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Zora, an NFT minting platform, launched its own Ethereum layer-2 scaling network today after weeks of testing. It’s designed to lower costs and improve the user experience for artists and creators alike.
Dubbed Zora Network, it was introduced in May on a mysterious website proclaiming it to be “pure internet. Free and valuable. Resonance and connection. Open and shared. Independence and expansion. For all creation.”
It is secured by the Ethereum blockchain, built on the tech stack of layer-2 scaling network Optimism, and already supported by more than 35 platforms—including on-chain music platform Sound, wallet provider Rainbow, and Web3 app toolkit Thirdweb.
“Over the past six months, we’ve been reaching the upper limit of Ethereum mainnet,” Jacob Horne, CEO and co-founder of Zora, told Decrypt. “We’ve had 880,000 collectors and millions of NFTs minted, and have found that gas price is a systemic inhibitor to adoption.”
Horne added that this is a pain point for both collectors and creators alike. In fact, many of the NFTs featured on Zora’s scrolling homepage sell for under $10, and may even be free to mint. An Ethereum network gas fee of a few bucks, or potentially much more during peak moments, could significantly raise the overall transaction cost.
it’s always “wen L2” and never “when scalable infrastructure for artists”
— jacob (@js_horne) May 30, 2023
Zora’s layer-2 network was created with the idea of subsidizing and abstracting away these costs. Horne said that the network makes minting 25 times cheaper compared to Ethereum.
“L2s have been around for a year now—mainnet Optimism has existed, Arbitrum has existed—but have skewed towards DeFi and a financial use case,” he said. “I think the ecosystem and the market is ready for a network that’s purpose-built for art and media, and really leaning into all the interesting experimental things you can do when you have a network like that.”
Zora is one of several NFT platforms that have set out to challenge industry incumbents with new features and products.
Founded by three Coinbase alumni in 2020, Zora started out as a service that offered musicians and other artists the means to sell digital tokens tied to physical artifacts such as cassettes. Since then, the startup has pivoted to focus on building an open-source protocol that allows anyone to stand up an NFT marketplace.
In May 2022, the company raised $50 million in a round led by Haun Ventures that valued it at $600 million. Zora has previously likened itself to a Shopify or WordPress—companies that offer easy-to-use tools for building online stores and websites—but for NFTs and the emerging Web 3 economy. Horne said Zora has had around 130,000 users so far in June.
Horne previously told Decrypt that the company generates revenue via sales of development tools to help companies customize its free protocol for their particular purposes—a model used by the likes of Linux provider RedHat.
To date, Zora has been the base for a number of high profile NFT drops, including a $4 million sale of the Doge meme NFT, as well as one for the Warhol Foundation. In April, the company put out a print magazine—a publication with a 2,500 item print run—which was redeemable via NFT. At the time, each NFT cost around $150.
Meanwhile, Zora still has the long-term ambition to create a DAO—or an online community with token-based membership—that could one day raise money through the sale of governance tokens.