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I last wrote about NFTs in this article Advertising’s New Tech Toy: NFTs sometime in early December 2020. A lot has happened since then. NFTs have literally blown up and hit mainstream with corporate brands such as Taco Bell minting NFTs alongside big-name artists such as Grimes, Aphex Twin and Richie Hawtin.

The problem with such massive, overnight demand is that the Ethereum network is again exposed to be groaning under the bloat. ‘Insane’ and ‘astronomical’ are just some of the adjectives used to describe the currently congested gas fees. Coupled with several high-profile doomsayers’ critiques of Ethereum’s current Proof-of-Work consensus algorithm, conscious artists and creators (aren’t we all) are searching for alternatives to use the technology without the downsides.

Mintbase is one such NFT platform that has caught my attention for building on the friendly NEAR protocol. Already on Ethereum, Mintbase has made the brave choice to build from scratch with NEAR to realise the full potential of NFTs. You can read more about their decision in their Medium article.

I’ve done some legwork and will be looking to mint my record label Midnight Shift’s releases on Mintbase in the future to come.

Here are the top 5 reasons why.

NEAR is eco-friendly

As mentioned in my introduction, NFTs blew up only to face blowback from environmentalists for the perceived high carbon footprint cost of minting NFTs. This article is not about debating the nuances of those arguments. Whether the figures are not as high as people make it out to be or not, or whether projects are engaging in carbon offset campaigns, the fact is that we should minimize whatever we can. If alternatives already exist, it makes sense to patronize them and hopefully create enough groundswell for a thriving ecosystem that is green.

In this respect, NEAR is already a carbon neutral Proof-of-Stake (PoS) blockchain, which Ethereum 2.0 is moving towards. Current side-chain solutions such as xDai and Polygon manage to reduce fees, but do not actually impact the environmental cost of running Proof-of-Work. Until Ethereum moves to a PoS model, this factor remains a guilt trip for most discerning artists.

Low fees

Another common complaint heard about minting NFTs on popular Ethereum-based platforms such as SuperRare, Foundation, Makersplace, Zora and more is the high cost of minting and buying on these platforms due to Ethereum’s high transaction fees. $50 to $80 is not an uncommon fee to perform a relatively simple transaction. While no fault of the platforms, this has priced many new, young and underprivileged artists out of the market, artists whom NFT technology is supposed to help the most.

Rather than create fair and open ground, what is happening is a re-creation of the same hierarchal structures and exclusive gated communities that are antithetical to crypto.

Mintbase on NEAR will take advantage of NEAR’s fast, high throughput and low transaction fees, therefore opening the gateway for a more pluralistic creator and collector ecosystem, beyond those who can already afford it.

Split payments and royalties

One of the game-changing facets of NFTs is the idea of on-chain royalties for artist creations. The protocol ensures that royalties from all subsequent and secondary sales of a work flow automatically to the original rights holders in a trustless fashion, thus removing complicated human relationships from the legacy equation.

Mintbase will allow the splitting of royalties and payments in perpetuity for up to 20 NEAR wallet holders, making group NFT projects among a posse of stakeholders executable.

Another plus point for me as a record label was being able to deploy multiple stores on Mintbase, which affords more flexibility as a home base in a growing interconnected ecosystem. Each store is also a unique verified smart contract on the NEAR blockchain, with NFTs minted on this smart contract.

Decentralized file storage

A recent surge of interest has been in the topic of NFT storage. Buyers who are paying millions of dollars for an NFT need the assurance that if an NFT platform were to go bust, that their media would remain accessible.

Unfortunately, this has not always been the case and NFTs do go missing and can become inaccessible if a platform stops hosting it or if their centralized data storage provider goes down.

Currently, Mintbase stores NFT files and metadata on the decentralized Arweave hybrid blockchain. No data is actually stored by Mintbase itself.

Arweave is a globally distributed hard drive with enduring permanence. Users can pay a one-time upfront fee to store data for the next 200 years. Here is more detail about data storage using Arweave on Mintbase.

The best of both worlds: Rainbow Bridge

Ethereum will not be too far away from NEAR.

Arguably one of the most exciting features, NEAR will allow trustless i14y connectivity between Ethereum and NEAR through the Rainbow Bridge using light clients that track and verify the state of each blockchain with minimal computation required.

In essence, this cross-chain integration will allow token transfers between both chains, which is good news for ETH holders who will want to access Mintbase on NEAR in the future with their current wallets and collections, and vice versa.

For all the reasons above, Mintbase’s move to NEAR is an interesting space for new and emerging artists to occupy that overcomes Ethereum’s downsides while not divorcing from Ethereum altogether.

Formerly based in Berlin and now in Lisbon, Mintbase was one of the first NFT platforms to feature audio integration for music artists, and also has a strong underground community of artists that were minting NFTs long before the hype.

As a music label, a priority is to catalogue our artists’ work beyond centrally managed ISRC codes and online music databases, which may inevitably get erased or taken down through the annals of time. We also want to part-take in meaningful, emerging technology and scenes that have the potential to disrupt tired legacy systems.

Mintbase on NEAR is currently on testnet, with the mainnet slated to go live sometime in April 2021.