In September, Instagram introduced NFT sharing on the platform in the US. Expanding on this, the company has announced it will begin testing the minting and selling of NFTs direct on the platform. Will Instagram’s enormous audience help web3 be accepted by the masses?

One of the main challenges web3 projects face is mass adoption. NFTs have so much potential, but if people remain sceptical it’ll never be unlocked. Now, Instagram Digital Collectibles could be the key web3 has been needing.

The wider world is still undecided about NFTs and crypto. If people have a decision, it’s mainly that NFTs are intimidating, uninteresting, or an outright scam. The attitude of crypto mega fans, or “crypto bros”, can be enough to put people off getting involved. I mean, if anyone overhypes something or behaves way too enthusiastically, it’s hard not to suspect it’s a racket, right?

Well, one of the world’s most popular social media platforms might be about to change people’s minds on NFTs.

Instagram Digital Collectibles Showcase

Back in May this year, Meta, the company that owns Instagram, revealed it would be enabling users in the US to showcase their NFTs on the platform. The test enabled users to display NFTs they had bought or created on their profile.

This feature also included the ability to connect a digital wallet, sharing digital collectibles, as well as automatically tagging the creator and collector.

A few months after the initial launch of this feature, it was expanded to a wider user base. Instagram explained the benefits that Digital Collectibles had had for its users already. One example was that aerial and street photographer, Natalie Amrossi had used the feature to promote her work. This, in turn, resulted in more sales for her.

The expansion of this feature saw it become accessible in 100 more countries. These included places in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and the Americas. The compatibility of more wallets and blockchains was also introduced. As of August, Digital Collectibles supported Rainbow, MetaMask, Trust Wallet, Coinbase Wallet and Dapper Wallet. The supported blockchains included Ethereum, Polygon and Flow.

Making NFTs Accessible

One of the key aims behind Instagram Digital Collectibles has been to provide a voice for underrepresented demographics within the NFT space, according to Meta. The company also aims to increase accessibility and lower barriers to entry when it comes to blockchain usage. Envisioning NFTs as the future, this new feature sets out to make NFTs inclusive to all communities.

Instagram also recognised that NFTs can raise concerns around environmental impact. In order to offset any emisions as a result of using the Ethereum network, the company vowed to purchase renewable energy. You can read the full Meta commitment to sustainability here.

Buying & Selling Instagram Digital Collectibles

Raising awareness of NFTs by enabling users to display them on their profile is one thing. Now, Instagram is trialling the ability to buy and sell NFTs on the platform with a select group of users in the US.

According to an update, made on the 2nd November, creators will be able to make their own digital collectibles on Instagram, and sell them to fans. This includes sales both on and off instagram.

In order to make the process seamless and accessibile, Instagram is providing an end-to-end toolkit. This begins at the creation stage (on the Polygon blockchain), and runs right up to showcasing and selling. Whilst the test currently only includes a small group of creators, the ambition is to roll it out to more creators soon.

Previosuly, only images could be displayed as NFTs on users’ profiles. With the intriduction of buying and selling, Digital Collectibles is also being expanded to include video assets as well. Alongside this, support for the Solana blockchain and Phantom wallets has been included. More information on certain NFT collections can also now be found on Instagram, where the collection has had metedata enriched by OpenSea.

A Productive Move for NFTs?

Whilst the addition of NFT trading on a mainstream social media channel could generate some interest in the space, it may not all be good news.

It’s true that, when it comes to blockchain, many people are put off by the complicated nature of the technology. The barrier to entry can appear offputtingly high. This leads to many people avoiding the subject altogether. In turn, this results in people not truly understanding what NFTs are, or at least what they can do.

The most people will have seen or heard about NFTs are collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club, or other JPEG based collections. Whilst there is a place for digital art and collectibles in the NFT space (it’s pretty much what made it in the first place), could it be damaging to introduce the masses to NFTs in this format?

NFTs can be linked to productive and non-productive assets. Something productive, like music royalties, produce value themselves, acting as more than just a bragging right or baseball card style collectible. Not a lot of people realise NFTs can have valuable functions. This includes logistical roles, such as digital birth certificates or event tickets.

Whilst people are already unsure about the worth of NFTs, is it wise to use such a public platform to promote the format of these tokens that many people deride already? The public reception to NFTs on Instagram remains to be seen.

We must first wait for it to be rolled out to a wider audience. Forecasters have pondered whether trends will follow NFTs being valued more for art or utility in the coming season. It will be interesting to see if Instagram’s audience adopts Digital Collectibles purely for the novelty or art, or whether they call for something more practical.