Mark Zuckerberg said that Meta would add NFTs to Instagram, according to Engadget and The Daily Beast. While he didn't describe exactly what that would look like, he said during a session at South By Southwest that "over the next several months, the ability to bring some of your NFTs in, hopefully over time be able to mint things within that environment."
There have been rumblings that this was coming. Last year, Instagram lead Adam Mosseri said the team was "actively exploring NFTs" but didn't have any actual announcements. In January, we heard a report that teams at Facebook and Instagram were working on NFT integrations. The report mentioned that there was progress on features to let you use an NFT as a profile and mint NFTs on the platform and discussions around creating a marketplace.
Instagram’s NFT integration could be relatively limited at first
Those first two features gel well with what Zuckerberg mentioned onstage, but it's still not exactly clear what minting an NFT on Instagram would mean. Could you sell a popular post as an NFT, perhaps? Or mint NFTs that act as passes to let people see specific stories? Meta isn't saying yet, though it does seem that minting capabilities won't be coming until further down the line. The idea for a marketplace seems like it could be even further off, as it seemingly didn't get a direct reference from Zuckerberg, though the massive valuation of sites like OpenSea likely makes it a tempting business venture.
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.
Of course, there's also a metaverse angle here as well. Zuckerberg reportedly talked about minting your avatar's clothing as an NFT and taking "it between your different places." Zuckerberg has talked about NFTs and the metaverse before, saying that he could see them as part of the digital world's governance. Now, it seems like he's thinking about them as digital objects, something brought up by Meta before.
He did note on Tuesday that "a bunch of technical things that need to get worked out before that'll really be seamless to happen." For one, Meta would have to make sure the objects integrated well on different platforms, which isn't particularly easy. It'd also have to, you know, actually, build a metaverse for that to happen in (which does seem like a small technical hurdle).
Instagram won't be the first major social network with an NFT integration. Earlier this year, Twitter introduced a feature that let some users set an NFT they own as their profile picture. They then show up as hexagons, and anyone interested can click through to see the NFT's metadata. Given how often TikTok features end up with a near carbon-copy on Instagram, it wouldn't be surprising to see Meta's photo-sharing (er, "entertainment") app do something similar.