It’s hard to describe the absolute chaos around NFTs (non-fungible tokens) right now; tech reporters’ inboxes are flooded with the latest and stupidest additions to this trend of digital certificates for memes and other pieces of digital memorabilia. Disaster Girl sold for around $500,000, Keyboard Cat went for about $64,400, and Nyan Cat brought in around $590,000. But most NFTs aren’t all that noteworthy, and we can’t possibly write about every single one (despite this sentence, my inbox will now be flooded with NFT pitches for the next two months). Despite our attempts to be judicious and write about newsworthy topics, we can’t win them all.
We wrote about the Charlie Bit Me NFT auction because it had a twist the others did not: the seller said it would be leaving the internet “forever,” deleted from YouTube where it currently has more than 880 million views once the auction ended. But according to Quartz, there’s another surprise twist: Howard Davies-Carr, the father of the children in the 14-year-old clip, which sold for about $761,000, says it will stay on YouTube after all.
“After the auction we connected with the buyer, who ended up deciding to keep the video on YouTube,” Davies-Carr told Quartz. “The buyer felt that the video is an important part of popular culture and shouldn’t be taken down. It will now live on YouTube for the masses to continue enjoying as well as memorialized as an NFT on the blockchain.”
I guess that’s nice and all but if you didn’t want to abide by the rules you could have simply— not bid on it in the first place?
What’s an NFT?
NFTs allow you to buy and sell ownership of unique digital items and keep track of who owns them using the blockchain. NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” and it can technically contain anything digital, including drawings, animated GIFs, songs, or items in video games. An NFT can either be one of a kind, like a real-life painting, or one copy of many, like trading cards, but the blockchain keeps track of who has ownership of the file.
NFTs have been making headlines lately, some selling for millions of dollars, with high-profile memes like Nyan Cat and the “deal with it” sunglasses being put up for auction. There’s also a lot of discussion about the massive electricity use and environmental impacts of NFTs. If you (understandably) still have questions, you can read through our NFT FAQ.
Okay so, listen, internet. We try to accept that things change and opinions shift and nothing is forever, but we have to lay down some rules about NFTs, in my humble Gen X opinion. Charlie and his brother are really cute (or were in 2007), but this isn’t even one of the most clever or interesting memes on the internet if we’re being brutally honest. Spend your money on whatever you like, but if the seller says the meme will be gone forever to attract buyers and eyeballs, they’re setting certain expectations, and when you change the rules last minute it leads to chaos and confusion and grumpy editors. Not to mention the confusion you’re creating among buyers. Now instead of one Charlie, you’ve increased the supply to infinite Charlies — something the other prospective buyers might have liked to know before they decided to bid.
I guess it’s not all that surprising that a blockchain-related product might overpromise and then under-deliver, but I’m fairly certain this last-minute switcheroo will just encourage ever more ridiculous stunts for people to get coverage and buyers for their NFTs. Which will probably result in less coverage in tech media because no one wants to get burned — or in this case, bitten — by a story that doesn’t live up to the hype.
Charlie, good going, my young friend. In the end, you bit us all.