NFTs Are All About Access

NFTs provide access to things people want. People value access to scarce resources; therefore, access is worth money. Money has always been traded for access and will continue to do so. NFTs are internet-native keys to access events, communities, identities, future benefits, people and status. The type of access they provide can be broken down into literal and psychological access.

Literal Access

Literal access is familiar. Either you have access to what is behind the NFT or not. People buy “physical world” concert tickets and group membership and will continue to do so. Creating the digital, secure, decentralized version of this is an important utility. It allows for new ways to sell and distribute them. Examples of NFT-enabled literal access include:

Psychological Access

Psychological access is fuzzier. Value is created in weird ways, and what we find valuable is not always logical. NFTs follow. A good way to think about NFTs is as a signal of crypto interest. Knowing about them is good, but owning them shows “skin in the game.” If you are an “investor” in NFTs, owning and showing them is a signal that creates opportunities. It shows you are part of the ingroup. Examples of NFT-enabled psychological access include:

  • A high-status NFT causes others at a networking event to see you as more legitimate in the NFT space. It creates better bonds with fellow NFT owners. This stems from access to the “NFT owner” identity.
  • A celebrity buys a “Bored Ape” to get access to conversations with smart people within the community, future opportunities in crypto, and signal their dedication to potential fans. Celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Post Malone, Steph Curry, Von Miller, Lil Baby, and The Chainsmokers all own Bored Apes.
  • An average person buys a profile picture NFT to show they are part of the group or community, gaining access to smart friends they wouldn’t have been able to access. It gives them the confidence, permission, and identity to become a part of the group and a team to root for.

Sometimes access is about what is in your head. You don’t feel you are legit until you own an NFT and can tell people about it. It provides access to new ideas and identities that change you. It allows you to enter into a community in your mind.

How Access Is Valuable

Every project provides a story about the access they provide. The projects and communities that succeed create the best stories about why their access is most valuable. CryptoPunks is the highest status, “original” NFT. Bored Ape Yacht Club is the NFT for celebrities and those who can’t afford CryptoPunks. Others give access to influencers and the people related to them. Some promise an elaborate future ecosystem. The projects that succeed will continue to convince people the access they provide is valuable.

The stories create demand and the NFTs provide the scarcity. The access NFTs provide is valuable because it is scarce and people want it. Without scarcity, it would be difficult to know who has access and who doesn’t. Filtering information, communities, and legitimacy is more difficult without this knowledge. NFTs are a future-proof way to ensure scarcity and help the stories continue to function.

Scarcity helps enable status. Status comes from stories we tell other people that improve our reputation. To convey status most effectively, the stories must be scarce. People don’t value what they can easily get. This is the focus of web2: being friends with everyone, creating endless web pages, posting constant updates, gaining followers, getting “engagement.” Status in web2 was created, exchanged, and monetized in old ways (networks, reputation, jobs). NFTs offer a new path.

Status in crypto-land is different from the “old ways,” and in a way, is reset. To access “crypto status,” someone must signal in a specific crypto way. A celebrity, athlete, or businessperson can’t just gain status by showing up there, they have to signal in a uniquely crypto way. They must tell their “status story” through crypto. NFTs are a key way to access this.

The stories enabled by NFTs allow for a more people-focused internet. This creates better connections and incentive alignment for the people in the space. Access is more controlled by the people which provides them more power and opportunities. This will hopefully make the stories of the internet better and more people-focused.

Thanks to Anna Grigoryan and Zachary Fleischmann from Foster for the feedback.

Let me know what you think on Twitter.

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