Where are your NFT’s Really Stored? On a Centralized Server, Unless it is on the Internet Computer

Shruti Sutwala
Shruti Sutwala
Where are your NFT’s Really Stored? On a Centralized Server, Unless it is on the Internet Computer
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Today buying & selling NFT is more popular than ever, either for gaming, as a sign of opulence & flex, as a part of a community, or just for long-term valuation.

However, here’s a fact not many people are aware of:

Most NFTs don’t really live on a blockchain.A lot of times they are stored in a centralized server like AWS.

This raises an important question:

Are they safe & could they disappear one day?

Well, maybe. The answer isn’t straightforward and requires us first to break down the elements that make up an NFT. When a person buys an NFT, get a digital code that points to a piece of media located somewhere on the internet, bound by a Smart Contract.

NFT = Smart Contract + Metadata (including the actual content or media file + attributes)

Source: https://medium.com/coinmonks/how-nft-metadata-works-a65ba7631842


The digital artworks themselves are not located or registered on the blockchain. Instead, when an NFT artwork is purchased, the buyer gets a cryptographic signature, or certificate, that points to an image hosted elsewhere. The actual item could be located anywhere on the internet (on a centralized server), and the NFT effectively serves as a digital token for that internet address where the media file (image, video, etc.) is stored.

For example, when one mints/ buys an NFT on Opensea, they are pretty clear about the fact that the Metadata is “Centralized” — This is the message on Opensea on minting an NFT :

This is mainly because the actual digital artwork is either too large or onerous to store on blockchains like Ethereum because they were just not designed to hold large data information.

What are the risks associated with NFT data being stored in centralized servers?

While the smart contract will always still exist the data can disappear.

NFT files getting lost or corrupted

Since the actual NFT is stored on a central server, the server may face technical issues, hacks, or even a physical fire. A good example is when musician 3LAU sold an NFT album for $11 million on the Gemini-run marketplace NiftyGateway. In a few months, it went missing. Read about more such cases here.

2. Changing the file of the NFT

An NFT could merely link to a URL, which means that whatever is stored from that URL can be changed, as explained in this Twitter thread :

So what could be done?

There are some probable but not 100% secure solutions like storing NFT files on hardware wallets, using IPFS services, etc... However, none have offered a foolproof solution to holding an NFT 100% on-chain, along with the smart contract.

100% on-chain NFTs are now possible on ICP

As the phrase goes “not your keys, not your crypto”

Most blockchains don’t follow the practice of storing NFT files on the blockchain because it’s just too expensive to host gigabytes of data (millions per year). However, with the unique Canister Smart Contracts on ICP, storing NFTs and keeping them safe is easy. This is possible because of 2 key factors:

  1. Cost of storage: It costs as low as $5 per year to host a gig of data on the ICP.
  2. Unique infrastructure: Made up of Canisters and Cycles, which makes it possible for the smart contract & the metadata to be united in one place.

This unique combination powers the evolution of safe, secure on-chain computation.

The unlimited scalability, web speed & reverse gas model add to this, which makes the Internet Computer a fertile playground to create great innovative NFT projects from interactive NFT metaverses, dynamic NFTs, evolving NFTs & more.

Please look at this video + music NFT, which is a huge file; however, it is still stored on-chain, something unimaginable on Ethereum: View it On-Chain here.

Or this simple Snake game is integrated into an NFT and stored On-Chain. You can play the Snake Game on-chain here.

All these and more can be explored at Entrepot - the most thriving ICP NFT ecosystem on ICP, which any NFT enthusiast & needs to explore.

It’s all summed up beautifully in this tweet by Dominic Williams, the Chief Scientist at DFINITY


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  • Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original author and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Dfinity Community staff and/or any/all contributors to this site.


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