Before the blockchain, NFTs were just copies of digital art. So, I guess it’s safe to say that the creation of blockchains like Ethereum and Polygon helped pave the way for the rise of NFTs. However, not all NFTs “exist” in the same way.
In an earlier article, we discussed the benefits of traditional copyrighted NFTs, versus the up-and-rising CC0-licensed NFTs. While the layman may not get the fuss over CC0, NFT enthusiasts should have a clear understanding of which is better for the future of the industry.
Likewise, NFTs are created and stored differently as well. In this article, we will be going through the basics of on-chain NFTs, some great examples of such projects, and why we think that on-chain concepts are here to stay. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
What Are On-Chain NFTs?
On-chain NFTs are tokens completely written on the (Ethereum) blockchain, implemented with metadata and smart contract both existing on the blockchain.
Now that… was a confusing definition! Let’s break things down a little bit more.
For starters, on-chain NFTs are written and stored on the blockchain. Basically, the “information” of these NFTs are all written on the mainnet, and this information is then stored on the blockchain. This information also includes things like the transaction hash of the generated NFT, which makes it even more unique.
Next, we should take a look at smart contracts. Smart contracts are programs that execute themselves when certain criteria are met, native to the Ethereum blockchain. In most cases, they could be used to generate on-chain NFTs, or could point to locations where the NFTs are stored.
The metadata of NFTs is its core information. Such things as the NFT’s unique traits, where the digital copy is stored, the description of the NFT, and much more. This metadata is integrated with the on-chain NFT itself, so this “information” lives on the blockchain as well.
So this is just the basics of what on-chain NFTs are about. Let’s find out more about the off-chain NFTs, so you can get a better understanding of the underlying differences.
On-chain vs Off-chain NFTs
In the previous section, we established what on-chain NFTs are. If you could take away just one thing from the aforementioned, it should definitely be that on-chain NFTs live and breathe on the blockchain.
Well, off-chain NFTs don’t. Off-chain NFTs are not stored on the blockchain, thus earning the name “off-chain”. But if off-chain NFTs don’t exist on the blockchain, then where do they go?
There are many options available for off-chain storage. You could go with storage on Cloud (Google Cloud, iCloud, etc.), centralized hardware server storage, or IPFS. However, this could pose several problems that on-chain NFTs will never face.
Challenges Of Off-chain NFTs
Traditionally, people will go with Cloud storage as that is the easiest and cheapest form of storage. However, cloud storage is usually internet-dependent, as your NFTs will technically be stored on the internet. Cloud-based storage is also dependent on the host (let’s say Google), so you don’t get full control of what you’re storing.
Another option for serious investors is off-site server storage. When you’re using a Cloud storage system, your host is providing the server storage service for you. With your own servers, you can use it to store the off-chain NFTs. But physical servers are expensive to buy, run, and maintain — it probably isn’t worth it just for a collection of NFTs.
Both of these options have one crucial flaw: security. It’s difficult to put the full trust of your NFT project into a reasonably-hackable Cloud, or centralized servers which could shut down any moment and lose your NFTs.
So that’s where the IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) comes in. As its name should suggest, IPFS is a more secure method of storing data, using a P2P storage network that is distributed and decentralized. So just in case one storage location fails, there is a good chance that you’ll find your NFT distributed to another location.
Back to the on-chain vs off-chain topic… IPFS still isn’t the perfect solution.
One crucial difference between on and off-chain NFTs is the nature of their smart contracts. While on-chain NFTs have in-built smart contracts, off-chain NFTs have smart contracts for the sole purpose of linking people to the storage location of the digital art.
This means that if there’s a disruption with the off-chain storage system/network, the “link” provided by the smart contract will be useless. After all, who wants to be redirected to an image “not available”?
Still, on-chain and off-chain NFTs exist to serve different purposes. Before we make a judgment call, let’s go through a few examples of promising on-chain NFT projects!
Promising On-chain NFT Projects
On-chain NFT projects haven’t been around for a long time… in fact, few NFT collections are part of the on-chain movement yet. Perhaps because storing NFTs directly on the blockchain is expensive, the idea is new, or people just aren’t comfortable with the on-chain concept yet.
Most recently, you may have noticed that LarvaLabs’ Cryptopunks are now officially on-chain! Despite launching off-chain, LarvaLabs have made it a point to integrate Cryptopunks onto the Ethereum blockchain. However, this cost a hefty 73M gas!
Nevertheless, more and more NFT projects are coming up with their own versions of on-chain NFT projects. Here are some of them taking things to the next level!
OnChain Monkey (OCM) claims to be the first PFP(Profile Picture) NFT collection to be generated on-chain, all in a single transaction! This helps them to reduce Ethereum gas fees, from 5000 ETH to 0.798 ETH, which includes releasing all their NFTs on-chain.
