Yes, Jack Dorsey's first tweet can be yours! Sort of.
How do you buy a tweet? Why, using an NFT of course.
Oh, I'm sorry, I'm pretty new to this myself. An "NFT" is simply a "Non-Fungible Token."
A Non-Fungible Token can be considered a kind of digital signature or "certificate of authenticity" for digital assets, affirming you have "ownership" of that digital asset.
If you play video games (or know someone who does) and have ever made an in-game purchase in which you buy, say, "diamond armor" for your Minecraft avatar or some other in-game privilege, that is a kind of NFT as well. You "own" that virtual asset.
However, digital assets are not "real." Jack Dorsey's first tweet is not a physical thing.
For that matter, neither are NFTs.
So, an NFT is a certificate that isn't real, proving you own an asset that also isn't real.
Okay, in fairness, these things exist in the corporeal world in the sense that they require energy to be produced and electrons to take form, but... they aren't real. They are virtual.
This in a sense has always been true of intellectual property, but in the olden days, even intellectual property usually took some physical form to be useful such as in a book or a CD.
Of course, we've been purchasing virtual assets for a very long time whether it's musical recordings, streaming movies, and so on, and we've largely become comfortable with the idea of it.
But the development of a collectibles market is new. Not only are you not purchasing a physical thing, you are not even purchasing sole access to it or rights we would normally associate with "ownership." You are in a sense purchasing a concept.
The notion of using an NFT to establish some exclusivity, is a virtual concept layered on top of a virtual asset. It has value only because people agree it has value, and if that sounds a lot like cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that's because NFTs also rely (the more serious ones anyway) on blockchain technology.
Like, say, a tweet.
There it is, Jack Dorsey's first tweet. Bask in its timeless wisdom.
just setting up my twttr
Did you just get the chills? Yeah, that's normal.
Of course, you can screen capture it, you could even recreate it easily enough in digital form as well. And it will even remain available on the platform after it's "sold" so anyone can take in its deeper meanings (those deeper meanings being, "just setting up my twttr").
So why "buy" it? Why "collect" it?
Well, that's an interesting question with an answer that is simultaneously uninteresting, and absolutely fascinating
You buy it, so you can say you own it.
Take for example the fact that there is an active and growing market right now in sports highlights.
A LeBron James highlight sold for $200,000. A Zion Williamson edition went for a little less than that. The National Basketball Association has officially aligned itself for the future of the trading card marketplace, and currently, this game is sold out.
Maybe, but is paying $200,000 for a LeBron James highlight that you could probably pull up on YouTube any crazier than paying the same amount for a piece of cardboard with a picture of Ted Williams on it which you can also pull up and look at online like I just did here? Both have a finite number of "original" copies available to collect and both are otherwise free to view.
It really starts to make you think about what collecting really is and whether there is a meaningful difference between the physical concept of collecting and the virtual one. Either both make sense, or neither does.
The tweet itself will continue to live on Twitter. What you are purchasing is a digital certificate of the tweet, unique because it has been signed and verified by the creator.
Why would you do this?
Owning any digital content can be a financial investment, hold sentimental value, and create a relationship between collector and creator. Like an autograph on a baseball card, the NFT itself is the creator's autograph on the content, making it scarce, unique, and valuable.
There is also a secondary market in these, so people are clearly buying and selling and they are doing so for a variety of reasons.
There are also the big leagues, the really big leagues, bigger than a Jack Dorsey Tweet even.
The other day a piece of digital art, "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS" by an artist who goes by "Beeple" sold for the record-breaking sum of $69,346,250 through Christies, the famous auction house.
Again, you can pull up this artwork all over the Internet, including Christie's site. Maybe it doesn't have the same fidelity, but you don't need to "own" it to view it, or even possess it. It's just bits and bytes after all. And since it's digital, your ability to view it is limited to your device anyway (it's not like a three-foot canvas) so even if you like the piece, what are you really missing out on by not shelling out over $69 million.
And yet a collector did shell out over $69 million for it with the presumable expectation that someone else will shell out more some day. It's not even clear if copyrights are part of the bargain, often they are not with art, and definitely are not with tweets.
Are these virtual assets, and the NFTs that act as both proofs of ownership and digital signatures the next big thing? Do you need to get on board or get left behind? Will your child roll his or her eyes every time you start going on about "back in my day we had REAL things..." (Yes to that last part.)
Or is it a classic sign of an asset bubble getting ready to pop, as the country becomes ever more awash in monetary and fiscal stimulus?
I won't hazard a guess, other than to note that you have until March 21 to get your bid in on Dorsey's tweet.
Oh, and he's planning on converting the proceeds into Bitcoin and sending it all to Africa because he's Jack Dorsey and that's just what he does.