Even though we’re in the midst of a long and hard crypto bear market, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of bullish news. Right on the heels of reports that Twitter was secretly developing a cryptocurrency wallet, social media giant Meta has announced that Instagram will allow creators to mint and sell NFT’s, exclusively on the Polygon blockchain. Could this make NFT’s mainstream, and will it help the declining crypto markets bounce back? Let’s dive in and find out.
Firstly, this news is another big win for Polygon, an Ethereum scaling platform that has become extremely attractive with its low fees. Since the news broke, the price of MATIC has surged by as much at 50% bringing it to $1.31, the highest point in 7 months. Back in April, Stripe began supporting crypto payouts via Polygon with the aim of expanding its geographic coverage and assisting people without access to traditional banking. Their decision to choose Polygon was cited as being due to its “low fees, speed, integration with Ethereum and broad wallet compatibility”. In July, Reddit announced the launch of their Collectible Avatar NFT’s on the Polygon blockchain. This project generated a lot of hype and after 3 months users of Reddit had created over 3 million wallets to buy these avatars. In a blog post Reddit stated “we chose Polygon for its low cost transactions.” In September, trading and investing app, Robinhood, exclusively selected Polygon for its Web3 wallet. Again, the Robinhood spokesperson cited Polygon’s “scalability, speed, low network fees, and robust developer ecosystem” as their reasoning for this decision. With Meta, they didn’t explicitly say why they chose Polygon over other blockchains, but we can assume that it’s for the same reasons.
The announcement published to Meta’s website stated that the ability to mint and sell Polygon NFT’s was already live, but they’ve only made it available to a small group of people in the United States. Until it is rolled out to everybody, I don’t see this generating much hype among the masses or even awareness that this capability exists. When it is rolled out to the billions of Instagram users, that’s when people are going to see that their friends have created some NFT’s, or their favorite artists, brands and influencers. Things will just snowball from there and that is when I would expect interest and sales of these NFT’s to really blow up. In the meantime, something that is available to everyone, is the ability to connect a wallet and showcase NFT’s from the Ethereum, Polygon, Flow and Solana blockchains. This does require existing expertise and interest in the field of cryptocurrencies and NFT’s, so I’d say that right now it’s probably only being used by a very small group. That’s why the new minting and selling tools are such big deal. It’s packaging up all the complexities of these processes and presenting a simple and easy to use interface to the end-user. You won’t need to be crypto savvy to use this.
Screenshots released by Meta show what it will look like to create and sell NFT collections in the Instagram app. It would appear that you can create a collection and add NFT’s by simply uploading an image, just as you would with a normal Instagram post. There is also a field for a “Digital Wallet” where it displays a Metamask address. So, for storing and managing these NFT’s they’re allowing the use of 3rd party applications like Metamask, but this would mean that if users want to move their NFT around they would have to acquire MATIC outside of Instagram to pay gas fees. Obviously this isn’t ideal for the average Instagram user because it complicates things to some extent. What’s interesting is a line on the buy page that says, when using a credit or debit card to buy collectibles, “Meta will pay the blockchain fee”. So, I suppose they will at least cover the cost of sending the NFT to an external address. The screenshot also reveals that Instagram users will be able to pay for NFT’s with credit or debit cards, an industry first, although it’s disappointing that there doesn’t appear to be a crypto payment option. That’s something they should definitely add, particularly given that the app already connects with wallets like Metamask.
One concern with the NFT buying and selling functionality is Apple’s App Store policies. According to Statista, IOS accounts for just under 28% of the mobile operating system market share, which is a pretty significant chunk. Less than 2 weeks ago, Apple updated its guidelines on how users may interact with non-fungible tokens through its App Store. While they have officially green-lit the ability to mint, buy and sell NFT’s, it must all go through Apple’s in-app payment mechanism which is notoriously hated by app developers for its 30% tax. This tax is in addition to other fees like that of the NFT marketplace, which in the case of Instagram we do not yet know but on OpenSea its 2.5%. Then there’s the NFT creator royalty, a payment made to the creator every time the NFT is sold, that apparently averages at around 5%. With all these middlemen taking cuts, it looks like the price of NFT’s are going to be massively inflated on Instagram and that may result in cheaper prices on other marketplaces. In saying this, the average Instagram user is probably oblivious to the fact that the fees exist and will still buy through the platform anyway.
One thing is for certain, despite the bear market there is still an interest in NFT’s. Big companies like Meta are investing in building the infrastructure for billions of users to access digital collectibles. Come the next bull market, I think the cryptocurrency space is in for an influx of new users unlike anything it’s seen before.