Can an NFT Get More People Outside? The Outerverse Passport Aims to Find Out.
A detailed look at Outside Inc.’s first foray into Web3 and how it might improve our digital health and overall wellbeing
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If you’re already familiar with Outside Inc.’s flagship NFT, the Outerverse Passport, we won’t bury the lede: they go on sale Wednesday, July 20, at Outside.io, and you can buy one for $225 with a credit card, no crypto needed.
If you need a refresher, the Outerverse Passport is essentially an entry ticket into the Outerverse, Outside Inc.’s many-faceted Web3 initiative. With the Passport, fans will have access to everything the company is building to support Web3, including an NFT marketplace selling one-of-a-kind digital artworks, a community of creators and peers on Discord, and real-world benefits like gear discounts, event entries, and a three-year O+ membership.
Only 10,000 Passports will be created (“minted,” in crypto parlance), though the company has a roadmap for future NFT drops from the Outside Creator Community, which includes photographers like Chris Burkard, artists like James Arnold, and athletes like Sasha DiGiulian. Each of these drops—along with everything the company intends to do as part of the Outerverse—is designed to fulfill Outside’s mission statement: to get everyone outside.
But Why NFTs?
If that’s all the info you were looking for, great. If the whole Outside-blockchain marriage still mystifies you, read on. (In the interest of absolutely obvious disclosure, these are moves from our own parent company we’re about to unpack.)
There’s a lot of zeal, debate, and confusion about NFTs right now, and for good reason. Any explanation of the technology behind them is, for most people, either a rapturous affirmation of the internet’s finally turning into the tool it set out to be 40 years ago, or a thicket of baffling jargon. Are they new and flashy? Yes. Can they make boatloads of money for the companies and creators who produce them? Also yes.
Skeptics will observe that combination and think “bandwagon.” But if you ask the boosters, the promise of Web3 (the “new” vision of the internet, powered by the same technology that makes NFTs possible: blockchain) isn’t just that it will generate more digital gewgaws and perhaps make some people rich; it’s that the technology will actually make our lives easier and more equitable, make our work more productive and—in the best case—make us happier.
How? For Outside, the potential advantage of NFTs is simple: they offer a way to reward people directly for spending time outdoors.
What the Passport Actually Gets You
“We see NFTs as another useful piece of gear to add to your kit,” says Outside CEO Robin Thurston. “Like any good outdoor tool, an NFT should blend form and function. That’s why we’re embedding real-life benefits into every minting—perks that inspire you to get outside.”
You’ll hear that line again and again as Outside delves further into Web3: it’s all about getting people outside. Thurston himself is deeply concerned with Americans’ growing disconnect from anything that isn’t beamed to them via LED screen, and is angling to do something about it. “Today, the average American checks their phone 344 times a day, and screen time for kids ranges from four to more than nine hours daily,” he says. “That’s a huge problem, not just for the wellbeing of our children, but for the health of our society and the planet.” Outside’s NFT project is, in part, an attempt to combat that trend.
If it all sounds a little optimistic—using emerging technology to help wean people off technology—just look at what Outside’s new NFT does, urges Thurston. Outside envisions a kind of gamification that Passport holders participate in on their own terms.
Imagine automatically earning a free boot fitting after five days on the slopes this winter, or a free bike tune up after you ride 100 miles, all made possible by the technology embedded in the Passport. That’s the kind of “real-life benefit” the company is talking about: incentives for getting outside that, hopefully, drive more people away from their computer screens and into the fresh air.
And the rewards game is just one feature. The Passport also offers early access to select launches on Outside’s new NFT marketplace, entry into events, and an inventory of other attractive perks that the company has promised to continue growing over time. At a recent NFT conference in New York City, attendees got a taste of what these benefits will look like when Jack Johnson performed a private rooftop concert for holders of the Outerverse Bedrock Badge—a precursor to the Passport—and hung out afterward to rub shoulders with the crowd.
If you’re not into the backend tech of it all, that’s as complicated as the Passport has to be, the company says. Blockchains might be arcane and perplexing, but listening to music on a rooftop is not.
The New Creator Economy
It all sounds pretty good for users, but what about the people actually making the stuff that will appear on Outside’s new NFT marketplace, the photographers and writers and musicians?
One of the hallmarks of Web3 is that users control their own data, and creators control their own digital goods (for a high-level explainer, here’s a good place to start). This is vastly different from Web 2.0, the version of the internet most people use today, in which the buying and selling of personal data, and the advertising money that flows from it, dictates almost everything. Creators of all kinds fill the internet with good stuff—music, writing, art—and then don’t get a cut of the profits generated when people interact online to consume that content.
Web3 is fairer, Outside argues, as the technology promises creators automatic, unmediated collection of profits from the distribution and secondary-market sale of their work. In a Web3 world—and especially on an NFT marketplace like the one Outside is building—creators enjoy full control over their works until they sell them, and when they do sell them, they dictate the terms. Blockchain-powered marketplaces also, by dint of how the tech functions, mitigate many of the legal and contractual hazards that content producers face.
Some of Outside’s most influential creators are already on board. Photographer Malik Martin, who will debut his new Constellation Collection through the Outerverse this month, puts it this way: “Instagram, Facebook, and social media are platforms I don’t own. I don’t have control over them. I look at Web3 as a chance to submit my work forever…to create art that’s always going to be accessible on the blockchain.”
Sustainability and Giving Back
When Outside announced the Outerverse launch in April, it discussed at length its use of the Solana blockchain to lessen the initiative’s carbon footprint, as well a give-back component that ensures 20 percent of net revenue from all NFT sales (including the Passport sale) go to groups that support environmental issues and diversity in the outdoors.
Despite all the promises and pronouncements, though, Outside leadership still clearly realize this effort will breed some skeptics. That’s why transparency, as a final metric for success, is front and center in the Outerverse project. The company has synthesized much of its thinking in a whitepaper that explains the whole thing in more detail.
Finally, of course, it will be up to the users to determine whether they trust the project and, if they do, what it means to them. Whether or not the Passport becomes an essential piece of anyone’s outdoor kit remains to be seen, but its launch makes one thing clear: Outside’s Web3 ambitions go well beyond a single NFT drop. A media landscape dominated by blockchain technology is still a long way off; Outside’s efforts in the space, likewise, are just getting started.