the movement in 2017 with the ERC-721 NFT standard with Cryptokitties. It is home to the top crypto art marketplaces including SuperRare, OpenSea, NiftyGateway, Makersplace, and Foundation. In January 2022, these platforms attracted a total of over $12b in sales. SuperRare alone now has over 1,919 artists and 4,449 collectors, while Foundation has had over 22,111 individual bidders and more than $154m in bid volume since early February 2021. Ethereum definitely leads in terms of supply of artists and liquidity provided by an active and growing collector base.
Ethereum also has a vibrant sidechain ecosystem (blockchains interoperable with Ethereum that provide some advantageous trade-offs on scalability and costs). To name a few, Polygon has attracted a large number of art and collectibles projects, and Palm has launched recently in collaboration with major players in the crypto art space and with their first project being from Damien Hirst, one of the world’s most valuable living artist. This should allow more artists and collectors to leverage the Ethereum ecosystem, while benefiting from new generation infrastructure.
Ethereum has the infrastructure and an active collector and artist base, but its costs can be prohibitive to some. Depending on network usage, it can cost a few hundred dollars to mint and list a piece for an artist, or $50-$100 for a collector to bid on a piece. On one hand, this can act as a filter to make sure that artists only mint pieces they really believe in, but on the other hand, it can prevent talented artists and new collectors from making the jump. Overall, Ethereum maintains its strong lead and offers its NFTs a price premium versus other blockchains but new alternatives will challenge its grasp on the market.
Tezos has a burgeoning ecosystem that mostly comes from the hype around the “Clean NFTs” movement and its fast, cheap, and ecological transactions. New platforms like Kalamint have been attracting an interesting number of talented artists and active collectors, pointing to a clear interest for alternatives to Ethereum-based platforms.
Though, Tezos-based NFTs are not commanding the same prices than their Ethereum counterparts. Even top artists sell NFTs for a few hundred dollars as collectors do not yet attribute the same value to pieces on Tezos platforms. While it may evolve in the future, Tezos marketplaces offer a test bed for top artists and a launchpad for aspiring artists without the same level of curation found on platforms like SuperRare. As liquidity increases and infrastructure develops, Tezos will become an interesting alternative to Ethereum.
Built by Dapper Labs, the creators of Cryptokitties, Flow was designed with a major focus on NFTs in mind and the team has attracted major brands like Aminoca and the UFC to create collectibles. Similarly to Tezos, transactions are fast and cheap, and there are extensive frameworks to launch NFTs. However, the infrastructure is still very centralized around NBA Top Shot, a Dapper Lab project focused exclusively on NBA collectibles, and VIV3, a crypto art and collectibles marketplace.
The Solana NFT ecosystem is quickly gaining market share against Ethereum as it offers great marketplaces with Magic Eden, Solsea, and Solanart, an established NFT framework from Metaplex, and established wallet infrastructure with Phantom. While the Solana NFT market was kicked off with copy cats of popular Ethereum collectibles, it has developed its own collectible brands and is now starting to attract artists. While the art market is still limited on Solana, it has enough momentum to capture the next wave of creators.