NFTs: A passing trend or here to stay? Americans and UK residents have very different opinions

Non-fungible tokens are the new way to buy all kinds of digital objects from original art and music to gifs and tweets.

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Image: iStockphoto/KeremYucel

Americans are confident that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are ready to take over the art world, according to a new survey about the trendy cryptocurrency. Piplsay polled 30,390 residents in American and 6,050 residents in the UK in March 2021 to determine what people think about these digital assets. British people are more skeptical about the longevity of this digital format, but both groups want companies and artists to make sure NFTs don't make the climate crisis worse.

NTFs are a type of cryptocurrency that can carry items instead of money. The digital items are part of the Ethereum blockchain and assign traceable ownership of the crypto collectible to the buyer-provenance in the worlds of fine art and collectibles. Artists and celebrities are using the format to sell memorabilia and artwork. Kings of Leon released its latest album "When You See Yourself" as a non-fungible token in March and Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet for $2.9 million as an NFT.

The survey found that 59% of Americans think NFT art is the future of visual and other creative mediums. Only 39% of survey respondents in the UK think that is the case. Both groups described the NFT trend as an interesting money-making venture and a way for artists to raise money quickly. British survey respondents were more likely than Americans to describe these non-fungible digital assets as a silly trend, 23% vs. 17%.

SEE: William Shatner explores the world of blockchain with digital trading cards (TechRepublic)

The survey also asked about the impact of cryptocurrency and NFTs on global warming. Fifty-five percent of American respondents and 49% of respondents in the UK said celebrities and brands should act responsibly when promoting NFTs. However, a quarter of respondents said they were not aware of the environmental impact of cryptocurrency. Bill Gates recently warned that cryptocurrency has an enormous carbon footprint and has the potential to make climate change even worse. 

Bitcoin has the potential to consume as much energy as all data centers globally, according to an article on Digiconomist that explains a new paper published in the journal Joule. Digiconomist also estimates that a single bitcoin transaction uses as much energy as an average U.S. home uses in 24 days.

People in Britain didn't know as much about NFTs as Americans do, with 59% of respondents saying they were not at all aware of this new medium compared to 42% of Americans.

Respondents are split on the idea that NFTs are a way for rich people to make more money. About a third of respondents think that NTF art will be "just another playground for the mega-rich" but another third think that this will change over time. 

In March, Christie's sold its first digital-only art piece, a composite of 5,000 drawings by the digital artist Beeple, as Richard Nieva explained on CNET. The final price tag was $69.3 million. By comparison, Christie's sold a physical painting by Leonardo da Vinci for $450 million in 2017

Artists stand to earn more money over time in an NFT marketplace because blockchain technology offers the ability to set smart contracts that accompany the art. For example, Beeple's contract with his recent sale ensures that he earns 10% on every sale on the secondary market. Many NFTs are resold immediately for a profit. The contract component of NFTs means that artists benefit from these sales along with the owner of the work. 

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...