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Photo: Bored Ape Yacht Club

The killer app for NFTs

Bored Ape #0

Good morning! This Monday, how digital avatars are taking over the NFT world, how Elizabeth Holmes will defend herself in court, what the #AppleToo movement is all about, and why Chicago wants to curb delivery apps.

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The Big Story

CryptoPunks just became a billion-dollar business. The 10,000 low-res characters have now generated over $1.16 billion in total revenue and are being traded like precious art; in the time it took me to write this sentence, three bids were placed on three Punks for a total of about $1.5 million. And I'm pretty sure they all got outbid.

Punks are the biggest thing in NFTs, and NFTs just keep getting bigger. Games like Axie Infinity are proving that there's a hefty overlap between blockchain economics and video games, while NBA Top Shot continues to discover new ways to get people to spend money on sports. Is the market crazy? Of course it is. It's 2021. Everything's crazy.

But avatars are emerging as the killer app for NFTs.

  • NFT buyers are increasingly spending big on digital characters they can use in Twitter profile pictures, as in-game avatars, and to stake their spot and character in online spaces.
  • Bored Ape Yacht Club has been booming recently, offering a set of avatars similar to CryptoPunks — except they're all apes, they're much higher res, and yours might have devil horns and earrings and 3D glasses. If you buy one, your ape also doubles as your entry card into an online club that the BAYC team is building out now. Steph Curry bought one this weekend!
  • There's also Pudgy Penguins, which is basically the same thing but with cute penguins. And Cool Cats and Lazy Lions and Sup Ducks, which are basically ... well, you get the idea.
  • Even Larva Labs, the company behind CryptoPunks, created 20,000 new characters called Meebits that are basically ultra-cool Minecraft characters.

If the metaverse is coming, everybody's going to need an avatar. And while some companies race to turn us all into ever-more-realistic digital versions of ourselves (all too often leaping right over the "is this cool or is this creepy" line), the NFT world is cashing in on the idea that actually, what everyone wants is to be a lion. Or an ape. But mostly they want to be part of a club, to have something that confers status and exclusivity, that is both totally recognizable and still one of one.

  • "It was sort of a part of my identity," Figma's Dylan Field told me about his Punk, #7804, which he sold for about $7.5 million earlier this year. "It was a mask. What are masks? They're objects that you can project identity onto."
  • The clubby nature of it matters, too. "These generic art projects are exciting to communities because you're getting something unique, but you're also still to this oeuvre of art, all made by the same creators," OpenSea's Alex Atallah said recently.

There are plenty of open questions here. What it means to "own" an NFT is very much up in the air, and there's nothing stopping me from using Steph Curry's ape as my Twitter avatar too. With Meebits, Larva Labs is also offering buyers the full 3D model of their character — all the better for uploading to digital worlds — but even that can be easily retrofitted. And there's still the fact that most NFTs are just files stored on somebody's server somewhere.

But NFTs are here to stay, and digital avatars are going to be a big business. (They already are, actually; just ask Epic, which makes a fortune selling skins to Fortnite players.) But the idea that your digital avatar can be uniquely yours without being uniquely you is a powerful one, and one that a lot of people are willing to spend money on. Why be yourself in the metaverse when you can be a pudgy penguin?

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM BLOCKCHAIN.COM

The Blockchain.com Wallet is the easiest and most powerful crypto wallet, trusted by millions since 2011 with over $1 trillion in crypto transactions. Whether you want to trade, earn, custody, or access full-stack institutional solutions, Blockchain.com is a market leader in retail and institutional crypto products.

Learn more

People Are Talking

Apple's App Store changes don't seem like a "major concession" to Tim Sweeney:

  • "Who is Major Concessions? A commander in the Store Wars perhaps? So far I can find Major Concessions only in headlines and not in court documents. Has anyone seen Major Concessions? Where is she?"

Mike Sievert feels sorry about the massive data breach on T-Mobile:

  • "To say we are disappointed and frustrated that this happened is an understatement."
  • Meanwhile, a 21-year-old reportedly behind the attack said T-Mobile's security stinks.

On Protocol | Workplace: Cher Scarlett said she went public with #AppleToo because internal processes failed employees:

  • "People want to feel heard. And they don't feel heard by Apple. There are some people who have been there for decades who feel like Apple leadership used to listen to them, and make them feel like they were listened to, and they feel like that is gone."

Just Eat Takeaway's Jitse Groen doesn't agree with New York City's vote to permanently cap fees for delivery apps:

  • "We believe that these fee caps are unconstitutional, and we will join the industry to oppose them."

Coinbase is trying to build a "crypto forward" culture, Brian Armstrong says:

  • "We have an opportunity to now be much more crypto first culture/hiring wise, which fits nicely with our efforts to embrace decentralization."

Coming this week

PIRATE Summit begins today. The virtual startup conference will include talks on issues like remote work, leadership and avoiding burnout.

Instagram is getting rid of its swipe-up feature starting today. People will be able to use link stickers instead.

Jury selection for Elizabeth Holmes' trial starts tomorrow in federal court in San Jose. The trial begins Sept. 8.

The BIG 5G Event starts tomorrow. The event kicks off virtually today, and in-person activities start tomorrow at the Colorado Convention Center.

Twitch streamers are boycotting the site on Wednesday. The #ADayOffTwitch campaign is in protest of hate raids on the site.

In Other News

  • What's Elizabeth Holmes' potential defense? That she was in an abusive relationship with Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani that left her unable to make her own decisions. Balwani's lawyers denied those claims.
  • Affirm and Amazon are working together. Amazon's starting to offer "buy now, pay later" options, and it picked Affirm as its partner. That's a massive win for Affirm in an increasingly competitive space.
  • Lawmakers want tech companies to help investigate the Jan. 6 attack. The House select committee looking into the insurrection asked the companies to provide data tied to misinformation by domestic and foreign actors.
  • #AppleToo logged hundreds of stories from current and former Apple employees describing workplace issues including harassment, discrimination and bullying. The group organizing the movement plans to share some of those accounts today.
  • Apple wants its employees vaccinated ASAP now that the Pfizer vaccine has won FDA approval, but it's still not required. The company is trying out a few ways to encourage vaccinations, like creating an internal web page where employees can read information about the vaccine and the delta variant.
  • Chicago sued DoorDash and Grubhub over allegedly "unfair and deceptive" tactics. The companies are being accused of taking advantage of restaurants and consumers during the pandemic by misleading users on tips and other delivery services.
  • On Protocol | China: Private tutors are upset about China's new education rules, particularly the one banning companies from hiring foreign teachers outside the country to teach domestic students.

One More Thing

Let Otter take notes

Transcribing is annoying and tedious, unless you let a website do it for you. Otter.ai could already transcribe meetings on Zoom for paying users, but now it can write out notes for meetings held on Teams, Meet and Webex.

All you need to do is add the Otter Assistant tool to your calendar, and it'll automatically join and jot down meetings. The best part is that you don't even need to be at the meeting for the tool to work — you can catch up afterward by reading through the transcription. Or don't, and just feverishly search through it when someone asks you what you thought.

A MESSAGE FROM BLOCKCHAIN.COM

The Blockchain.com Wallet is the easiest and most powerful crypto wallet, trusted by millions since 2011 with over $1 trillion in crypto transactions. Whether you want to trade, earn, custody, or access full-stack institutional solutions, Blockchain.com is a market leader in retail and institutional crypto products.

Learn more

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