What is NFT Metadata?

NFT metadata, although not yet a buzzword in the industry, plays a critical role in the technology. 

What is NFT Metadata?

However, it remains a mystery to many in the community. Without metadata, minting a simple JPEG NFT could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in gas fees alone, as the entire information about the NFT is stored on the blockchain.

What is NFT Metadata?

Metadata refers to the data that constitutes the content of a specific NFT. In the case of a typical profile picture (PFP) NFT, metadata generally comprises details such as the name, description, traits, link to the hosted image, and other relevant information. These days, NFT metadata is commonly specified in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format.

NFT metadata is essential because it enables most of an NFT's details to be stored off-chain. When users mint, purchase, or sell NFTs on marketplaces like OpenSea, only limited information such as the token ID and contract address are recorded on the blockchain. The rest of the information is usually stored on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), which is a distributed peer-to-peer file sharing network. Some NFT projects, however, store their metadata on centralized servers as well. Therefore, creators must remember to freeze their metadata to ensure that it does not change, even if it is stored off-chain.

NFT Metadata Storage: On-Chain vs Off-Chain

When it comes to storing the data that makes up your NFT, there are two options available: on-chain and off-chain storage.

On-chain storage involves keeping the entire NFT, including its image and metadata, on the blockchain. While this ensures complete verification of the digital asset, it can be expensive for creators or projects due to the large amount of data contained in image files like JPEGs. As a result, most creators and project teams opt for off-chain storage.

Off-chain storage means that part or all of the NFT exists outside the blockchain. Some creators may choose to store their NFTs on centralized storage servers like AWS or Google Drive, but the majority use decentralized servers like the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a distributed P2P file sharing network. The use of IPFS provides better security and reduces the risk of exposure to server issues since files are secured across multiple nodes.

NFT Metadata Standards

Standardizing NFT metadata involves the development of a common set of rules and guidelines that ensure consistency and interoperability between different NFT marketplaces and platforms. These standards provide clarity and help to ensure that NFT metadata is interpreted correctly, regardless of the platform or application being used.

There are several NFT metadata standards currently in use, including ERC-721 and ERC-1155. ERC-721 is the most commonly used NFT standard and was developed by Ethereum. It includes a set of predefined fields that must be included in the metadata, such as the token ID, name, and symbol. ERC-1155, on the other hand, is a more flexible standard that can be used for both fungible and non-fungible tokens.

In addition to these standards, there are also several emerging standards, such as the OpenSea Metadata Standard and the W3C Verifiable Credentials Data Model. These emerging standards are focused on improving the functionality of NFTs and making them more secure and reliable.

The development of NFT metadata standards is critical to the long-term success of NFTs. Without standardization, there is a risk of fragmentation and confusion, which could lead to a loss of value and trust in NFTs as an asset class. Standardization provides clarity, promotes interoperability, and helps to establish NFTs as a legitimate and valuable asset class.

How Can You Find an NFT’s Metadata?

If you're interested in purchasing or selling an NFT, you'll need to understand how to find the token's metadata. NFT metadata is an essential component of the token and provides critical information about the asset and its ownership.

Step 1: Identify the NFT contract address - The first step in finding an NFT's metadata is to identify the contract address of the NFT. This is typically provided by the NFT marketplace or platform where the token is listed. The contract address is a unique identifier that distinguishes the NFT from other tokens on the blockchain.

Step 2: Access the NFT contract on a blockchain explorer - Once you have identified the contract address of the NFT, you can access the contract on a blockchain explorer. A blockchain explorer is a tool that allows you to view information about transactions and blocks on the blockchain. There are several blockchain explorers available, such as Etherscan and BscScan, which are commonly used for Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain, respectively.

Step 3: View the NFT's metadata - Once you have accessed the NFT contract on the blockchain explorer, you can view the token's metadata. The metadata is typically stored in a JSON file, which can be accessed by clicking on the "TokenURI" field in the contract information. The JSON file contains information such as the name of the token, the creator's name, the date of creation, and other relevant details about the asset.

Step 4: Interpret the metadata - After accessing the JSON file, you can interpret the metadata to gain a better understanding of the NFT's value and authenticity. The metadata can provide information about the asset's provenance, ownership history, and even the current owner of the token.

How To Check Your NFT’s Metadata?

Inaccurate metadata can lead to confusion among buyers, and it can potentially affect the value of your NFT negatively. Therefore, now we’ll discuss how to check your NFT’s metadata and ensure its accuracy.

Step 1: Locate Your NFT’s Metadata - Before you can check your NFT’s metadata, you need to know where it’s stored. As mentioned in the previous chapter, most NFT projects store their metadata off-chain on a decentralized server like the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). To access the metadata, you’ll need the IPFS hash, which is a unique identifier that points to the location of the metadata on the IPFS network.

Step 2: Verify the Metadata - Once you have the IPFS hash, you can use an IPFS explorer to access your NFT’s metadata. There are several IPFS explorers available online, such as IPFS.io and Infura.io. These explorers allow you to enter the IPFS hash and retrieve the metadata of your NFT.

When you have the metadata, make sure to verify that it’s accurate. Check the name, description, and attributes to ensure they match the information you provided when you minted or purchased the NFT. If you notice any errors, contact the project team or platform where you bought the NFT to request a correction.

Step 3: Protect Your NFT’s Metadata - Once you’ve verified your NFT’s metadata, it’s crucial to protect it from unauthorized changes. As mentioned in the previous chapter, metadata can be frozen to prevent any changes from being made to it. Freezing metadata means that the data is permanently attached to the NFT, and any attempt to modify it will result in the NFT becoming invalid.

Practical Uses of NFT Metadata

NFT metadata has a wide range of applications. It can serve as an addendum to tokens by including additional information, such as a receipt or serial number. This feature makes transactions smoother and more efficient. Additionally, metadata can be used to provide supplemental information about the asset, such as its current location, price, or image.

Another use case for NFT metadata is storing state data off of the blockchain. This feature is particularly useful for computers with limited bandwidth or storage capacity. The metadata is transmitted to centralized servers and can be accessed on the blockchain through an encrypted channel whenever required. This allows for more efficient and streamlined operations.

The Bottom Line

NFT metadata is a critical component of Non-Fungible Tokens, providing essential information about the asset and its ownership. Standardizing NFT metadata is crucial to ensuring consistency and interoperability between different NFT marketplaces and platforms.

With the increasing popularity of NFTs, understanding how to find and interpret their metadata is essential for anyone interested in this new and exciting asset class. As the technology continues to evolve, NFT metadata will play an increasingly important role in establishing NFTs as a legitimate and valuable asset class in the world of digital ownership and collecting.

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