In another sign that the NFT hype train has slowed to a crawl, Meta has today announced that it’s ending its NFT display projects, across both Facebook and Instagram, as it re-aligns its resources around evolving priorities.
As per Meta’s head of commerce and fintech Stephane Kasriel:
“We’re winding down digital collectibles (NFTs) for now to focus on other ways to support creators, people, and businesses. A big Thank You to the partners who joined us on this journey, and who are doing great work in a dynamic space. Proud of the relationships we built. And look forward to supporting the many NFT creators who continue using Instagram and Facebook to amplify their work.”
Kasriel notes that Meta will continue to develop new ways for creators to connect with fans, and monetize their work, but it’ll be focusing instead on areas where the company ‘can make an impact at scale’, including messaging and Reels.
Meta first announced its foray into NFTs in April last year, at the tail end of the initial hype cycle, led by big name NFT projects including Bored Ape Yacht Club and Cryptopunks. A month later, it launched a live test of NFTs on Instagram with selected US creators and collectors.
At the time, Meta talked up the potential for creator monetization through digital goods, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg also pointing to the expanded role that digital items will play in the coming Metaverse shift.
NFTs, in Meta’s view, would be another cog in this evolution – but less than nine months later, it’s moving on from the project, as it looks to rationalize its operations, and cut costs where it can.
With the broader downturn in digital ad spending, Meta, like all digital platforms, has been forced to reassess its spending. The company cut 11,000 jobs last November, and reports suggest that it’s looking to cull the same again sometime soon, with various projects being shelved as a result of this shift.
It seems that its NFT push has become another victim of this – though the broader enthusiasm around NFTs has also faded significantly, impacted by the same downturn in spending, along with various crypto market shifts, like the collapse of FTX.
Indeed, looking at sales figures from NonFungible.com, it’s clear that most of the air has now leaked out of the NFT bubble.
Which makes sense, because as many market analysts have noted, JPEGs aren’t really worth anything, and were never likely to be a longstanding trend. That’s been even further diluted in recent months, with NFT creators turning to AI generators to create their pieces - which really means that you’re paying for someone’s skill at writing a good prompt into DALL-E.
Like, you could just go write your own – but at the same time, I do acknowledge that there are many NFT-affiliated communities that have come together around their enthusiasm for these digital artworks.
Like any other hobby, there is a value in this element. The NFT movement ended up being mudded, in some respects, by the crypto investment aspect, and using these artworks as money-making schemes. But aside from that, there is a clear passion from some segments about the projects themselves, and the people involved in each.
In this sense, the real value of the NFT trend was the friends that people made along the way. And while I don’t see profile picture and still image NFTs playing a significant part in the next phase of digital connection, they have provided some additional insight into the use case for digital goods, which will become a bigger consideration in future.
Just not on Facebook or IG. Maybe in the metaverse there’ll be another opportunity to showcase your digital artworks, but they’re not going to become a big focus for Instagram any time soon.