Cryptocurrencies had a great year in 2021. In this period, we have seen the market go from being classified as a billion-dollar economy into a trillion-dollar economy. Aside from that, cryptocurrencies are gaining visibility in the mainstream world with, for example, El Salvador's adoption of Bitcoin as the official digital currency. As a result, investors are looking for the "new Bitcoin" on the market, hoping to find a great alternative in so-called altcoins. Unfortunately, many traders value an altcoin exclusively…
From time immemorial, people have always loved to collect and store items they consider useful. From books, posters, stamps, Pokemon cards, games, souvenirs, etc., people have loved to collect things that resonate with their interests and passions.
Imagine owning your favorite celebrity’s memorabilia or a virtual gallery of digital artwork, which you can take anywhere with you. Yes! This is possible through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the blockchain. NFTs are a type of crypto token representing physical assets and cannot be interchanged or swapped in the real world.
While the crypto space in 2020 was dominated by the DeFi craze, the launch of Ethereum 2.0, and Bitcoin breaking price records, NFTs hit crypto news headlines and could easily steal the limelight in the crypto world in 2021. Since its launch in 2017, NFTs have recorded incredible growth with up to $6 million weekly transaction volume as of January 2021.
NFTs have found real-life use cases and have been endorsed by celebrities. For instance, in summer 2020, Hollywood star and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher auctioned a piece of NFT digital art (“The Eye of the Beholder”) for ETH on Cryptograph.
Renowned gamer and YouTuber Pewdiepie inked a deal with Wallem- a blockchain-based game that leverages NFTs for skins and other assets in the game. Also, top-flight football clubs, including FC Bayern München, Atletico Madrid, PSG, and Juventus, have partnered with Sorare-a NFT platform operating a global fantasy football league.
These examples are clear evidence of the slow but sure growth of the NFT sector. Here, we look at the top NFT projects to watch in 2021.
15 NFT Projects to Be Cognizant of in 2021
Service: Decentralized Art
CryptoPunks is among the high-grossing NFT projects with an average weekly trading volume of $2.2 million. The platform allows users to trade and store 10 000 unique collectible characters using Proof-of-Ownership being stored on the Ethereum Blockchain. The 10 000 collectible characters are generated uniquely, and each one of them can be owned by a single individual on the Ethereum blockchain.
Initially, the characters could be claimed by anyone with an Ethereum wallet but soon run out. Currently, the only means of obtaining the characters is buying from an owner via the platform’s marketplace, allowing users to bid, buy and sell the unique characters.
By allowing art ownership to be seamlessly transferred between individuals, CryptoPunks is creating a decentralized art market. However, unlike traditional art that can be hung on a wall, CryptoPunks art is digital and presents a digital certificate of authenticity of the Ethereum blockchain. To date, 8, 062 CryptoPunks have been traded with an all-time trade volume of over $14 million.
Service: Decentralized Virtual World/ Gaming
Decentraland is a decentralized virtual world that allows users to enter a virtual world where they participate in the governance process by using customized avatars and collectibles which can be traded. To enter the virtual world, i.e., Decentraland, users need first to set up their unique avatar, which is then offered a virtual passport representing its identity in the virtual world.
Once in Decentraland, users can direct their avatars to build cities, participate in the governance process or buy rare digital assets. Users need to buy MANA-a, a fungible digital currency used in the Decentraland marketplace and available in leading exchanges. LAND is the platform’s NFT token used to represent estates and parcels ownership in the virtual world. Decentraland is currently the second-largest NFT platform with an all-time trade volume of over $22.6 million and will cause ripples in 2021.
Service: Decentralized Marketplace for Digital Collectibles
Rarible is a decentralized NFT market founded by Alex Falin and Alexander Salnikov in January 2020. The platform allows users to trade and mint a wide range of rare digital collectibles and products, including domain names, digital art, digital collectibles and products, memes, metaverses, DeFi insurance policies.
The platform stands out by allowing digital collectibles’ minting meaning that anyone, including artists and content creators, can upload collectibles such as photos, audios, videos, etc., and earn from them. Raible is also the first NFT project to launch its governance token, RARI, to create an autonomous organization. All-time trading volume is currently at $14.3 million.
Ethereum Name Services
Service: Domain Naming
Founded in May 2017 by the Ethereum Foundation, Ethereum Name Services is the leading NFT protocol in domain names. The platform is essentially an open, distributed, and extensible domain naming system built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Currently, the platform has over 190 000 registered names harboring over 100 wallets and Dapps. Ethereum Name Services offer “.ETH” domain names that are unique and non-fungible in line with ERC-721 standards. This means that they can seamlessly be integrated into wallet interfaces and NFT markets such as OpenSea and Raible. The platform is the leading NFT domain naming service with an all-time trading volume of $3 million.
