Should I be worried about digital art being around in 500 years?
Probably. Bit rot is a real thing: image quality deteriorates, file formats can’t be opened anymore, websites go down, people forget the password to their wallets. But physical art in museums is also shockingly fragile.
But wait, doesn’t the fact that they’re on the blockchain make them permanent?
Okay, so this is a whole thing. Technically, yes: when you say NFT you’re referring to an entry on the blockchain. However, the actual media, like the picture, GIF, or flagrant flaunting of copyright law is very rarely actually stored on the blockchain — it’d be too expensive to do that.
Sometimes the media the NFT points to is stored on a cloud service, which isn’t exactly decentralized. Since this has come up as an issue, with people worried that their NFT proving they watched the Lions lose could disappear if one company goes under or changes their URL scheme, many in the NFT space have been turning to decentralized storage solutions like the InterPlanetary File System that use torrent-like technology. It’s not bulletproof, but it’s better than having your million-dollar JPG stored on Google Photos.
Torrent-like? So people are pirating NFTs?
No... Well, kinda, but hold that thought. The idea behind IPFS is that files are stored on a peer-to-peer network, meaning they could be stored on several computers at once. Files are given an identifier, and when a computer goes to load the file it asks the IPFS network to give it the file with that ID. Any of the computers storing it can say, 'Oh, here it is!'
When you make an NFT, the content link is baked into the token. If that link goes to IPFS, it’ll be pointing to something that’s more permanent than, say, an image on a regular server.
In theory, anyways. Of course, distributed does not equal perfect. Experts have warned that files could still end up on a single computer, and could be lost in the case of a hard drive crash.
1) The Verge. NFTs, explained. By Mitchell Clark . Updated Jun 6, 2022, 8:30am EDT