Reddit recently launched its own set of NFTs which are accessible for purchase. Although in its initial announcement, the company tried not to use the term “NFT” anywhere, it later admitted that these new avatars were tokens of the non-fungible variety.
This complicated the situation, and it created doubt in future users about their preparedness for what they were to get, and wondered why the company opted for this.
Reddit NFT Collectible Avatars Linked to MetaMask
Reddit worked to make its set of NFT Collectible Avatars very simple and also easy to link the user’s “MetaMask” wallet registration to the user’s account. The NFT avatars are linked to the Polygon scaling network tied to the Ethereum blockchain and users can sell them on the OpenSea NFT marketplace, of which Reddit owns a 5% cut of each sale made.
At the start of August, Reddit opened up new publicity in an effort to get its users to build a crypto wallet by handing out free NFTs to about 50,000 prolific users of the platform. The company eventually wants to hand out free avatars to 10 million users.
It’s difficult to estimate the overall opinion of hundreds of millions of active users, but Redditors haven’t organized blowback to the move on the scale of other communities like video gamers or tabletop roleplayers.
This may possibly be due to Reddit’s messaging. Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman granting an interview with verge said he’s against even using crypto jargon in any of these announcements. He said, “it just confuses people.” Blockchain tech is opaque at the best of times. It combines the terminology of finance and technology, two industries well-known for their complicatedness of language.
Huffman called Crypto Extremely Distasteful and Counterproductive
Based on the interview, Huffman is well aware of the problems in the crypto scene. He called much of the crypto stuff “extremely distasteful and counter-productive… parasitic and delusional.” He added that Reddit’s business model is not “let’s sell NFTs to crypto people to make a bunch of money” but instead “to put identity and reputation into a third-party database.”
When Gizmodo’s inquired about what resources Reddit provides to let users understand this push into the blockchain, the company in its reply said “We’ve been very open and public about the project, and have explained the technology along with our plans here and here. We’ve been transparently communicating with users (here) about hosting and security.”
Still, they did not refer to any of these avatars in the advertising posts as NFTs. They do refer to the avatars being “on the blockchain,” which requires a wallet. Reddit said, “Having Collectible Avatars on the blockchain gives you – the purchaser – ownership over your Avatar, no matter where you want to take it, on or off Reddit.” However, this explanation does not show the true, complicatedness of ownership in relation to NFTs. These non-fungible tokens act more as digital receipts, not ownership of the file itself. They are still exploring the complicated issues of trademark and copyright related to NFTs.
Evading precise language in an endeavor to clear up confusion, or perhaps due to the stigma Huffman admitted NFTs have, might end up being counterproductive in the long run, as users end up buying avatars without knowing what they’re getting or how to securely maintain a crypto wallet.
One-Third of Active Redditors Have Created Their Own Avatars
The CEO said that one-third of active Reddit users have created their own avatars after the company released its avatar builder for the platform. The company has promoted other avatars with big-name IPs as well, but the CEO said this emphasis on user-created content —with this new focus on NFTs — is more in-line with what it envisions for the forum. Huffman said this focus on identity lets users “reveal your hobby without revealing your race… reveal some of your styles without revealing your age or your gender.”
So, why are NFTs and blockchain tech necessary for this? Well, Huffman admires the concept of artists, especially active Reddit users, selling avatars, letting them earn money from other users. He calls NFTs “closer to actual ownership” than other digital goods since they are not beholden to any one company. Mind you, such non-fungible tokens are very much beholden to the blockchain platform itself and the centralized website where such tokens are listed.
This Might Affect Huffman’s Utopia
This can prove to be an issue for Huffman’s proposed utopia. A staff previously at OpenSea has been charged with insider trading, all while the platform has routinely struggled to deal with what is effectively NFT plagiarism and fraud. Not to mention, OpenSea has been under the attack of hackers through phishing, enabling hackers to do away with $1.7 million in digital goods.
Meanwhile, the Polygon blockchain ecosystem has become a major source of apps of all stripes across both the De-Fi scene and centralized blockchain ventures. It claims to be less environmentally harmful than other blockchains, though there are many holes in that argument. Digiconomist wrote back in February that Polygon’s contracts on the Ethereum network do increase the overall carbon footprint for the blockchain.
Based on the interview, Huffman is very crucial about the usage of blockchain technology so far, and he doesn’t want to make any overt claim to reinvent the wheel.
Twitter and Instagram to Introduce Avatars
Reddit’s not the only social platform to squeeze NFT avatars into their existing systems. Twitter and Instagram allow for NFT avatars, which of course cost a bit extra to display. Snapchat is considering letting users turn NFTs into filters. Twitter product lead Esther Crawford talking to the Wall Street Journal at the beginning of the year said “We want to support this growing interest among creators to use decentralized apps to manage virtual goods and currencies,” which is of course a load of jargon and nonsense.
Describing in relation to other social platforms, Reddit is trying to emphasize the user side of the equation with its focus on artists active on its forums. However, the problem with not using the appropriate NFT vocabulary in efforts to increase usability and make it simpler for users is that it has the potential to conceal the issues with systems like OpenSea that facilitate these trades.
Although it’s a herculean task explaining blockchain technology in a concise, and comprehensive way, leaving out the specifics of this technology when introducing it to users might not be the answer either.