In Web3, innovation can often seem like an all-or-nothing endeavor. Considering the NFT space is fueled by decentralization and thrives on transformative ideologies surrounding the advent of crypto, AI, and non-fungibility, the tolerance level for technologies perceived as antiquated feels significantly low.
Yet, the future currently being created on the blockchain is not necessarily a zero-sum game against Web2. The truth remains that iteration is sometimes the only path forward when incepting revolutionary tech. To create the world of tomorrow, we must learn from the world of the past.
While many links have already been established between the NFT space and the more mainstream channels of consumerism, a new avenue with the potential to onboard the masses into the weird wide world of non-fungibles has arrived. And it’s… sending NFTs via email?
Inbox, outbox, NFTs
Over the last few years, Unlock Protocol has emerged as a popular one-stop shop for developers looking to create and maintain membership and subscription-based NFTs. As an open-source protocol, Unlock is considered a trailblazer in membership contract management, mass airdrop mechanics, token gating, NFT ticketing, and more. Now, this staunchly Web3-focused service has taken a big step forward (back?) by implementing email airdrop capabilities to its laundry list of tools.
In February 2023, Unlock Protocol announced that it had created the capability for NFTs to be airdropped directly through email. Expanding on the already established tools that allow creators and developers to airdrop NFTs directly to a user’s wallet and notify them by email, these same builders can now airdrop NFTs directly to a user via email, even if the recipient doesn’t have a crypto wallet.
When someone is emailed an NFT, they’ll receive an email with a link to where they can view it, as well as a QR code that reveals the NFT’s details (which is undoubtedly useful for Unlock’s NFT ticketing use case). In the same email, the user can click a link to transfer the NFT to a self-custodial wallet.
Does emailing NFTs make sense in Web3?
The potential of this unique tool is apparent. Considering the hurdles the average Joe must jump through to learn about NFTs and ultimately create their own wallet to start collecting, any service that purports to lower the barrier to entry into Web3 is an inherent win for the space. Right?
Well, yes and no.
As previously mentioned, there is a need for a bridge between web2 and Web3. Because the only place for Web3 users to come from is web2. Similar to how the Proof of Attendance Protocol aims to commemorate the NFT experience and act as a user’s first foray into both membership rewards and Soulbound Tokens (all from the safety of an email or app UX), Unlock’s email NFTs could give those outside of the blockchain another simple way to get exposure to Web3.
But can email NFTs truly act as a resource for onboarding these web2 crowds? Similar to how major brands are refusing to use the term NFT when they venture into the world of “digital collectibles,” a rose by any other name does not smell as sweet. Representing NFTs in this way isn’t necessarily helpful in adequately communicating the viability of the tech.
There’s also something to be said about those Web3 innovation maximalists. For the countless individuals who have done their due diligence and bootstrapped themselves into the inner echelon of NFT usability, sending tokens via email may feel like a step backward, as it’s far less innovative than transacting peer-to-peer and sending NFTs wallet to wallet.
Skepticism and reluctance aside, though, if we consider the north star of Web3 to foster mainstream adoption, then email NFTs do make sense as a part of the larger initiative for web2 tech to become a steward of blockchain innovation. Although antiquated as this centralized messaging technology may appear, considering that, in 2022, the total number of email users worldwide was estimated at around 4.3 billion, those leading the charge to onboard the masses onto the blockchain would be remiss to ignore its potential.
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