Word of the Year – NFT

2021- what a year! Throughout the ups and downs, the good times, the bad times and the ugly times, there was one thing that held everything and everyone together.


From the highly anticipated words on our news feeds – ‘ COVID Vaccines rolling out at last!’…

To the beautifully inspiring words of Amanda Gorman at the American Presidential Inauguration…

To the ground-breaking carbon-emissions contracts formed at COP26…

Words were always there- whether we realised it or not.

So when it came to choosing the ‘word of the year’, which is the most commonly used and searched term according to some of our dictionary ‘giants’, we knew that 2021’s WOTY would have to be extraordinary. 

While Oxford opted for the ‘striking term’ – “Vax”, paying tribute to the incredible hard work of researchers, scientists and healthcare workers around the world, Collins chose the rather unconventional and unexpected “NFT” as their Word of the Year. I’m sure many of us, myself included, were rather confused by this choice, asking ourselves – What are NFTs? So I decided to do some research into what exactly NFTs are, and how they are changing the landscape of reality. In the midst of a global pandemic, we are so focused and concerned about our real world, that we often forget that a revolutionary digital world is quickly growing on the horizon. 

NFT stands for Non-fungible token. Physical money and cryptocurrencies are ‘fungible’, ie. they can be traded or exchanged for others. They are equal in value, a pound is always equal to another pound, a bitcoin is always equal to another bitcoin. NFTs are ‘non-fungible’ and therefore do not adhere to these patterns that have stabilised the trading world. Each NFT has its own unique digital ‘signature’ that makes it impossible for NFTs to be exchanged for others.

An NFT is created, or ‘minted’ from digital objects that represent both tangible and intangible items which may include:

  • Art
  • GIFs
  • Collectibles
  • Music
  • Virtual avatars/video game ‘skins’

NFTs are a rapidly growing market, with £123 million spent on buying NFTs since 2017. In other words, NFTs are like physical collector’s items, but digital. Instead of getting an actual painting to hang on your wall, you get a digital file instead. 

Even tweets can be sold as NFTs, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold his first ever tweet as an NFT for more than 2 million. 

However, just because someone has ‘bought’ Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, doesn’t mean the rest of twitter is now unable to see this prized tweet. Anyone can still view the individual images/GIFs or even the entire collage of images online – for free! So this begs the question- why are people willing to spend millions on something they could easily download or screenshot on the internet?

An NFT essentially allowed the buyer to own the original item. Furthermore, the item contains built-in authentication, which serves as proof of ownership. NFT collectors value the ‘digital bragging rights’ just as much, if not more, than the item itself.

Not only this, but the owner receives exclusive ownership rights as NFTs can only have one true owner at a time. NFTs unique data makes it easy to verify ownership and transfer tokens between owners. One of the most exciting parts about NFTs is that the owner or the creator can store specific information inside their NFT. For example, artists can ‘sign’ their artwork by including their signature in an NFTs metadata or code.

For artists, being able to sell artwork in digital form directly to an international audience of buyers without using an auction house or gallery allows them to keep a significantly greater portion of profits they make from sales, and ensures they still receive income due to many galleries being closed during lockdown.

So – are NFTs worth it? In short, an NFTs value is based entirely on what someone is willing to pay for it, and if no one wants to buy it, it’s not going to be worth millions. Personally, I believe that I would much rather own a physical copy of, say, art (especially if I’m going to be paying lots of money!), and I believe that a digital version can take away the authenticity and beauty of the product. 

We spend so much of our lives staring at computer screens, completely engulfed by our phones, laptops, smartwatches, iPads (the list is endless), that I fear one day we will no longer be able to appreciate the world around us. However, I do understand that this is the world we are living in now, and the future is more unpredictable than ever. There is a new digital world waiting on the horizon that will take us to new extremes that we can only dream of. We cannot stop evolution, so we have to learn to embrace it.

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