Service: Digital Art Marketplace
SuperRare is a digital art marketplace for single-edition digital artworks. The platform was founded in 2017 by John Crain and allowed artists to tokenize and monetize their verifiable, single-edition artworks as collectibles.
To achieve this, the platform uses an ERC-721 token, traceable on the network and secured by cryptography to represent each art work. Artists upload their authentic digital artwork on the platform. SuperRare then certifies the artworks on the Ethereum blockchain to prevent forgery and offers to trace. The platform also features digital displays and virtual reality galleries where artists can display their artwork.
Art collectors can purchase authentic artworks on the platform represented by NFTs and resell the NFTs in markets such as OpenSea. SuperRare charges artists a commission to upload artworks on the platform. For direct sales, artists receive 85% of the revenues while the platform keeps the remaining 15%. For indirect sales, artists get 10% as royalty.
SuperRare has an all-time trading volume of $7.5 million and among the top ranking NFT-art marketplaces. Over 12 000 pieces of digital art have been sold on the platform.
Service: Collectibles Marketplace
Cryptograph is a unique NFT protocol that seeks to raise money for charity. The platform allows users to buy collectibles, usually in diagrams, paintings, famous drawings, etc., from their favorite icons and artists to raise money for charity. Each collectible, i.e., Cryptography, is 100% unique and cannot be forged or sold again by its creator.
This is because they are ERC-721 tokens and are also implemented using the ERC-2665 transfer function extension. To create a Cryptograph, an artist must have a specific charity cause in mind. Once a Cryptograph is sold, the money is automatically donated to the creator’s cause. Celebrities including Set Green, Ashley Green, and Paris Hilton have created collectibles and sold them on the platform. Recently, Paris Hilton sold her digital painting of a cat for 40 ETH with all the money going to charity.
Service: NFT Gaming
Launched in 2017, CryptoKitties was the first NFT protocol to hit the crypto space, causing mainstream attention. CryptoKitties is an Ethereum-based game where users collect and breed virtual cats pegged “Crypto Kitties.” Players can also buy and sell cats, create a collection, earn rewards, and play certain games. The digital cats are NFT tokens, meaning that they are unique and cannot be replicated, destroyed, or stolen from a user-they also have unique appearances and traits.
To play the game, users need to first deposit ETH in the game’s official wallet (Dapper Labs) and then start breeding new kitties using two ways: breeding with a public sire or breeding your kitties. Users purchase their first kitty in the platform’s marketplace or bid for a kitty using the game’s Offer System. The digital cats attract high value determined by their generation and rarity. The most expensive Crypto Kitty retailed at 600 ETH, which was about $170 000.
By allowing a user to breed rare cats and resell new kitties for for-profits, CryptoKitties is among the best NFT platforms. In late 2017, the game witnessed a boom leading to daily transactions on the Ethereum network, reaching an all-time high of 1.349 in January 2018. This highlighted scalability problems on the network causing it to migrate from PoW to PoS with the launch of Ethereum 2.0
Service: NFT Gaming
If you love fantasy football, this is your ideal NFT platform. Sorare is a fantasy football platform that allows users to act as football managers and guide their teams to win prizes. Users can collect limited edition digital collectibles, including cards of real players.
The digital cards are limited NFTs and are stored on the Ethereum blockchain and freely traded in the marketplace. To play fantasy football, users need to compose a team with five cards of their choice and rank based on the selected players’ performance in real matches. Users compete across multiple divisions and earn weekly prizes based on the performance of the chosen players.
Sorare is becoming quite popular and has currently partnered with 126 official football clubs from Serie A, La Liga, and English Premier Leagues. More clubs and leagues will be added with time. Currently, over $1 million worth of trading cards has been sold across 50 countries with a current all-time trading volume of $10.4 million. It’s the second-largest NFT protocol in terms of the trading volume.
Service: NFT Infrastructure
Falcon Project is a revolutionary crypto platform built on two blockchains to offer users three substitutable and corresponding products: FNT token (ERC-20 token), FNC (a private coin), and high-yield NFT (ERC-1155) vouchers and commemorative cards.
The project introduces NFTs as Proof of Ownership to eliminate the need to have tons of paper certificates or bulky apps in phones as documentary evidence. The project features NFT certificates, which users can prove ownership of any collectible they might own. NFT certificates function as a unique digital tokenized copy of any physical asset, including comics, real estate, rare action figures, jewelry, etc.
