Austin Federa is head of strategy at the Solana Foundation.
The last twelve months have been an incredible time for base-layer innovation on Solana, making the network the only place where the promise of blockchain meets the lightning-quick standards today’s consumers expect. Today, a Solana ecosystem team is pushing the entire ecosystem forward with the launch of tools that make it possible to truly decentralize the web3 stack.
Executable NFTs, available in the open beta of new open source wallet Backpack, represent an entirely new way to build applications that are safer, better to use, and in line with the decentralized values blockchain is built on. By combining executable websites and applications that can run locally on a user’s computer with a crypto wallet, xNFTs in Backpack show a promising new type of hybrid web3 application – not quite an application, not quite a website.
xNFTs take a radically practical approach to solving two of web3’s main problems today, decentralization and distribution, with profound implications. While smart contracts run on globally distributed and decentralized networks like Solana, nearly everyone who interacts with smart contracts does so through a website. These centralized, web2 interfaces, and the services that run them, often require the project to register a company, open a bank account, obtain a business debit or credit card, register a domain, and a whole host of other actions just to provide users with a graphical user interface. Each step in that process takes time, money, and adds a potential source of risk for the project’s creators.
xNFT Collections unlock whole new avenues for program distribution. A game developer can mint their entire game as limited-edition xNFTs. A DeFi protocol can distribute early access to a new front-end based on wallet addresses. A two-factor code can be generated as an NFT, and automatically cycle through. An artist can create beautiful immersive 3d experiences that can’t be copied, and run directly in the wallet. The possibilities are almost limitless.
Because they are, at their core, NFTs, xNFTs can bring a new level of interactivity to traditional collections. The first xNFT Collection, Mad Lads, showcases the power of an executable profile picture collection — the pictures themselves act as a chatroom for users which is rendered entirely within the NFT.
xNFTs are not some new smart contracting language, a scaling solution, or a core technology that will take years to deploy. They exist today. This is just one of the many ecosystem-wide innovations that have supercharged the Solana protocol and greater community in the last year:
- Core engineers from Solana Labs and across the ecosystem have built and deployed the world’s first local fee markets, as well implemented a number of upgrades like QUIC to stabilize the network at times of high activity.
- State compression is a new innovation that uses Merkle trees to radically shrink the cost of storing any type of data on-chain.
- Compressed NFTs, the first use case of state compression and developed by engineers at Metaplex and Solana Labs, reduced the cost of storing NFTs on Solana by up 26,000x — as proven by Helium’s migration to Solana, which minted nearly a million NFTs for a little more than $100.
- Jito Labs released a new version of the Solana validator client that as of March 2023 comprised sixteen percent of total stake — making Solana only the second proof of stake blockchain to have more than one validator client.
- At Breakpoint 2022, Jump gave a demo of Firedancer, a performant validator client that processed .6 million transactions per second in a test environment.
- The launch of the Solana Mobile Stack and the flagship device Saga created a framework to make it easy for the world’s 5 billion mobile phone users to use blockchain technologies for the first time.
Solana, at its core, is an open source project by thousands of builders across the world. It’s the sum of the work by every ecosystem project, student builder, creator, and more. It is up to the Solana community to bring this ecosystem forward, and I’m heartened to see so many projects bubbling up and growing to make everyone stronger.
If you are building something that can help the entire community, the Solana Foundation wants to help. You can apply for a grant, convertible grant, or investment, share your knowledge at Breakpoint, make your project open source, or whatever you can think of. The Solana ecosystem is made up of people who create public goods — Armani Ferrante, the creator of xNFTs, got his start on Solana building the Anchor framework.
This community is made up of all of you. And if we help each other, we are going to make it.