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What are NFTs and why are people paying millions for them?

Words by Nathan Irvine

Virtually nothing

You may have seen the initials "NFT" in the news and social media recently. You might well have noticed that people are paying incredible amounts of money for them. But what you might not know it, well, anything else.

In layperson's terms, NFT - or Non-Fungible Token - is a digital file that can only be owned by one person. It can be a GIF, item in a video game, song or drawing. It lives in the same universe as Bitcoin and all the other cryptocurrencies. And once it is owned, the holder of the ledger can then choose to keep or sell it to someone else.

Think of it as a digital piece of art. Except instead of buying a physical object like a framed van Gogh painting, you've got digital item created by the likes of Steve Aoki. Got it? Good.

The aforementioned DJ just sold one of his pieces to the former head of T-Mobile, John Legere for a whopping $888,888.88 (AED 3.2m). That piece in question is titled "Hairy" - a 36 second animation set to music. And here it is...

What the what?

These digital files are uploaded to the NFT auction, which is a designated part of the internet where people can bid on such works and pay via cryptocurrency. Now here's the catch - whoever buys the file doesn't actually have exclusive access to it. So basically, anyone can still view it. And as pretty much everything on the web these days, there are already shady folks operating within the NFT industry and uploading files for sale that don't actually belong to them.

But NFTs are being recognised as the next "must have", erm, thing. World famous auction house Christie's recently sold "Everydays: The First 5000 Days" (below) from digital artist Beeple (aka Mike Winkelmann) for an astronomical $69m (AED 253m).

Beeple Everydays: The First 5000 Days

Getting started

Beeple told The Verge that he views this as "just getting started", which is staggering considering the record sum he sold a piece for. "I do view this as the next chapter of art history" he said.

The best part about NFTs? Anyone can go ahead and make one. The internet is already awash with guides on how to do it, so tap it into your search engine of choice and get going. You could be the Leonardo Da Vinci of the present day.

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