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The scramble for the newest form of NFT art might be one of the reasons you are reading this article. For you, this is a good first step in understanding the timeline of everything surrounding NFTs and their recent applications to different industries. Particularly in the art world, NFTs are proving to be an essential digital tool that solves the problem of ownership.

Creating an NFT requires you to execute a transaction on the blockchain public ledger. If you think about it that way, you may not have a definite answer about who was the first to develop the program. Do not get me wrong, the technology for making NFTs has been available since 2015. However, it just took off in 2021 to a whole new level of adoption.


Minting of NFTs requires the developer or artist to execute a particular transaction on the blockchain. The first person to carry out this transaction type specifically to store artwork information on the blockchain was Kevin McCoy and his wife with their Quantum project. Do not worry, much about this to come later in this article. The program for creating the NFT was the bitcoin blockchain. In a way, you can say the person who designed and developed the program used to create NFTs is Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin.


The history of NFTs’ development and its ascent to popularity is full of innovation and creativity from both artists and new technology developers. The concept of storing certain information about the ownership of certain digital assets over an immutable public ledger was not available at the time. The coming together of NFT programs and their uses for digitally defining the metadata of unique arts is already providing stellar results.

However, to understand the upward trend of NFTs and their much desirable collections, you should understand the development timeline and foundation of these programs. Before we go deep down memory lane, we should cover some basic NFT concepts to get you up to speed. The understanding of some important NFT concepts will allow you to appreciate the development of NFTs.


Introducing NFTs

Non-fungible tokens are special types of crypto tokens that have special features. These tokens are useful for storing unique and immutable units of data on a public digital ledger. The minting process is the execution of the transaction that stores the token’s information on the blockchain protocol. This digital information is the metadata that makes the NFT unique. After successfully executing the transaction, you can say you are successful in minting an NFT.


Now that you understand some of the basic concepts of NFTs, the only thing left for you to be aware of before we proceed down history lane is the NFT minting standards. Nowadays, developers and creators who are capable of minting NFTs themselves use ERC-721 or ERC-1155 NFT standards for NFTs. While the ERC-721 token is the industry standard these days, it was a different token generation standard when NFTs were still in their early days.

Early Beginnings of NFTs Tokenization of physical and digital assets consists of two parts – the content and the minting part. While the content may take any shape or form, the mining of the NFT is the main part of the whole process. Although 2021 seem to be the year of NFTs, its development phase goes as far back as 2012.


In a way, you could say that the dream of using NFTs, as it is progressively in use, also started with Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paperback in October of 2008. While several people may associate NFTs with the Ethereum blockchain protocol, the concept’s origin has been in existence before Ethereum. To understand NFT’s development timeline, the summary below sheds some light on the key innovative moment that serves as the foundation for the current success of NFT.


2012 – Early Stages

The first NFT project to surface on the internet was by Meni Rosenfeld with his work on the concept of Colored coins. Back in December 2012, Meni brought out his white paper on executing his project on the Bitcoin Blockchain. In a way, you can think of the Bitcoin Blockchain as the first program used to create NFTs. The coloured coin project was a way of representing real-world assets on the bitcoin blockchain protocol. The aim was to use this as proof of ownership for these assets.

Coloured coins were tokens of regular bitcoins that were with unique marks on them to represent their different uses. Unfortunately, the coloured coins project did not reach its realization stage because of the limitations of the bitcoin blockchain. However, we can conclude that this sets the groundwork for the development of NFT experimentation and realization of what we currently have now.


2014 – Here comes Quantum

The timeline of NFT and art is never complete without mentioning Kevin McCoy and his first NFT minting. Back in May 2014, Kevin made history as the first digital artist to mint the first NFT. Quantum is the first NFT that depicts a pixelated octagon that has different shapes. The colour and the way it pulsates radiates a hypnotic vibe that keeps you looking at it for its meaning.


According to Kevin, his piece of art presents a cycle of life, death, rebirth, and the endless circle of life. Quantum is a story that is brought to life via colours, lines and pulsating movement. Back in 2014, He came with the genius idea to infuse his art with blockchain technology to prove ownership of digital images like Quantum.


2014 – 2016: Continuous Development

During these formative years, there was a significant amount of development that was ongoing on the bitcoin blockchain. There were different experimentation on platforms that were built on the bitcoin blockchain protocol. It was during this period that Ethereum introduction to the foray of NFTs became notable. Counterparty platform is another notable entity that brought about structure in the creation of digital assets during this period.

To continue this productive development, spells of Genesis were able to introduce game issuing assets that were tradeable for real money. At this point, the infrastructure was set and a foundation was built to start the release of rare NFTs and their associating memes on the blockchain of choice.


Interestingly, bitcoin users were not comfortable with the idea of filling block spaces with the token as a show of ownership. It was never intended to be a database store for digital rights over an asset. You can think of this as the shift for NFTs to the Ethereum blockchain protocol.

2017 until date: NFT goes public

Now that you understand the nature of how NFTs came to be and their foundation, you can appreciate the current development of NFTs and what they can be in the future. Back in 2017, the Ethereum blockchain set some token standards that developers have to follow. This standard is a subsidiary of the smart contract standard. This standard states how the token should be created, issued and deployed on their underlying blockchain.

Down the line, a collaboration between John Watkinson and Matt Hall to create a generative project based on Ethereum is another monumental twist in the NFT timeline. This project ensures that no two characters can be the same in a collection of not more than 10,000 pieces. This project is a successful Cryptopunks project. The ERC-20 protocol was used for the minting of this project.


Creating NFT collection

The collaboration between John and Matt signalled the creation of a generative program based on the Ethereum blockchain platform. This program brought about the creation of special characters with no two characters having similar features.

In the same vein, creators who are capable of drawing up their own NFT art collections can bulk mint NFTs. This collection of artwork gets to have their metadata files uploaded together to the public ledger while using a smart contract template to mint the NFTs.

The rarity and historical value that the Cryptopunks project carries make it more valuable and unique as it holds history coupled with its scarcity. Cryptokitties is another blockchain project that allows gamers to adopt, breed and trade virtual cats for real-life money. A company in Vancouver, Axlom Zen, were in charge of this project. This was one of the crazy projects on the Ethereum blockchain in general as people made some serious profit trading their cats.

By this time, NFTs already gained some serious attention from the public. Especially in the gaming and metaverse project scenes, the use of NFTs in VR platforms and the metaverse projects began to pick up steam. In Decentraland, gamers can build, explore, collect items, and play the game. Interestingly, whatever a gamer can create is theirs to keep.

The different stages of development were the indicator of how far the development of NFT have come and the interest it has managed to attract over the long period since inception. All these development were also going on through the bullish period of the crypto market and under the radar during the bear market period.


Future of NFTs

The use of NFTs for various activities is obvious with the new development from tokens like Solana, Cardano and several others. The use of NFTs and tokens in games is establishing a new type of digital asset ownership and superior authentication methods. The surge in popularity also saw the coming together of communities to form alliances and use exclusivity to drive up the price of NFTs.

Following the announcement of Facebook’s rebranding as Meta, the use of NFTs in the upcoming digital utopia that is promised is now more viable than ever. The use of NFTs for art is just one of the several use cases of this innovative technology. From the first digital representation of NFTs to their different use cases in current times, one can only imagine its growth trajectory for the future.


Wrapping it up

Innovative technology will always find new use cases as different types of new technology come along the pipeline. At this stage, the NFT space is considered young as its use cases still borders mostly around artworks. What the future holds for NFTs and their application to different industries is set to be seen.

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