Null and void.
All my NFTs on Nifty Gateway are now ‘null and void’. Here’s why:
On Nifty Gateway, NFts are not issued by the artists.
Ownership is not recorded on the blockchain.
Files aren’t stored safely, many links reported “dead”.
It is, objectively, a misuse of the blockchain.
As a digital artist, I use code and technology to create, promote and distribute my works. In late 2020, when I was introduced to Crypto Art, NFTs and the blockchain, I was very intrigued by its potential, mostly for those 5 reasons:
– Secured ownership.
– Conservation of digital files.
– Reduction of my environmental impact.
My first major release was on Nifty Gateway in 2020, but it’s only now that I really understand how the platform operates. Beyond the great sales (I must acknowledge here the comfortable income NG has provided to artists), Nifty Gateway fails to deliver ANY of the benefits promised by the blockchain.
In light of the information below, gathered over the past months, I now consider all my previous releases on Nifty Gateway as “Null and void“. A free replacement is offered to my collectors (dm me) to a more reliable, secure, transparent and cleaner platform, alongside a limited edition gift, for the inconvenience.
When you look at the blockchain records of the vast majority of NFTs on the platform, they all have something in common: they were all created from the same unnamed wallet address: 431BD1.
In fact, these 6 digits NFTs, from artists I like, all originates from the same unnamed wallet: Reuben Wu, Fvckrender, Fewocious, Brendan Dawes, Grimes, Xcopy, Refik Anadol, Trevor Jones, myself and even Beeple.
None of these NFTs were actually created by the artists, from their own wallet address. The smart contracts do mention the artist’s names in the description, but whoever at NG creates the NFTs can write anything, since it’s not connected to the artist’s wallets / blockchain identities. This is a critical point, as the entire concept of NFTs relies on the ability to determine who created the asset.
How do you control provenance then ? Well, you just can’t.
Secured ownership ?
In 15 years of creating artworks, it’s been almost impossible for me to keep track of physical artworks: sales are often made by my gallerists, collectors identities aren’t necessarily disclosed, let alone second hand resales, gifts, works lost or damaged.
Having a public database with all current collectors is an incredible tool, for many reasons. For my ‘possible landscapes’ series on hicetnunc for example, I know precisely who owns every single one of these 100 unique drawings, as it is recorded on the tezos blockchain.
On Nifty Gateway, believe it or not, the ownership isn’t recorded on the blockchain. The names and IDs of buyers are stored in a database, controlled by NG.
I assumed that the name of NFT creators and owners visible on Nifty Gateway were somehow linked to the blockchain. It’s not. It displays the records of a centralized, proprietary database.
On the actual blockchain most NFTs appear to be both created and owned by just two wallets, owned by Nifty Gateway.
If you look at the actual blockchain records, all NFTs still on NG are owned by the same, single wallet: Nifty-Gateway-Omnibus.
Currently, 235.501 NFTs bought by collectors appear on the blockchain as “owned by Omnibus”.
Collectors don’t appear on the blockchain, so when the NG site (or its database) goes down, all ownership vanishes instantly. That’s about 1 Billion dollar worth of assets, gone. ($300M in May 2021)
In fact, if you’re ever in dispute with NG, they have the ability to freeze your account, like they did to Amir Soleymani who lost access to his entire collection worth Millions of dollars.
To be fair, there is a trick to record your ownership on the blockchain: remove the work from Nifty Gateway and transfer it to OpenSea. Then the ownership info on NG’s website will freeze and won’t match the actual ownership on the blockchain: check the differences of ownership of the very same NFT on Nifty (a local, not up-to-date, database) and on Opensea (actual blockchain records).
Some smart artists also made their own smart contracts, so their NFTs have genuine provenance on the Blockchain (see Merge by Pak) but this is a rare exception.
I’ve noticed that collectors who understand the blockchain take their NFTs out of NG’s hyper-centralized and proprietary ecosystem.
It has been a major challenge for us digital artists: storage decays, codecs disappear, software support discontinues. New platforms based on standard file formats (jpg, gif, mp4..) and IPFS (a distributed peer-to-peer storage system more robust than regular servers) could really be a fresh start to build new archival systems.
But Nifty Gateway NFTs are stored on Cloudinary, a regular pay-as-you-go cloud system. They might use some IPFS, but there are many reports of “garbage collected” and dead links.
Another failed opportunity to bring the potential benefits of IPFS and blockchain technology to artists and collectors.
<< So if Nifty goes bust, your token is now worthless. It refers to nothing. This can’t be changed. >>@jonty
Environmental impact ?
We’re now aware that the environmental impact of the Ethereum blockchain is an absolute disaster, thanks to the research and data provided by Digiconomist, Memo Akten and Kyle McDonald.
Before that information was available, I asked Nifty Gateway the impact of my drop. Zero information was provided. I had to source it elsewhere. Instead, Nifty Gateway made vague promises of 99% more efficient NFTs. While an ambitious Proof-of-Stake solution could have solved the issue (like OpenSea, Rarible and Aorist just achieved), all they did was an update to their Ethereum minting contract. Band-aid on a broken leg.
Nifty Gateway is one of the most polluting NFT platform in existence.
The previous estimation has been updated to about 1,217,457 kgCO2 for February 2021 alone, with a total of 43,488,939 kgCO2 for their entire lifetime through today. (Source: ethereum-nft-activity by @kcimc)
When I realized that NG was about to use our fundraiser sale (with Beeple, Sarah Ludy, Gmunk, Refik…) to greenwash the platform without addressing the core issue (replacing PoW by to PoS), I cancelled my participation (again) to the carbon drop and shared insights in the following article.
Everything is fine, Don’t worry about it !
This seems to be the default response from tech entrepreneurs when they don’t want users to look at the problems or question dysfunctional tools. I had a similar experience with Kickstarter’s CEO covering up a $250,000 scam on their platform and get away with it.
Most artists and collectors are not aware of Nifty Gateway’s misuse of the blockchain:
- NFTs are not issued by the artists
- Ownership isn’t recorded on the blockchain
- Files are hosted on a regular cloud with dead IPFS links
- The Ethereum blockchain is an environmental disaster
When they realize, they might ask for a refund.
Or at least, a replacement with a genuine NFT created by the artist.
Despite several attempts from collectors and influencers to raise the issues, the warnings were ignored.
“Void and null” NFTs to be replaced.
The architecture of Nifty Gateway is based on a terrible or inefficient use of the blockchain. It was built quickly with sales in mind, and totally objectively misses the point of provenance, tracability, ownership and decentralization.
If, as artists, we want to use the blockchain as a significant part of our artistic practice, we have to do things right !
The fix is actually straight forward: all the void NFTs purchased on Nifty Gateway by my collectors are now replaced by a new, genuine NFT. Hosted on a truly decentralized and energy-efficient Tezos blockchain. The new NFTs are issued from my own wallet, and now provide provenance, ownership, and conservation.
I want to thank Kyle McDonald and Memo Akten for helping me to understand the complex processes behind blockchain transactions and insights of smart contracts.