The NFT certificates are permanently stored on the Falcon Project blockchain, meaning that information about particular physical access ownership can be accessed anywhere, anytime.
Falcon Project’s NFT certificate has great potential with widespread use cases, notably eliminating the need to hold dozens of documents/items that prove ownership of physical assets. To prove ownership of any possession registered on the blockchain, NFT certificate holders need to make a signature transaction on the ETH network. The first implementation of Falcon Project’s Proof of Ownership innovative model is the silver souvenir coin. All owners of the physical coin are given an NFT certificate to prove that they own the coin.
In essence, Falcon Project taps blockchain technology to prove ownership of physical assets through NFTs, which replace cumbersome paper documents and certificates. This is definitely an NFT project to watch in 2021.
Service: Decentralized Naming and Certificate Authority
Handshake Domains is another great decentralized, permissionless domain naming platform that offers proof of ownership of domains on the Ethereum blockchain. The domains are issued on NameBase.io then stored on the Handshake Blockchain. The platform seeks to eliminate centralized control over domain names, making sites vulnerable to hacking, corruption, and censorship.
It offers a root DNS naming zone to create an alternative to existing Certificate Authorities and naming systems. By running the Handshake protocol, users can participate in a decentralized open naming platform secured by a decentralized peer-to-peer network.
Service: Decentralized Marketplace for Digital Artwork and Collectibles
KnownOrigin is among the top decentralized marketplaces allowing artists to showcase and sell their rare digital artwork and collectibles. The platform eliminates challenges experienced in the art sector, such as counterfeiting, by providing authenticity.
The platform is built on the Ethereum network and allows users to tokenize their artworks by listing them on the KnownOrigin marketplace. When an artwork is bought using ETH, the buyer’s ETH address is captured to identify the new art owner. Currently, the platform has over 406 artists, with over 13 000 artworks sold over the platform.
0xcert is the first open NFT protocol that allows users to create, own and validate unique assets on the blockchain. The platform is a blockchain API gateway that allows individuals to build decentralized apps using fungible and non-fungible tokens quickly, cost-efficiently, and securely.
The platform was launched to speed up the adoption of blockchain technologies through its 0xcert Framework, which requires less expertise. Using the framework, you can integrate digital assets functionality into your existing application in no time with just a few lines of code.
Service: Decentralized Marketplace for Rare Items
Founded in 2017, OpenSea is the largest decentralized marketplace for over 50 categories of rare items, including crypto-collectibles and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), ERC721, and ERC1155 assets. Users can buy, sell and discover rare items such as domain names, digital art, trading cards, virtual worlds, CryptoKitties, etc.
The platform also empowers developers and designers with an intuitive, powerful tool that they can use to build a marketplace for their ERC721 or ERC1155 assets for free and earn a commission from every secondary item of their digital assets. OpenSea also recently partnered with game developers to develop customizable storefronts to buy and sell crypto-collectibles automatically.
MakersPlace is a top-grossing publishing platform that allows digital creators, including artists, actors, writers, designers, etc., to create and sell their unique digital creations by leveraging blockchain technology. Using the platform, digital creators can publish authentic and limited-edition versions of their digital works.
The platform offers uploaded content with verifiable proof of authenticity, ownership, and scarcity, enabling their respective creators to earn full proceeds from their work(s). MakersPlace is among the ten-most valuable NFT protocols with current all-time trading of $2.5 million.
SandBox bills itself as “a community-driven platform where creators can monetize voxel assets and gaming experiences on the blockchain.” The NFT protocol is innovative because it allows players to build virtual worlds and works of art.
SandBox features three sub platforms: VoxEdit, which allows users to create and animate voxel art, which can be sold in digital marketplaces, Marketplace-one, to sell and collect assets; and Game Maker- play or make any game you can imagine.
The SandBox is powered by SAND (ERC-20) token and ERC-1155 tokens: LAND and FUND. The SandBox seeks to offer an immersive metaverse experience to gaming enthusiasts to design games and create virtual worlds. Despite making its entry in the crypto space recently, The SandBox is the 7th valuable NFT protocol with a current all-time trading volume of $5 million.
Non-fungible tokens have a great potential to revolutionize digital exclusivity and offer new meaning to digital property rights. 2020 was generally a good year for NFTs, with projects reaching record-breaking sales.
Even celebrities have begun collaborating with NFT projects, with some looking at possibilities of creating their very own NFTs, which their fans can collect. In 2021, we expect to see NFT growth with deeper integration between DeFi and NFTs to make them more liquid and valuable.
As we advance, NFT is still a novice concept in the crypto world, and more should be done to make them accessible to a broader audience.