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Ethereum Creator Vitalik Buterin: I Don’t Hate Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs

Buterin clarifies his comments about “gambling” on “$3M monkeys,” but says he’d rather see NFTs fund public goods.

4 min read
Vitalik Buterin and a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT avatar. Image: Shutterstock/Yuga Labs

In brief

  • Vitalik Buterin recently commented on valuable NFTs in an interview with Time.
  • He clarified his comments today on Twitter, saying that he doesn’t “hate Apes” but wants NFT sales used for public goods.

Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin is on the cover of the new issue of Time, and his prominent interview with the magazine has people talking about his concerns regarding the future of the crypto ecosystem.

One quote that has gotten traction on social media regards the rise of the NFT market, which yielded some $25 billion in trading volume in 2021 alone. “The peril is you have these $3 million monkeys and it becomes a different kind of gambling,” he told Time about NFT market speculation. “There definitely are lots of people that are just buying yachts and Lambos.”

According to Time, Buterin was referring to the Bored Ape Yacht Club, one of the most popular Ethereum NFT collections on the market. While some have interpreted his comment as a slight against the project or high-value NFTs in general, he clarified his feelings on Twitter today.

“I don't hate Apes, I just want them to fund public goods!” Buterin tweeted in response to Neeraj Agrawal, director of communications for D.C. crypto think tank, Coin Center.

Public goods in the crypto space refers to open-source technology and infrastructure that can potentially benefit anyone. Buterin has discussed the topic at length, and believes that the Ethereum ecosystem should support initiatives that help push the space forward.

To help further that aim, Buterin co-developed the concept of quadratic funding, which amplifies donations so that projects with more backers get a larger share of available matching funds. It’s a model used by Gitcoin, the leading public goods project in the Ethereum ecosystem. Gitcoin has helped raise more than $55 million for public goods initiatives to date.

“Ultimately the goal of crypto is not to play games with million-dollar pictures of monkeys, it’s to do things that accomplish meaningful effects in the real world,” Buterin also told Time, when asked about the crypto industry’s response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The Bored Ape Yacht Club is a series of 10,000 NFT profile pictures with randomized traits. Owners earn access to a private community of NFT holders along with added perks, such as additional NFT drops, the recently-launched ApeCoin token, exclusive merchandise, and access to live events. Holders can also use their owned images for commercial purposes.

As a result of those benefits and rising celebrity interest around the project, Bored Ape NFTs have skyrocketed in value since launching in April 2021. The cheapest-available Bored Ape NFT listed on a secondary marketplace right now is priced at 101 ETH, or about $304,000. An NFT acts like a deed of ownership to a unique digital item, such as an image or video file.

All told, the Bored Ape Yacht Club and subsequent NFT collections have generated nearly $3 billion worth of combined secondary trading volume, per data from CryptoSlam. The project has seen rising sales volume lately due to the release of ApeCoin, with holders able to claim more than $100,000 worth of APE tokens for each NFT, at the current price.

However, the project’s rising popularity has also triggered backlash, primarily from those outside the NFT space who mock the idea of tokenized images selling for upwards of millions of dollars apiece. Buterin’s latest comments suggest that he’s not against the Ape NFTs, but would rather see ETH pointed towards public goods rather than used for speculative bets.

Some prominent crypto industry individuals have replied to Buterin to highlight NFT funds being used for beneficial causes. One example is the Bored Ape Yacht Club recently donating $1 million to Ukraine, matching nearly $1 million worth of community-led donations to the cause.

“I can reassure you that there are a lot of us in this pocket of the space trying to help fund public goods by getting together as communities and raising money, and much more!” tweeted Rug Radio host and NFT influencer Farokh, who owns Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs as well as those from other prominent collections.

“Moving luxury spending to digital items is a public good,” tweeted Solana Labs co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko. “They don’t take up living space or spew CO2 like penthouses or Lambos.”

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