The NFT collection is called OCM Genesis, and they have a fascinating backstory to tell. OCM Genesis started out of nowhere. There were no Twitter or Discord promotion efforts beforehand, just free NFTs for minting and word of mouth did the rest.
Today, OCM has grown into a solid project with a mission to help communities and embrace the idea of Karma and giving back. With solid community backing, the creators have implemented classic techniques like dropping extra membership bonuses for OCM Genesis holders.
They have ongoing projects like the Monkeyverse (soon to be a metaverse), and Metagood Moments, showing appreciation to those doing good for the community.
With on-chain NFTs in this project, and vibing with a charity-like style, the sky is the limit for OnChain Monkey!
Chainrunners is a story-driven on-chain NFT project which has attracted lots of attention from investors since its launch. I guess the narrative of the “Mega City” with corrupt leaders, and the Blade Runners to free the city from evil, paints an exciting picture for many.
Aside from the appealing storyline, Chainrunners is open-source and does not really have any benefits for holders right now. In these early stages, they are providing an opportunity for Chainrunner NFT holders to build upon this narrative, and collectively finish this story.
The hype over this collective-building of the Chainrunners universe could be short-lived, but still, they have had massive success so far. What started off as an NFT project with the mint price of 0.05ETH now has a floor price of 0.5ETH — 10X since the beginning!
Last but certainly not least, we have the high-profile Nouns WTF project. Created and promoted by crypto and NFT celebrities, Nouns WTF has accumulated millions of dollars worth of Ethereum in their DAO treasury so far. Thing is, they only launched back in August!
Nouns WTF is an on-chain NFT project with a bigger purpose to serve as a DAO. The classic: 1 NFT to 1 vote in the DAO idea. They have done insane projects such as pairing up with well-known organizations, naming a rare frog species after Nouns, and even sending a Noun to the International Space Station!
Perhaps the most intriguing factor about Nouns is their “One Noun a day, forever” concept. They auction off 1 Nouns NFT per day, forever? The typical NFT collection consists of 10,000 digital assets. Per my calculations, it’ll take more than 27 years for Nouns to reach that number.
Will the value of Nouns be diluted by then? Will it even exist 27 years down the road? Well, that’s for us to wonder, and the future to behold.
Coming back to on-chain projects, ART HAUS has actually created one ourselves! Embryonic is our on-chain pet project, and it was simply for testing purposes. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a really fun and meaningful project for us to understand more about on-chain NFTs and enter the space.
If you’re interested, you can head over to Embryonic.me to find out more about this amazing project!
Gnars (New In-Haus Addition!)
Drawing inspiration from Nouns WTF and CC0’s promising future, we decided to create a project of our own too. Introducing Gnars, the on-chain initiative that aims to bring the worlds of skateboarding and NFTs together.
Kickstarted by Gami a few months back, our devs have been hard at work behind the scenes, and on 16 Feb 2022, Gnars officially went live! Now we’re about a month in, and over 160 Gnars have been auctioned off to our Gnarly friends. I’m the proud owner of a Gnar too!
At the core of the project, Gnars is all about embracing NFT culture and using proceeds to help skateboarders IRL. A little over a week after the launch of Gnars, our community has donated over $8000 to The Skatepark Project, which helps create safe and inclusive skateparks for youths IRL.
But we aren’t stopping here. In order to establish our presence in the CC0 space, we have acquired Noun 189, the skateboarder Noun! This allowed the Gnars community to push for a proposal to fund Nouns Athletes.
Internally, we have developed a retro-skateboarder game “Grinderz“, in preparation for Gnarnia, an ambitious MMO game. For more details, don’t forget to read the full Gnarly report on our Mirror page.
Where Can You Find On-Chain NFT Projects
Since on-chain NFT collections are still rather unknown at this point, where can you find hidden gems to hop into?
Well, our good friend @emrecolako has compiled a list of Generative on-chain art projects, noted in this handy spreadsheet. You can take a look at it here.
Hopefully, this spreadsheet will turn into the go-to resource for on-chain NFT projects in the future!
So, Are On-chain NFTs The Future?
Yes, I very much believe so. While off-chain NFTs are usually cheaper and more widely used in projects, on-chain NFTs certainly have a brighter future ahead.
Having your metadata, smart contract, and NFT itself all on the Ethereum blockchain, you won’t have to rely on anything else for your NFTs’ survival. As long as the blockchain exists, your NFT collection remains intact.
On top of that, this puts more value into your NFT. With on-chain tokens meeting Ethereum network requirements and being, literally, a part of the blockchain, there is better liquidity of the digital asset.
Also, as more NFT projects hop on the on-chain art bandwagon, the movement will undoubtedly get more popular. We can hope for innovative solutions like OCM Genesis, cutting gas fee costs so on-chain NFTs are more cost-friendly to buyers.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Between on-chain NFTs and off-chain digital copies, I’d 100% choose the future.