Rarity holds a lot of clout in retail — but these days, it takes form in NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, traded in online marketplaces offering eccentric digital works of art and modern-day collectibles.
Sales of NFTs reached $25 billion in 2021, compared to $94 million the year prior, according to blockchain analytics platform DappRadar, proving that the market is primed and ready.
It’s why companies such as Rarible, an Ethereum-based multichain NFT marketplace specializing in digital art, collectibles, music and video NFTS, and wearables, among other niche digital items, boasts $274 million worth in trading volume, has had more than 405,000 NFTs created on its platform, and counts 1.6 million total users on its platform, all since its founding in 2019.
Here, Alex Salnikov, cofounder and head of product at Rarible, talks to WWD about its pioneering origins in the NFT space, sustainability and energy consumption in the segment, and the future of the evolving NFT industry.
WWD: What was the genesis of Rarible? How is it differentiated in the NFT market?
Alex Salnikov: Rarible was founded in 2019 with a mission to make the NFT technology accessible and unlock the notion of digital ownership for a mass audience. It has since become one of the largest and most popular NFT marketplaces and protocols empowering creators and collectors everywhere to leverage this new exciting medium.
The usability of NFTs for newer users has long been a major obstacle to promoting wider adoption of the technology beyond the crypto industry. Rarible has been a true pioneer in building easy-to-use NFT minting technology. Through its familiar and intuitive user interface, the Rarible marketplace enables both NFT experts and blockchain novices to rapidly mint an NFT in under 10 minutes.
Another typical barrier to entry in the NFT industry is the complexity and high cost of building the back-end technology required to launch NFT projects. To tackle this obstacle, Rarible launched a proprietary protocol earlier this year [that] provides developers with a full tech stack needed to easily and efficiently launch customized NFT projects.
Notably, the Rarible Protocol indexer is the first fully open-source store of data available for NFT developers. It grants developers access to the information they need to successfully build and maintain NFT projects such as key information regarding NFT orders, activity, and ranking or sorting for leaderboard purposes.
Finally, Rarible takes an entirely community-centric approach to the team’s internal organization to fulfill the true ethos of blockchain, which is to be decentralized. As such, Rarible has been at the forefront of this mission to decentralize NFT projects by developing their own Decentralized Autonomous Organization, or DAO. The Rarible DAO is a separate entity from the Rarible marketplace and is composed of valued members of the Rarible community, from developers to NFT thought leaders, who are granted the ownership and decision-making rights over the development of the protocol.
WWD: Rarible recently integrated the Flow blockchain. How does this move change or improve its business?
A.S.: The future of the NFT space, and the broader blockchain space, will be strongly reliant on a multichain structure. This means that NFT projects will need to expand and adapt their underlying technological infrastructure to accommodate multiple blockchains, enabling users to engage with various projects across the broader blockchain ecosystem and enjoy cross-chain collaborations between many different projects.
Rarible’s integration with Flow marked a major step forward in the team’s mission to launch multichain operations and drastically improve the user experience for community members as they navigate across projects on various blockchains. To further this mission, the Rarible team also recently announced an integration with the Tezos blockchain, enabling Rarible marketplace users to engage with NFTs native to the Tezos ecosystem, including NFTs playable in an AAA-game from the legacy gaming studio, Ubisoft.
Further, Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchains such as Flow and Tezos consume significantly less energy than other established blockchains such as Ethereum, which operates on a Proof of Work (PoW) model. By integrating with PoS chains rather than other PoW chains, Rarible is taking a key step toward developing a more environmentally sustainable business model and lessening the carbon footprint of its marketplace and protocol operations. For instance, the annual carbon footprint of Tezos is equivalent to that of 17 world citizens despite the network hosting more than 50 million transactions.
WWD: Would you explain Rarible’s new modality called “lazy minting”? How does it impact sustainability in the NFT segment?
A.S.: Rarible’s “lazy minting” tool is a unique feature of the Rarible Protocol [that] enables anyone, from NFT expert to crypto newcomer, to easily mint, or create, an NFT without paying a transaction fee. Instead, the gas costs associated with minting the NFT are covered by the buyer once the NFT is sold. After the purchase of the NFT is made, it is minted to the creator’s wallet and transferred to the new owner immediately.
This significantly expands the accessibility and affordability of creating NFT projects and ensures the longevity and sustainability of the industry by empowering creators worldwide to launch NFT innovations rapidly with zero crypto onboarding. Further, if there’s no demand for a lazy minted NFT and no one buys it, it technically doesn’t get created, meaning no energy is spent on it — which adds up to substantial energy savings on Ethereum, since it’s a PoW blockchain.
WWD: How has the NFT market evolved of late? Are there any notable emerging trends, opportunities, or behaviors?
A.S.: 2021 was a whirlwind year for the NFT space and as the industry matures, we expect the blockchain-based gaming sector and the “play-to-earn” model it’s championing to grow substantially over the next year.
So, we expect to see a growing community of gamers begin to engage with playable NFTs and participate in in-game economies with digital assets. This movement will be two-sided; new blockchain-based gaming studios will be developed by a growing community of crypto-native developers and simultaneously, more major traditional gaming studios will begin to integrate blockchain technology and NFTs into their existing platforms. We’re already seeing gaming companies as large as Ubisoft enter the NFT industry, as they recently launched their energy efficient playable NFTs on Tezos.
WWD: What’s next for Rarible?
A.S.: In the last year, Rarible passed several very exciting milestones including the launch of our mobile app with an NFT widget display feature and the launch of our Messenger feature. We established ourselves as a multichain platform by integrating with Flow and Tezos. We also launched numerous products including the Rarible Protocol, mobile app and Messenger function, among other things. Heading into the next year, the team will be focused on expanding and scaling multichain operations by integrating with a number of other prominent blockchains and collaborating with other exciting cross-chain projects in the NFT and broader crypto space.
The team will also be devoted to developing a more environmentally sustainable and inclusive user experience. The recent integration with Tezos, whose energy consumption is estimated at 0.001 TWh, is a great step forward, and we will soon be launching integrations with other PoS chains as well. We will also be developing our technology to add an option for any user to offset the carbon footprint for any Ethereum NFT minted on Rarible via a unique partnership.
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