As of 2023, my future Ethereum NFTs use smart contracts created and owned by me rather than the platform providers such as OpenSea and Rarible. In simple terms, this provides superior proof of provenance for collectors while also ensuring the underlying contract can’t be changed. Read on, if you wish to dig deeper.
A smart contract is actually some programming code put on the blockchain so it’s visible. It’s used to determine what happens when NFTs under the contract are, for example, created, sold or transferred. To save minting costs, the large NFT platform providers aggregate large numbers of NFTs, from many artists, under their own smart contract. This means the provenance of the artwork, via the blockchain, is via a platform entity that might or might not exist in the future or might even, one day, be controlled by a different organisation.
The sharing of a contract also means many 1/1 edition NFTs end up getting created using ERC-1155 contracts suitable for multiple editions. Fastidious collectors demand serious artists use ERC-721 contracts that ensure extra editions can’t be created.
Some platforms, such as Rarible and Foundation, allow artists to create separate smart contracts owned by, and attributable via the blockchain, to the artists themselves. However, the smart contract code uses what’s called a ‘proxy contract’. A proxy contract means all of the smart contract code isn’t included in the smart contract and instead calls into another smart contract to determine what happens when, for example, and NFT is created, sold or transferred. This is done for development convenience and also to reduce the size of the smart contract and save minting costs. There’s also a type of proxy contract called ‘updatable proxy’ that allows the contract to change. It’s difficult for the artist and collectors to fully understand a given contract as it’s written in programming code and the platforms don’t explain the rationale behind their platform-created contracts.
Manifold.xyz was formed by developers who wanted to allow artists to own their own smart contracts and also ensure contracts are immutable (can’t be changed). Manifold-created contracts are the gold standard for artists and collectors.
NFTs created using artist-owned contracts end up being viewable and tradeable on all the major NFT platforms. It’s possible to click on the etherscan.io link next to an NFT to see that the artist owns the associated smart contract. Clicking on the ‘Contract’ tab shows the code that has been created from Manifold template code.
Manifold-created NFTs can be pre-minted by the artist in Manifold Studio or by the collector on a Manifold claim page. Pre-minted NFTs show on all platforms but can only be listed (for a price) or auctioned on one site at a time as the platform usually has to take temporary ownership of the NFTs while it is listed/auctioned. The collector pays minting for NFTs created via a Manifold claim page and these NFTs won’t show on platforms until they have been minted.