The NFT creation user journey

by Molly White on
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This is an appendix of sorts to “Digital artists’ post-bubble hopes for NFTs don’t need a blockchain”.

An artist creates a piece of digital artwork. To create their first ever NFT, they have to pick a blockchain. Let’s go with Ethereum—it’s the most popular. Now which platform? OpenSea, I guess. Also the most popular. They open the site and go to create an account. “You need an Ethereum wallet to use OpenSea.” Right.

They don’t have a digital wallet, so they have to create one. They’ll have to pick one, but we’ll say they go with MetaMask, a popular and somewhat user-friendly crypto wallet that’s installed as a browser extension. They go to the Chrome web store and add it to their browser, then they create an account and pick a password. They’re then presented with their “secret backup phrase”—different from their password, and not chosen by them. This is what MetaMask calls the 12-word seed phrase that really protects the account. They write that down on a piece of paper, probably wondering what on earth it is, and put it someplace safe. Finally finished, they see their shiny new Ethereum wallet address—a 42-character hexadecimal string that uniquely identifies this wallet on the blockchain.

Back to OpenSea. They click to connect their MetaMask account, and it prompts them to connect that wallet they just created. They hit “Next” and approve the permission. Now, to create the NFT. They upload their artwork file, pick out a name, set some other fields, and click “Create”. They don’t pay anything to create it because OpenSea has “lazy minting”, meaning the NFT isn’t actually written to the blockchain until the artist wants to do something with it. But listing it for sale qualifies as “doing something with it”, so now they have to deal with all that. They pick a price—let’s say a nice reasonable 0.1 ETH—and then they are prompted to “Initialize your wallet”. This is a one-time action, but because it requires interaction with the blockchain it incurs a gas fee. As I write this, Etherscan estimates about 0.05 ETH to do this, or around $100. Ouch.

Installing MetaMask doesn’t magically put money into it, sadly, so they have to figure out how to do that. OpenSea suggests Coinbase, so they decide to go with that. They open up Coinbase and sign up for an account—name, password, email, state, check the box that they’re 18 or older. Wait for the verification email to come through. Enter their phone number to set up two-factor authentication, wait for the text to come through, enter that code. Select their citizenship (didn’t they just have to enter their state?) Verify their identity—name, date of birth, address, employment status, last 4 digits of their SSN, plus a few questions about why they want to use Coinbase, where their money comes from, how much value they intend to transfer to Coinbase in the next year, and what industry they work in. Now verify their identity—they have to confirm all that data they just entered, for some reason. Finally Coinbase allows them to put some money into their account—they pick a debit card transfer, enter their card info, and transfer the money over.

Disclosures for my work and writing pertaining to cryptocurrencies and web3 can be found here.

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