In the realm of Web3, innovation is often viewed as an all-or-nothing endeavor. Given that the NFT space is powered by decentralization and thrives on transformative ideologies surrounding crypto, AI, and non-fungibility, there is a low tolerance level for technologies that are perceived as antiquated.
Despite this, the future being created on the blockchain is not necessarily a zero-sum game against Web2. Sometimes, iteration is the only path forward when it comes to implementing revolutionary technology. To create the world of tomorrow, we must learn from the world of the past.
While many links have already been established between the NFT space and the more mainstream channels of consumerism, a new avenue with the potential to onboard the masses into the world of non-fungibles has emerged. And it involves sending NFTs via email.
Over the past few years, Unlock Protocol has emerged as a popular one-stop shop for developers looking to create and maintain membership and subscription-based NFTs. As an open-source protocol, Unlock is considered a trailblazer in membership contract management, mass airdrop mechanics, token gating, NFT ticketing, and more. Now, this staunchly Web3-focused service has taken a big step forward (back?) by implementing email airdrop capabilities to its laundry list of tools.
In February 2023, Unlock Protocol announced that it had created the capability for NFTs to be airdropped directly through email. Expanding on the already established tools that allow creators and developers to airdrop NFTs directly to a user’s wallet and notify them by email, these same builders can now airdrop NFTs directly to a user via email, even if the recipient doesn’t have a crypto wallet.
— Ʉnlock Protocol thinks you're awesome (@UnlockProtocol) January 31, 2023
When someone is emailed an NFT, they’ll receive an email with a link to where they can view it, as well as a QR code that reveals the NFT’s details (which is undoubtedly useful for Unlock’s NFT ticketing use case). In the same email, the user can click a link to transfer the NFT to a self-custodial wallet.
The potential of this unique tool is apparent. Considering the hurdles the average person must jump through to learn about NFTs and ultimately create their own wallet to start collecting, any service that purports to lower the barrier to entry into Web3 is an inherent win for the space. However, there is a need for a bridge between Web2 and Web3, as the only place for Web3 users to come from is Web2.
Similar to how the Proof of Attendance Protocol aims to commemorate the NFT experience and act as a user’s first foray into both membership rewards and Soulbound Tokens, Unlock’s email NFTs could give those outside of the blockchain another simple way to get exposure to Web3. However, representing NFTs in this way isn’t necessarily helpful in adequately communicating the viability of the tech.
Despite skepticism and reluctance from Web3 innovation maximalists, email NFTs make sense as a part of the larger initiative for Web2 tech to become a steward of blockchain innovation, if we consider the north star of Web3 to foster mainstream adoption. Although email may appear as an antiquated centralized messaging technology, the fact that, in 2022, the total number of email users worldwide was estimated at around 4.3 billion cannot be ignored by those leading the charge to onboard the masses onto the blockchain.