Despite being a transformative technology, Web3 has not necessarily enjoyed a continuous hockey-stick adoption as one would expect. This can partly be attributed to the complexity of owning and handling cryptocurrency wallets.
Crypto platforms have been working on ways to ease the process and offer a better experience for newcomers. Meanwhile, other teams take a different approach, working on the infrastructure that supports wallets, hoping to make things easier and break the adoption barrier.
This approach has led to the development of the ERC-6551 token standard, which allows non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to also function as wallets that can hold other assets. The concept was introduced in February as an Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) by several developers and individuals from Future Primitive, along with Manifold, an NFT creator platform.
The article will discuss ERC-6551 along with its use cases. It will also look into the adoption of the concept so far and the challenges that have risen following these adoptions and implementations.
What is ERC-6551?
ERC-6551 is a token standard that enhances the functionality of NFTs by giving them smart contract capabilities and enabling them to function as smart contract wallets.
By implementing this token standard, an NFT is assigned an Ethereum account, creating a token-bound account. This account enables the NFT to own assets and interact with applications without requiring changes to existing smart contracts or infrastructure.
The token standard’s proposal was authored by Future Primitive founding developers Benny Giang, Jayden Windle, and many other developers who said the team was motivated by challenges encountered using the ERC-721 token standard.
ERC-721 is a standard for creating unique digital assets on the Ethereum blockchain. However, NFTs created using this standard cannot act as agents or associate with other on-chain assets. The authors say that this limitation makes it difficult to represent many real-world non-fungible assets as NFTs.
As such, the ERC-6551 standard was created to enable NFTs to own other NFTs and assets, execute arbitrary operations, control multiple independent accounts, and use accounts across multiple chains.
Use Cases of ERC-6551
ERC-6551 was first used by Future Primitive when the team attempted to build the technology stack to support on-chain avatars owning their digital clothing item.
The token standard enabled the project’s characters to not only own their clothing in their own wallet, but they could also buy, sell, and trade that clothing. For this reason, the token-bound account is also known as a “backpack wallet”.
Since that first application, ERC-6551 has gathered more uses as more projects employ it for their own purposes, including:
The ERC-6551 token standard enables NFTs to own more assets, enabling the possibility of trading features or attributes. For instance, if an NFT is a profile picture with a hat, the NFT is able to trade the hat or even accumulate more hats.
Using the ERC-6551 standard, NFT creators also have the chance to collaborate on NFT projects. This is more applicable in digital fashion since multiple artists can contribute separate NFTs to an on-chain clothing item, which combined create an entirely new piece.
The different NFTs are still identifiable individually, allowing their creator to be acknowledged as a contributor to the final piece. This expands the industry’s creativity range, opening up more opportunities for collaborative digital fashion design.
Gaming can also benefit from ERC-6551 by allowing gaming characters to collect assets and crypto throughout the game and store them in their wallets. Similarly, the characters and avatars can trade the assets and crypto for other assets, making the game more realistic.
Using this token standard also unlocks new possibilities regarding how much a character can be customized, bettering the player’s gaming experience.
By implementing token-bound accounts, developers can create “Network Playable Characters” which will help them better monetize in-game assets and open up a variety of chances for NFT creators to earn rewards and monetize their assets.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations
Wallet-bound NFTs can be used in DAOs to represent the identity of their owners where, instead of the history of a DAO member being separated by an NFT and a wallet, it can be placed into the NFT itself.
This will help in identifying DAO members, enabling them to perform roles such as voting, signing contracts, and accessing services securely and transparently.
Adoption of ERC-6551
At the time of publication, the ERC-6551 token standard is still a proposal and is yet to become a legitimate standard. Regardless, it has gained traction within the crypto community, particularly among NFT-related projects.
As of September 2023, there were over 17200 ERC-6551 wallets, based mainly on the Polygon blockchain. This is possible since token-bound wallets have been made to be Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible, hence, they are operable on networks such as Polygon and layer 2s like Arbitrum and Optimism.
One project that adopted ERC-6551 is Stapleverse, which launched the Sapienz project in May 2023. The Sapienz NFT project ushers in a new era of digital street culture, where users receive a customizable character that unlocks based on other NFTs they own.
The items used to customize the characters are then bound to Sapienz using token-bound accounts, adding to the inventory that the character owns, thus, more value.
Lens, a decentralized social media platform, has also integrated the ERC-6551 token standard by enabling tokens to custody their own profiles on the platform.
Despite the exciting possibilities it unlocks, ERC-6551 has also brought about a new set of challenges, including extra friction in selling assets due to the recursive nature of its implementation. The fact that a shoe can own a shoelace that can own a charm, all in the form of NFTs, for example, makes it more difficult to sell the charm alone.
This also increases the amount of gas fees required to sell or trade the assets above the current amount required for individual NFTs.
The eventual legitimization of ERC-6551 is bound to increase the adoption of the token standard. On the other hand, its implementation opens up the world of NFT to greater possibilities. Token-bound wallets have the potential to introduce more functionality into NFTs and increase their interoperability as well as their tradability.
Its application is not limited to NFTs. ERC-6551 will also impact other areas in the Web3 space, including gaming, the metaverse, and other blockchain applications. This new token standard is here to redefine digital ownership.