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Let’s Get Technical: What Is NFT Metadata?

2022-11-04

Main Takeaways

  • Simply put, metadata is a set of data that describes other data. 

  • The metadata of your NFT can describe its essential properties, such as its name, total supply, and transaction history. 

  • An essential component of each NFT, knowing how to view the metadata of an NFT helps holders understand what they’re actually purchasing. 

Let's pull back the hood and learn what lies beneath your NFT.

From providing ownership of digital assets to serving as access keys for underlying content such as art, music, movies, and more, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have proven to be a game-changer for many industries. While NFT metadata might not be an industry buzzword yet, it’s an integral part of the technology.  

Here’s a quick crash course on NFT metadata, how they’re stored, and how you can find them. 

What Is NFT Metadata?

An NFT is a cryptographic token hosted on a blockchain and can represent a digital asset in the form of a JPEG, GIF, or MP4 file. Metadata is data that includes information about other data. It also helps servers process and store data more efficiently.

NFT metadata is a set of data that makes up the content of an NFT, and is usually specified in a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format. The metadata of an NFT can describe its characteristics and properties, such as its name, description, transaction history, traits, link to the hosted image, and more. Additionally, the metadata of an NFT can point to the link you use to view the NFT, whether it’s a photo or video. 

Where Is NFT Metadata Stored?

The data that makes up your NFT has to be kept somewhere, and there are two ways used to store this data: on-chain and off-chain. 

Keeping an NFT on-chain means the whole NFT, including its image and metadata, lives on a blockchain. While this method of storage can ensure that users can verify all aspects of a digital asset, it’s not popular among digital creators or projects. This is because images like JPEG files contain a lot of data, and keeping a large amount of data on a blockchain can be prohibitively expensive. Generally, most creators or project teams store the images of the NFTs they’ve created off-chain. 

Storing an NFT off-chain simply means that parts of the NFT or the whole NFT exist outside the blockchain. While there are creators who choose to store their NFTs on a centralized storage server like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Drive, most opt for a decentralized server like the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a distributed peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing network. And since files uploaded to the IPFS are secured across multiple nodes, this makes them much less likely to be exposed to server issues. 

NFT Metadata Standards

Among the various standards for creating and issuing NFTs, Ethereum’s ERC-721 is the first and most widely used. This standard also requires all tokens to be non-fungible and possess unique token IDs — requirements other standards don’t necessarily enforce. 

Another widely used standard in the NFT space is ERC-1155. This standard enables a single contract to contain fungible and non-fungible tokens, which is especially useful for accommodating fungible assets like in-game currencies and non-fungible assets like in-game items in the NFT gaming world. 

BEP-721 and BEP-1155 are BNB Chain’s NFT standards, and they offer functions similar to the Ethereum standards mentioned above. To learn more about BNB Chain NFT metadata standards, check out our article, Introduction BNB Chain NFT Metadata Standards.

How Can You Find an NFT’s Metadata?

As mentioned above, an NFT’s metadata can contain information such as the digital asset’s attributes, current owner, and transactional history. For NFTs that follow the ERC-721 and ERC-1155 token standards, you can use Etherscan to check their metadata.

Blockchain explorers like Etherscan are tools that can help users verify transaction histories, wallet addresses, metadata, smart contracts, and other on-chain NFT data. 

To learn how to navigate Etherscan, check out our in-depth tutorial on What Is EtherScan and How to Use It?

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Conclusion

In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, metadata as a whole is as important as the data or content it represents. While it’s often overlooked when discussing NFTs, a digital asset’s metadata is arguably one of its most crucial components.

As the foundation for one of the most popular digital asset classes, the importance of metadata is likely to grow as the NFT industry continues to evolve and adoption becomes more widespread.

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