Mar 2, 2021

What are NFTs, and why are they selling for millions?

NFT
Blockchain
Grimes
Cryptocurrency
William Smith
2 min
Each NFT digital item is unique and non-interchangeable. As the owner of an NFT, you own the only example in the world
Each NFT digital item is unique and non-interchangeable. As the owner of an NFT, you own the only example in the world...

NFTs (which some have taken to pronouncing “nifties”) are unique digital items. The idea is in part an evolution of the digital items that have long been part and parcel of video games, such as cosmetic items that change the appearance of your character.

Backed by blockchain

Only in this case, the digital items are backed by blockchain technology - NFT standing for “non-fungible” token. What it means is that while being based on the same technology as cryptocurrencies, each token is unique and non-interchangeable. As the owner of an NFT, you own the only example in the world.

The appeal of the technology to art collectors is obvious, giving ephemeral digital possessions the exclusivity of real-world art objects.

The WarNymph Collection

A number of nifty marketplaces have duly sprung up, such as Nifty Gateway, which recently hosted the NFT debut of Canadian musician and artist Grimes. Grimes’ WarNymph collection of eight pieces, which can all be viewed entirely for free, nevertheless sold out in just 20 minutes for a total $5.8mn.

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(Image: Grimes / Nifty Collection)

The artworks were seemingly tailored to the concept of NFTs, with the description reading: “The first of her kind, WarNymph is a digital entity spliced from a pixel DNA of the organic human, Grimes. Merging the raw images of a photogrammetry scan, enunciating her iconic tattoos, with a retopologized mesh that was sculpted, modelled, and morphed into a variety of forms before being permanently sealed into the body of a baby angel, a cherub.”

It’s not just digital artists getting in on the technology, however, with the NBA offering collectible highlights sold as packs much like trading cards. While some fear a bubble, established auction houses are also dipping their toes. Christie’s, for instance, is auctioning a digital collage by the artist Beeple. At the time of writing, the leading bid is for $3mn

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Jun 8, 2021

Fastly's CDN Reportedly to Blame for Global Internet Outage

Technology
Fastly
servers
websites
Tilly Kenyon & Oliver James Fr...
3 min
Multiple outages have hit social media, government, and news websites across the globe

A huge outage has brought down a number of major websites around the world. Among those affected are gov.uk, Hulu, PayPal, Vimeo, and news outlets such as CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times.

It is thought a glitch at Fastly ─ a popular CDN provider ─ is causing the worldwide issue. Fastly has confirmed it’s facing an outage on its status website but fails to specify a reason for the fault ─ only that the problem isn’t limited to a single data centre and, instead, is a “global CDN disruption” that is potentially affecting the company’s global network.

“We’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services,” the firm said.

What is Fastly?

Fastly is a content delivery network (CDN) company that helps users view digital content more quickly. The company also provides security, video delivery, and so-called edge computing services. They use strategically distributed, highly performant POPs to help move data and applications closer to users and deliver up-to-date content quickly.

The firm has been proving increasingly popular among leading media websites. After going public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2019, shares rose exponentially in price, but after today’s outages, Fastly’s value has taken a sharp 5.21% fall and are currently trading at US$48.06. 

What are CDNs?

Content delivery networks (CDNs) are a web of small computers, or servers, that link together to collaborate as a single computer. CDNs improve the performance of internet-connected devices by placing these servers as close as possible to the people using those devices in different locations, creating hundreds of points of presence, otherwise known as POPs.

They help minimise delays in loading web page content by reducing the physical distance between the server and the user. This helps users around the world view the same high-quality content without slow loading times. 

Without a CDN, content origin servers must respond to every single end-user request. This results in significant traffic to the origin and subsequent load, thereby increasing the chances for origin failure if the traffic spikes are exceedingly high or if the load is persistent.

The Risk of CDNs

Over time, developers have attempted to protect users from the dangers of overreliance through the implementation of load balancing, DDoS (Denial of Service) protection, web application firewalls, and a myriad of other security features. 

Clearly, by the state of today’s major website outage, these measures aren’t enough. Evidently, CDNs present a risk factor that is widely underestimated ─ which needs to be rectified with haste. Content delivery networks have become a key part of the global infrastructure, and so it’s imperative that organisations start to figure out risk mitigation strategies to protect companies reliant on the interconnected service from further disruption and disarray. 

Over the coming days, both Technology Magazine and Data Centre Magazine will continue to provide updates on the current situation as developments are made.

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