Exploring the Flow blockchain: The consumer blockchain powering NBA Top Shot
by Brian Kelleher
Since joining NBA Top Shot in January, I started seeing the terms blockchain, crypto mining, and non-fungible token (NFT) all over the internet and Twitter feed. What do these words mean? Why is Flow blockchain, which Top Shot is built on, different from the others? What else can be built on the Flow blockchain?
Let’s explore these questions and more about the Flow blockchain, which hails itself as “the blockchain for open worlds … built to support the next generation of games, apps, and digital assets that power them.”
First off: What’s a Blockchain?
A blockchain is a decentralized ledger that keeps a record of all transactions completed across the peer-to-peer blockchain network of computers. The blockchain uses this powerful network of computers to process and record all of the transactions on-chain. Blockchain is a developing technology with many advantages in an increasingly digital world.
Bitcoin, Ether, and even Dogecoin operate on their own separate blockchains. Ether is the native currency of the Ethereum blockchain and was spawned off the Bitcoin blockchain due to Bitcoin’s limited functionality. Unlike Bitcoin, developers can build apps on top of the Ethereum blockchain — which inspired Dapper Labs to create Flow.
The Flow Blockchain, built by Dapper Labs
The Flow blockchain, engineered by Dapper Labs, is different than other blockchains: it is specifically built for the high demand of transactions for apps, games, and digital collectibles. In other words, it’s the largest consumer blockchain built to date.
On the Ethereum blockchain, gas fees — or the cost to process and validate transactions on the Ethereum blockchain — would cost collectors millions of dollars per day.
The validation structure makes Flow unique amongst blockchains as Flow splits validation tasks into four different types of nodes: consensus, verification, execution, and collection. It also facilitates transactions extremely fast, thereby saving everyone involved time and money.
By building their own blockchain with Flow, Dapper Labs can handle immense transactions and significantly reduce transaction costs for people who play their NFT games.
Every NFT minted on the Flow blockchain is unique and cannot be duplicated or faked in any way. The purpose of Flow blockchain is to create a platform that allows these types of apps to attract many mainstream users, such as NBA Top Shot collectors.
Four Advantages to using the Flow blockchain
Flow is a blockchain built from the ground up that allows the network to scale to serve billions of users.
1. Built for Mass Markets
According to Flow, its blockchain was “designed for mainstream consumers, with payment onramps catalyzing a safe and low-friction path from fiat to crypto.” This way, intellectual properties like NBA, UFC, and (soon) Gucci can create and distribute digital collectibles on-chain for their massive audiences. Purdue head of research David Broecker said to Coindesk: “If Ethereum is blockchain 2.0, then we view Flow as version 4.0. We view Flow as the blockchain technology for the mass market.”
2. High Security
Blockchain is safer because it uses a digital signature to conduct fraud-free transactions, making it impossible to corrupt or change individuals’ data by other users on the network without a specific digital signature. The Flow blockchain supports more sophisticated authorization controls to create the smoothest and safest user experience.
Normally, you would need the approval of regulatory agencies like a government or bank for transactions, but with blockchain, the transactions are completed with the mutual consensus of network users resulting in safer, faster transactions.
4. Smart Contracts made for Games and Digital Assets
The Flow architecture uses Cadence, an easier-to-use programming language for crypto-assets, like NFTs, and apps. This helps developers ensure their code is safe, secure, and approachable for other developers to build on top of.
What NFTs are being built on the Flow Blockchain?
Enough with the technical analysis, we came here to collect NFTs, play games, and have fun. So let’s take a look at all the collectibles and games minted on Flow blockchain.
Predecessor to the Dapper Labs, which was formed in February 2018, CryptoKitties one of the earliest NFT games that took the internet by storm in late 2017, first built on the Ethereum blockchain. In the game, people can purchase, collect, breed, and sell virtual cats. Each digital cat is a non-fungible token and unique in its own way. Each cat is validated via the blockchain, and the value can vary based on market activity. CryptoKitties has moved to the Flow blockchain since its launch.
Built in partnership with the NBA, NBA Players Association, and Dapper Labs, Top Shot is a platform that allows collectors to buy and sell Moments of officially-licensed NBA highlights. The NFT highlights can be purchased through digital packs, which collectors can open just like a physical pack of cards, or on the secondary market, also built on the Flow blockchain.
Genies is a digital avatar company bringing celebrities closer to their fans by offering collectibles built by Dapper Labs. Genies already has partnerships with Warner Music Group, Giphy, and high fashion houses such as Gucci to release NFTs in an engaging way. Genies will build their own NFT marketplace on Flow blockchain, where fans can soon purchase, trade, and sell digital accessories for their unique avatar. The Genies app is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
MotoGP Ignition is an officially licensed strategic management and collectibles game. Players of the game can collect drivers, bikes, coaches, gear, and bike parts from packs and the marketplace. MotoGP is a play-to-earn concept, where the MotoGP NFT collectibles can be used in head-to-head multiplayer games to earn rewards and tokens.
Inspired by Magic: The Gathering physical collectible cards, DarkCountry is an NFT digital trading card game with regular tournaments, feature updates, and new card set releases. Dark Country Lands (continents based on different blockchains) and the investment in virtual real estate make this game different than any other collectible game.
The Future of the Flow Blockchain
What does the future hold for collectibles on the Flow blockchain? Likely sometime in 2021, NBA Top Shot’s beta tag will be removed, and a cosmic marketing campaign will follow. With Flow recently minting the Charlotte Hornets’ commemorative NFT tickets, we are only seeing the beginning of the potential for real-life utility for Flow projects.
I also expect to see a beta website for UFC collectibles on Flow — similar to Top Shot — pop up by the end of the year. Collectors can already register for early access to the UFC on Flow project. Dapper Labs is also working on a Dr. Seuss NFT collectible series which you can sign up for early access to as well.
There’s plenty to keep an eye on from Dapper Labs’s consumer blockchain. CryptoKitties and Top Shot are surely only the start.