Weeks after Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg teased at SXSW that Instagram will support NFTs, the platform is moving to deliver on the promise. On Monday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri revealed that new tests will kick off this week bringing NFT support.
The pilot begins with a tiny footprint, with a small group of U.S.-based participants able to share their blockchain-based digital collectibles in Feed, Stories and messaging for free. It’s a small step, but an important one in a metaverse-related initiative poised to spread across Instagram, Facebook and Meta’s other apps. Getting that just right matters, which is why the company is proceeding carefully.
In a video shared on Monday, Mosseri noted that the platform’s intent is to “start off small and learn from the community.” He also dove into some of the complexities surrounding the effort.
“I want to acknowledge upfront that NFTs and blockchain technologies are all about distributing trust and distributing power,” he explained. “But Instagram is fundamentally a centralized platform, so there’s a tension there. So one of the reasons why we’re starting small is we want to make sure that we can learn from the community. We want to make sure that we work out how to embrace those tenets of distributed trust and distributed power, despite the fact that we are, yes, a centralized platform.”
NFTs on Instagram 🎉
This week we’re beginning to test digital collectibles with a handful of US creators and collectors who will be able to share NFTs on Instagram. There will be no fees associated with posting or sharing a digital collectible on IG.
See you next week! ✌🏼 pic.twitter.com/VuJbMVSBDr
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) May 9, 2022
The idea, he continued, is to make such metaverse or Web3 tech accessible to more people.
Part of that apparently means broadening the scope to Meta’s other apps as well. In a separate Instagram share, Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive officer, said similar functionality will arrive on Facebook, too. Meanwhile on Instagram, plans are in the works to infuse augmented reality with NFTs, thanks to its Spark AR toolset, “so you can place digital art into physical spaces” and share that on Instagram Stories.
The Instagram test will begin with the Ethereum and Polygon blockchains, followed by Flow and Solana at a later date, with compatibility for Rainbow, Trust Wallet and MetaMask wallets.
Given Instagram’s prominence as a key social platform for the fashion and beauty sectors, which have been captivated by the promise and commerce of unique digital collectibles, its support for NFTs may seem a bit late. Twitter beat it to the punch in January, as the first major social media company to support NFTs in Twitter Blue profiles. The distinction, of course, is that only paying members can take advantage of it, whereas Meta and Instagram seem more interested in opening up NFTs to a much broader audience.
The differences point to the innumerable ways platforms can approach the tech — and merely acting as a trophy case for virtual art or fashion isn’t the ultimate goal.
Consider that Mosseri’s announcement began by talking about the creator economy. “Right now, there a number of different ways for creators to make money, but a lot of them are unpredictable and changing rapidly,” he said. “Now, we think one really interesting opportunity for a subset of creators is NFTs — the idea of owning a unique digital item.”
The obvious implication is that creators will be able to make money from NFTs on Instagram at some point, which will involve actual minting or creation capabilities, as Zuckerberg suggested in March at SXSW.
“Long term, I would hope that the clothing that your avatar is wearing in the metaverse can be basically minted as an NFT, and you can take it between your different places… Over the next several months, the ability to bring some of your NFTs in, hopefully over time, be able to mint things within that environment,” he said then.
From there, the commerce aspect may be similar to — or perhaps tied into — Instagram and Facebook Shops. Altogether, it looks like the beginning of a push that will lead to an NFT marketplace that’s not geared for early adopters, but for mainstream consumers.
Meta has plenty of motivation to make this work. Its massive bet on the metaverse looks even bigger now, as it still struggles to climb out of a historic hole that sheared a record $230 billion loss in market value after the fourth quarter.
But it will face stiff competition from rivals like YouTube. In a January letter to the community, CEO Susan Wojcicki said, “We’re always focused on expanding the YouTube ecosystem to help creators capitalize on emerging technologies, including things like NFTs, while continuing to strengthen and enhance the experiences creators and fans have on YouTube.”