Make some room; another website’s joining the NFT bandwagon! In a public letter outlining YouTube’s goals for 2022, CEO Susan Wojcicki expressed the company’s interest in helping creators “capitalize” on NFTs. But it doesn’t seem like the company will copy Twitter’s NFT avatars. Instead, it may develop an NFT marketplace that lets people purchase NFTs from videos.
Creator revenue is the focus of Susan Wojcicki’s letter. She spends a lot of time discussing how the platform will develop alternative revenue streams in 2022, which should decrease creators’ dependence (and YouTube’s dependence) on advertising. Today, these alternative revenue streams include fan-focused features, such as Channel Memberships, but they will be more shopping-oriented in the future.
“We’re investing to make YouTube the next generation of commerce,” says Wojcicki. That means expanding the site’s experimental Shopping feature, which lets creators sell products inside of their live video streams. Here’s the gist of the Shopping feature—a small “Buy Now” box will pop up every time a live makeup tutorial mentions a product, but clicking this box won’t redirect you away from the video. It’s like YouTube mixed with QVC.
It’s easy to see how this Shopping feature could extend to NFTs. Wojcicki plainly states that YouTube wants to help “creators capitalize on emerging technologies, including things like NFTs” while still connecting to their fans. Unless YouTube is talking about NFT profile pictures, which is doubtful, it’s probably hinting at NFTs you can purchase while watching videos or livestreams.
The response to this announcement is pretty predictable. Those who are knee-deep in crypto are excited, but most people are upset with YouTube for showing interest in NFTs and blockchain technology.
Criticisms tend to focus on NFT scams, which are already easy to pull off without an integrated YouTube NFT marketplace. If people can purchase NFTs through YouTube, we will almost certainly see a glut of scam videos on the platform (which will be hard to identify now that YouTube hides video dislikes).
Of course, the environmental impact of blockchain is also a major criticism. Crypto companies promise that the blockchain won’t be so resource-intensive in the future, but at the time of writing, the average NFT has a carbon footprint equivalent to a European household’s monthly electric use. And yes, that carbon footprint accumulates every time the NFT is traded. (Somewhat ironically, Susan Wojcicki’s letter also discusses Google’s commitment to sustainability.)
It’s worth noting that NFT culture is already profitable on YouTube. There’s no shortage of NFT influencers on the platform, and some of these influencers make money selling digital assets to their viewers. YouTube is basically guaranteed a profit if it enters this space.
And that brings us to our unfortunate conclusion—if YouTube opens an NFT marketplace, it won’t face financial ruin when viewers’ NFTs tank in value. The company will enable people to gamble their money, and it will profit from this enablement. And that sucks.