Saving NFTs Will Come Down To Evolution And Innovation

2024/04/15 Innoverview Read

“Adapt or die.” Those are the words of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) to his about-to-be-fired director of scouting Grady Fuson (played by Ken Medlock) in the 2011 film Moneyball.

Beane was pushing for an innovative new approach to baseball that Fuson and other old-school minds fought tooth and nail against, but has since come to dominate the entire sports world today: analytics. In three words, Beane summed up not just the world of baseball, but that of almost all industries: Get with the times or your company, organization, job, whatever, could be lost.

The notion has played out across numerous sectors, particularly in today’s digital age, and the NFT industry is no different.

Adapt Or Die

The NFT industry is at the point where we must adapt or we will likely die. Truthfully, if NFTs’ revolutionary technology continues to be relegated to things like cartoon JPEGs and bogus “digital collectibles,” then we might already be on our way out.

So, I believe it’s time for us to heed Beane’s words. It’s time for us to do away with character-driven collections propped up by empty promises of future utility. It’s time for us to end NFTs’ association with things like meme culture and crypto scams. It’s time for us to evolve and innovate. It’s time for us to save NFTs.

Why do NFTs need to be saved?

Well, as I’ve written about before, I believe blockchain and NFT technology can create transformative change around the world. But, NFTs clearly have a branding problem and calling them “digital collectibles” isn’t a real solution. I think the branding problem has gotten so bad that it’s time for us to ditch “non-fungible token” altogether and embrace my chosen alternative: the “unique digital record.”

In the first part of this three-part series, I wrote about rebranding “non-fungible tokens” and why a rebrand can work. In this second part, I’d like to take it a step further. Let’s talk about saving NFTs, and why that will require evolving the technology and establishing innovative use cases that add value.

Evolving And Innovating To Save NFTs

Evolving the technology and establishing innovative use cases is probably the best way to prevent NFTs from being relegated to enterprise technology or, worse, becoming another passing fad.

Today, for the first time ever, technology allows us to incontrovertibly prove the ownership of digital assets. The technology can be applied across various industries and the barriers to entry are fairly low. NFTs can and should be a vital tool in today’s digital age, yet we’re at risk of losing the technology because it’s associated with things like scams, “rugged” collections and inexperienced or insincere entrepreneurs.

Evolution Can Save Dying Products

When products—technology, physical goods, entertainment media, etc.—face potential obsolescence, regardless of whether it’s been brought on by bad decisions or market dynamics, evolving the product can save it; being stagnant and hoping for change cannot.

There are countless examples. Consider Yellow Pages (now “YP”), which took its operations online as the internet made its once-ubiquitous book obsolete. Or Barnes & Noble, who staved off death by embracing the internet, including taking control of its online sales and launching its Nook e-reader.

But the best example is one we’re all familiar with: Netflix.

Netflix began its life as a DVD rental-by-mail service, eventually burning through so much money during the dot-com crash that it offered to partner with Blockbuster for $50 million in the early 2000s. After being rejected (and reportedly laughed at by Blockbuster executives), the company launched its video streaming service and went all in on digital, including licensing popular legacy content and eventually launching several of its own globally popular original series.

As of the fourth quarter of 2023, Netflix has around 260 million paid subscribers worldwide, reporting some $8.8 billion in revenue on the year, a 12.5% increase from the year prior. It officially ended its DVD rental service in September 2023.

What does it look like when a company fails to evolve while facing death?

Well, it looks like Blockbuster, which ignored the digital movement and declined Netflix’s partnership. It went on to declare bankruptcy in 2010 and eventually closed all 9,000 of its brick-and-mortar stores (the sole remaining Blockbuster operates independently).

It also looks like a company that was once one of Barnes & Noble’s biggest competitors but is now gone: Borders, who failed to adapt to new technology and never truly embraced the internet like its rival. (Borders at one point outsourced its online selling to Amazon.) Now, Barnes & Noble owns its trademarks and customer list, and the webpage welcoming Borders customers is still active on the B&N website more than a decade later.

Evolution Requires Innovative Use Cases

If the way to prevent corporate death is by evolving, then how do we make that evolution happen?

It’s actually fairly straightforward: by establishing innovative, valuable use cases. I’d like to reiterate the second part because it’s the key: The use case must actually add value.

It must be valuable for some user, whether an individual, industry, organization, whatever, to leverage NFT technology while performing whatever task the use case is designed to accomplish. It can’t just be a use case featuring an NFT; it must be an actual use for the technology itself.

To build a sustainable industry, we need to move past the “gamification” of things. Companies don’t need to develop entirely “novel” products, but we should avoid simply repackaging existing offerings with buzzy new terms and empty hype.

To find innovative use cases, NFT companies must earnestly examine what their products offer. Is it another “digital collectible” with no true utility? Or a website allowing you to upload an NFT as a profile picture? Then you aren’t truly moving the needle forward.

Will any one choice be the evolution that saves NFTs? That remains to be seen, but we must do something. We have to get active to save NFTs.

(Copyright:Forbes Saving NFTs Will Come Down To Evolution And Innovation (