NFT: the mysteries of the “Bored Ape Yacht Club”

2021 saw the arrival of NFTs on the web. Quickly, the ecosystem shook the cryptosphere with NFT trading volumes running into the tens of billions of dollars since its launch. Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) is one of the most promising NFT projects at the momen.

Pieces in this collection of monkey designs fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars and have been at the heart of several controversies. The Buzzfeed site revealed the names of two of the four creators behind the phenomenon.

Ten thousand drawings of quirky monkeys and a billion dollars in transactions: since mid-2021, the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” (BAYC) have experienced a meteoric rise, to the point of becoming the most emblematic of NFTs. Acronym for non-fungible token , NFTs are virtual ownership certificates that prove that you own the original version of a file – even though that file can still be copied.

By year’s end, Bored Ape Yacht Club‘s NFT ratings soared: some of these vaguely jaded-looking primate designs sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and their success inspired other similar projects. The stars are snapping them up: PSG striker Neymar bought two of them , which he now wears as a profile picture on social networks, singer Justin Bieber invested .3 million in an NFT from the collection and Yuga Labs, the company that publishes the BAYCs, is in discussion with the prestigious investment fund Andreessen Horowitz for a stake that would value the company at… more than four billion dollars.

New underlying trend? Futility for stars? Scam ? For several months, not a week has passed without the project making headlines in the specialized press in the United States. He has been heavily criticized for some of his cartoons, accused of using dubious references to far-right elements or racist clichés; for insufficient remuneration, with regard to the sums raised, paid to the artists who created them  ; or for its extravagant marketing practices for the ultra -rich and its lack of transparency.

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The names of two founders revealed

On Friday February 4, the Buzzfeed site lifted part of the mystery surrounding Yuga Labs and its creators , by revealing the identity of two of the four co-founders of the company behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club. The two men, whose identity has been confirmed by the firm, evolve in the American literary milieu but are virtually unknown to the general public. One of them, Wylie Aronow, is suspected of having temporarily squatted a web address resembling that of the Bitmex cryptocurrency exchange platform, before having to give up the domain name.

The article drew heavy criticism aimed at Buzzfeed , accusing the outlet of ”  doxing  ” – the practice of revealing personal information about a user in an attempt to harm them. Critics anticipated by Buzzfeed, which explained its decision in the preamble to the article revealing the identity of the two men: “There are reasons why in the business world, the CEOs of a company use their real name not a pseudonym ,” writes journalist Katie Notopoulos, explaining that the founders of a multibillion-dollar company are, whether they like it or not, public figures.

Many questions remain about how Yuga Labs works and how it promotes. In late January, reality TV star Paris Hilton, who now happily calls herself an “NFT influencer””, was a guest on Jimmy Fallon ‘s wildly popular TV show The Tonight Show . During a bizarre sequence , the guest and the presenter both explained that they bought Bored Ape Yacht Club, sparking a wave of sarcastic comments about the interpersonality of stars who buy NFTs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars like if it was an everyday consumer product.

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“I’m not sure what to make of all this ,” writes journalist Max Read, who has compiled a chart of the intersecting interests of Yuga Labs, NFT trading platform OpenSea, and many stars and agents from around the world. American showbiz. “Is this a scam? Fraud ? A conspiracy? One of the interesting things that the world of Web3 [concept of a decentralized Web, based on blockchain and marked by its interest in NFTs] seems to want to demonstrate is that the borders between “Ponzi schemes”, “pyramid schemes”, “multi-level marketing”, “conspiracies” and “good old capitalism that works as intended” are not as clear as we might like. »

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