Fourteen years and 881 million views later, "Charlie Bit My Finger," the harbinger of the internet's viral age, will bow out of YouTube and will be reborn as an NFT or non-fungible token, one of the emergencing currencies of the crypto generation.
Built on the same platforms as bitcoin and etherium, NFTs are sold for ownership of high value items like art and sports memorabilia. In this case, it's baby Charlie Davies-Carr biting the finger of his then three-year-old big brother, Harry. All 56 seconds of it.
“We were one of the first to embrace YouTube and we’re being one of the first to embrace NFT’s and cryptos," the two boys' father, Howard Davies-Carr who uploaded the video, told NYPost. He only meant to show his two boys' interaction to their godfather, when it "unintentionally went viral".
How can the family do this? The elder Davies-Carr, secured copyright after it got 50 million views in a matter of months. They partnered with YouTube for ad revenue, becoming the first viral stars to embrace what was once an unthinkable source of money.
On May 22nd, they are auctionning the “Charlie bit my finger - again !” video as an NFT, after which it will be deleted from YouTube forever.
It's the latest in a slew of internet memes and art pieces that have crossed over to the crypto side. Among the recent memes to get sold are Nyan Cat for $590,000 (over P28 million) and Disaster Girl for around $500,000 (over P24 million).
What are NFTs?
NFTs are "best understood as computer files combined with proof of ownership and authenticity, like a deed," Time magazine explained.
Like other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, they exist on a blockchain which is a tamper-resistant form of digital public ledger. But unlike cryptocurrencies that are as "fungible” as the paper money in your wallet (one bitcoin is always worth the same as any other bitcoin), NFTs, as they are named, are the complete opposite.
It being non-fungible allows one to buy and sell unique digital items whose ownership can be tracked using a blockchain. Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain, a rival to bitcoin, and can technically contain anything digital, including drawings, animated GIFs, songs, or items in video games, said The Verge.
Still confused? The Verge tried phrasing it in terms of physical art collecting: "anyone can buy a Monet print. But only one person can own the original."
But what's the point, when in today's digital age, anyone can basically copy a digital file as many times they can? That's mainly the contention with NFTs, but it still could not stop collectors from spending over $200 million on NFT-based artworks, memes and GIFs in March alone, based on market tracker NonFungible.com.
Not to mention, NFTs are also helping artists regain the monetary value of their work when likes and comments nowadays can only do so much to sustain their living.
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Now, what makes the Charlie-bit-me sale special?
Traditionally, even after the sale of an NFT, its copyright and reproduction rights still remain with the artist. In the case of “Charlie bit my finger - again !” video, it should remain with the Davies-Carr family.
However, as the drop promises, "the iconic video will be removed from YouTube and one person will have the opportunity to own it in its new form as a 1/1 NFT, memorializing them in internet history forever".
This is huge, considering that in the video's 14-year history, it became Youtube's most viewed viral video. Should the sale be successful, the NFT winner will also get the opportunity to create their own parody of the video featuring the original stars, Harry and Charlie.
The family told NYPost it's not about the money, adding they have no expectations for the outcome of the auction. While the one video was their claim to fame, their YouTube channel went on to produce more family videos, accumulating over a billion views.
“NFTs is the new thing,” said Charlie, who at 1 year old, captivated millions of internet strangers in what really was just a typical everyday moment between two little siblings.
"When we posted, YouTube was the new thing, but now NFTs is the exciting new thing," the now-14 year old Charlie added.