Ex-footballer hails brave ‘new world’ of NFTs

A former footballer who has become an NFT entrepreneur believes blockchain will revolutionize the way business is conducted, describing it as a new frontier in which everyone can help to build a “fairer world.”

Chris Clarke, who used to be a professional soccer player for Blackpool FC in England, is launching his own NFT pay-to-earn gaming platform, KokoSwap, where gamers can use tokens to buy digital clothing and accessories for their characters. He is one of many new actors trying to get in on the NFT craze, a rapidly expanding market valued at $25 billion last year that is encouraging many people from non-tech backgrounds to try their luck.

Clarke dismissed climate concerns raised over blockchain’s energy consumption, insisting that major platforms like Ethereum are working to resolve these issues. “Ethereum is going to proof of stake, [a consensus mechanism] that uses a lot less energy than proof of work,” he told CyberNews.

Blockchain depends on consensus mechanisms to allow its distributed computer networks to work together effectively and remain secure. The proof of work mechanism has drawn fire from critics because it requires high numbers of energy mining blocks to function.

But Clarke believes detractors of NFTs – and the blockchain technology that enables them – are ignoring the potential benefits. “I think when people criticize NFTs, it's like criticizing something straight away and not having the vision to see what will be built in ten years’ time,” he said.

Clarke sees web 3.0 - the next generation of the internet that aims to use technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to create a more transparent experience for users – as a new frontier, one that will reward those who take initiative. “It’s like the new land grab,” he said, describing NFTs as “the new world.”

But unlike land grabs of the past, the digital frontier represented by blockchain will be open to all and create a more level playing field for artists, investors, and fans, Clarke claims.

“The user benefits because they can profit from that network and get value directly. And with certain governance tokens, people can [have] voting rights in the network - it's a decentralized autonomous organization. They are not governed by anyone, there’s no CEO - everybody using this network will have a vote, albeit based on how much you stake.”

While admitting that the system is not entirely democratic – because those with larger stakes would have a bigger say – Clarke still believes it will create a business model that is fairer than the hierarchical patterns that multinationals operate on.

Furthermore, by eliminating the middleman, NFTs will allow artists to profit from their work like never before. “So if it's the music industry, you're cutting out the streaming platforms and production studios, who have been taking the lion's share of the money,” he said. “The creative people, photographers, artists - I think they're really going to shine in this new era. Because now they can have full ownership of their creations, which is as it should be.”

Governments want a slice, too

State actors cannot ignore NFTs for much longer, he added, pointing to China’s recent launch of a pilot of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) version of the yuan. The US and the UK are said to be mulling over trialing CBDCs of their own, as is the EU.

“With the digital currencies, they can't chase everything around, so what they're trying to do is slow things down so they can bring their own coins out,” said Clarke. “Then they can control the digital currency from the banks.”

But rather than seeing this move as a threat, Clarke thinks the cryptocurrency industry would benefit from some regulation. However, he stressed that striking the right balance between centralization and decentralization would be crucial.

“We don't want everything to be decentralised, it will be a merger of the two,” he said.

Another key benefit of blockchain is that it is a forum where information is freely shared between operators - in striking contrast to the conventional way of doing business, where companies refuse to cooperate in an effort to maximize individual profits.

“This is a space where everyone is collaborating and sharing,” he said. “This is amazing to see – everybody is working in partnerships to build a fairer world. This is what's different with the blockchain – the tech is all open source. We're going to go into an exponential growth of technology because it can be shared now – where before it was companies holding information so they could get ahead of other companies.”

Novices should proceed cautiously

Clarke – who started investing in cryptocurrency around three years ago and claims he has never been hacked – was similarly upbeat about the future of cybersecurity, but added that caution remained the best defense against attacks. “Be careful what emails you click on,” he advised. “You have to be careful when you go on Discord and Twitter groups too – get to know the main moderators.”

In particular, he warned new entrants to the world of cryptocurrency and NFTs to scrutinize contract addresses – unique signifiers assigned to tokens by blockchain providers such as Ethereum – before clicking on them. Hackers can put up false links that closely resemble legitimate addresses but in fact lead to bogus sites.

“Then, if you download your wallet to that site it could get hacked,” said Clarke. “So my advice when people are investing is head into those Discord and Twitter groups and type in the proper website address.” He also advised double-checking any addresses to make sure they are legitimate.

And with more and more people getting involved with cryptocurrency and NFTs, patience is a virtue when it comes to building up a list of reputable contacts on social media. “With Twitter, it can take a bit of time to [find] people who you trust and respect, the actors you'll tend to follow.”

He also warned that peer-to-peer NFT marketplaces, such as OpenSea, can be risky, with hackers trying to impersonate legitimate operators to lure people into clicking on malicious links, and advised investors to remain vigilant. “After our NFT launch in December, we had somebody who tried to copy our page and NFTs,” he said. “We had to contact OpenSea to get it removed. It's just doing due diligence really.”

Clarke also cautioned new entrants to the market to hedge their bets until they understand the industry better.

“As to any investor coming into a new space, invest what you can afford,” he said. “Maybe $100 or even less, and just get to know everything before you put in a high amount.”

Those who take the right precautions should be safe from hackers, Clarke added.

“There are a lot of bad actors, but I think that is going to change over time, and the strong will survive,” he said. “The cream rises to the top, doesn't it?”

More from CyberNews:

NFTs in 2022: metaverse, mainstream acceptance, and lurking cybercriminals

The NFT hunt: humans vs. bots

Bridgesplit, promising a yield on your precious NFTs, raises $4.25 million

The man behind the Oscars Chadwick Boseman NFT tribute: why do NFTs excite black artists?

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