Nouns 101: Inside the grand NFT avatar experiment

A beginner's guide to Nouns, an experimental NFT avatar project!
William M. Peaster William M. Peaster Sep 14, 20214 min read
Nouns 101: Inside the grand NFT avatar experiment

Dear Bankless Nation,

With the NFT ecosystem as young as it is, the time is ripe for NFT experiments of all kinds.

That said, one new NFT experiment I’ve been watching with great curiosity lately has been Nouns. Yes, Nouns.

The charismatic project can be a little confusing at first, but once you wrap your head around it you may find it’s one of the most interesting social happenings taking place on Ethereum right now.

That’s how I personally feel anyways! You decide for yourself, but first let’s get you prepared to do that by getting you up to speed on what the project’s all about. Here’s a beginner’s guide to Nouns ✌️


Glossary of Nouns

  • 🏰 Nounders — the 10 founders of the Nouns project, including but not limited to 4156, dom, and gremplin

  • ⚙️ Nouns protocol — an open-source suite of smart contracts for generating and auctioning one Noun per day.

  • 💎 Noun — one of the official on-chain NFT avatars generated by the Nouns protocol, all released into the public domain; all Nouns are equally rare because the project enforces “no explicit rules for attribute scarcity.”

    Noun 39
  • 🗳 Nouns DAO — the collective of Noun holders, who collaborate to approve community proposals and govern the treasury (1 Noun = 1 vote) amassed from daily Nouns auctions; that treasury is already +5,550 ETH strong!

  • 🖼️ Noun derivatives — projects that build atop the Nouns protocol infrastructure or create art that’s derived from public domain Nouns images. 

  • 🕛 Noun O’Clock — the time of day at which the current Noun’s auction ends (calendar here).

Nouns 101

“One Noun, every day, forever.”

That’s the motto of Nouns, a generative NFT project that creates and auctions a Noun — a 32x32 pixel character inspired by, you guessed it, people, places, and things — once daily.

In the words of the Nounders, the Nouns protocol is a “self-sufficient Noun generation and distribution mechanism, auctioning one Noun every 24 hours, forever.”

All ETH earned from auctions are delivered to Nouns DAO and governed by its members, and auction settlements automatically trigger the generation of a new Noun (artistically determined via the details of the prior Ethereum block hash + the Noun ID) and a new auction.

Why Nouns, why now

The Nounders have explained:

Nouns are an experimental attempt to improve the formation of on-chain avatar communities. While projects such as Cryptopunks have attempted to bootstrap digital community and identity, Nouns attempt to bootstrap identity, community, governance and a treasury that can be used by the community for the creation of long-term value.”

Are Nouns just for whales?

At the time of writing, 41 Nouns have been generated by Noun Protocol. Most of the Nouns created so far have sold for over 100 ETH, with the highest sale yet being 613.37 ETH for Noun 1.

Why the major early prices, then? I think there’s no singular reason responsible but rather a variety of contributing factors.

First off, the Nounders (even before and outside of Nouns) command significant respect in the NFT ecosystem, a reality that has attracted both creatives and resourceful collectors to the project.

Nouns launched during a historic NFT bull market, too, wherein collectors and collector groups have been scrambling to frontrun the world to historic NFT projects, or in Noun protocol’s case, to young NFT projects that have the potential to become celebrated in the years ahead.

Regardless, though, the Nouns project isn’t just a club for whales. One can imagine over time how the initial Nouns could command a premium while the price of later Nouns increasingly trends downward and becomes more affordable.

Moreover, there are Noun collector groups like Shark DAO and group bidding systems like PartyBid + Fractional that make Noun ownership more accessible to non-whale newcomers in the here and now. A team going by the name Verbs has also proposed the development of mini-Nouns, i.e. lower-priced and smaller-vote avatars based on the Noun of the day.

Another factor to consider is the Noun ecosystem is imbued with a collaborative ethos, so you don’t have to own a Noun to participate in community discussions, or create governance proposals, and so forth. And you can always spin off your own Noun derivatives to your heart’s content!

Cool Noun Resources

Zooming out

The Nouns project is wide open, a metaphorical blank canvas for its community to create upon, through, and around.

How it plays out remains to be seen, to be sure. Yet with more than a few talented creatives on-hand and a massive treasury to lean on, Nouns is certainly something you’ll want to have on your radar going forward.

Action step

  • 👩‍🏫️ Check out the Explore Nouns wiki if you want to learn even more about this grand NFT experiment!
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