Since 2021, digital collectibles have been catapulted to the forefront of the crypto space. It is undeniable that profile picture NFTs (PFP NFTs) have spearheaded this move.
Indeed, PFPs can take a lot of credit for the success of the broader NFT market as most projects that have seen mainstream adoption are profile picture NFT collections. You’ve probably come across several such NFTs as public figures and NFT enthusiasts in general often use PFPs as profile pictures on their social media accounts.
Twitter is a hot spot for these tiny NFT profile pictures, especially collectibles from Yuga Labs' Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC). This is one of the crypto community’s most popular PFP NFT collections.
Other NFT projects that function as social media profile pictures are CryptoPunks, Meebits, Doodles, and Cool Cats. Here's a beginner's guide to the world of profile picture NFT collections starting with;
## What are PFP NFTs?
Let's break down the entire term. PFP (profile picture) is a popular social media acronym. NFTs on the other hand are non-fungible tokens, assets that exist mostly on the Ethereum blockchain with a unique, digital identity.
Generally tagged PFPs, profile picture NFTs are digital collectibles, often static, 2-dimensional images that were created to be displayed on social media profiles. Notably, however, as blockchain technology continues to evolve, one new trend after the next emerges with ties to NFT projects. Developers have created full-body profile picture NFTs and even animated PFP projects.
The majority of these assets are generative artworks. Computers create these pieces usually through a generative algorithm, although hand-drawn PFP NFT collections are also quite common.
Generative PFP projects often comprise thousands of NFTs, usually up to 10,000. PFPs generally feature a character which could be a myriad of things, an ape, a robot, an alien, or a person. These profile picture characters are often shoulder-length or neck-length figures with a variety of traits that differ from piece to piece.
Among these traits are background color, accessories, hair or fur color, or even changes in the character’s expression all of which help make each piece unique. PFP NFTs typically have rarity rankings which depend on the traits each token has, and the rarity of a PFP NFT usually drives up its value.
## A Brief History of PFP NFTs
PFPs were some of the first non-fungible tokens in the NFT space and the CryptoPunks project debuted the concept of NFTs as digital avatars. As the first PFP NFT, CryptoPunks played a major role in the expansion of the NFT market.
While NFTs may seem like a relatively new trend, founder duo Matt Hall and John Watkinson launched their NFT project in 2017 under their product studio Larva Labs. They were able to create thousands of pixel art images of stylized humanoid figures dubbed punks.
The duo initially believed they had uncovered a new entry into smartphone apps or games. However, Hall and Watkinson's release revolutionized the digital art industry, and also redefined the idea of ownership.
Larva Labs introduced some of the initial prototypes of non-fungible tokens as a way to represent ownership of the Punks. Hall and Watkinson began with slightly altered renditions of the ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. This opened the door for a specialized digital coin, the ERC-721 token standard was created specifically for non-fungible tokens.
Soon after the launch, NFT collectors began using their CryptoPunks characters as profile pictures on Discord and Twitter. It took a while before the Punks saw mainstream adoption. NFT profile pictures began experiencing massive popularity as celebrities and other members of the NFT community came on board.
The massive popularity the Crypto Punks experienced ultimately paved the way for many PFP projects (including the popular bored apes) to emerge.
## How do PFP NFTs Work?
For both avid NFT collectors and persons new to the NFT space, it is pretty easy to obtain a PFP NFT. Users can either mint tokens directly from the project website or buy a PFP NFT on a secondary marketplace. Post-purchase NFT owners can view their PFP NFTs through a compatible crypto wallet.
Following this, like many others in the NFT community, they can display their newly acquired PFP NFTs on their profiles. Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms support the use of NFTs as profile pictures.
## How to Use PFP NFTs
Of course, there's the basic functionality for a PFP NFT, which is a role as a profile picture (PFP). A core aspect of the NFT space and broader crypto community is prestige. Digital collectibles thrive on rarity and exclusivity and PFPs allow NFT owners to showcase their assets.
However, some PFP NFT projects allow NFT collectors to gain access to a wider range of utility.
Artists walk a fine line when introducing utility to their projects as creative art monetization is a key driver for NFTs. Most artists and developers prefer not to sign away the intellectual property rights (IP rights) to their works, however, there is the need for substantial utility behind PFPs.
Features like community orientation encourage the popularity of an NFT project. With most projects, NFT owners get to be part of a community where beyond using their PFP NFTs as profile pictures they can vote and make important decisions. A strong community can also mean the chance to network.
Some PFP projects offer users metaverse utility. The metaverse, that is the idea of a virtual world grew into popularity alongside NFTs. Virtual worlds contributed to the avatar craze as a PFP NFT could double as an avatar in a digital world.
Also, a collection such as BAYC provides exclusive access to personalized utility, a feature that extends to its sequel project mutant ape yacht club. PFPs may also allow owners to enjoy perks that exist in the real world.
## PFP NFTs vs Other NFTs: What’s the difference?
NFT profile pictures distinguish themselves from other NFT projects in one way. For a PFP project, the central feature is the avatar that makes up the piece. Other tokens in the NFT market could feature other forms of art.
Also, generative art is mostly a trend with PFP NFT projects. A lot of other NFTs are often one-offs.
## Popular PFP NFT Projects