Meet the Yat, the follow-up to NFTs where people invest in emojis

February 8, 2022, 3:57 PM UTC

While a wide swath of the population is still trying to get a firm grasp on exactly what cryptocurrency and NFTs are, a new form of digital investment is elbowing its way into the spotlight.

Meet the Yat, a custom string of emojis that can currently be used as a URL (and, in the near future, say its creators, be used for electronic payments). It might sound speculative, but it’s already attracting thousands of investors, who are willing to spend big money.

Yat Labs, the company behind the technology, tells the Wall Street Journal it has sold 160,000 Yats since February of 2021, earning a total of $20 million. One buyer dropped $425,000 for a single-character key emoji, while another spent $200,000 for the two-emoji rocket ship/moon combination.

Yats range from one to five emojis and can cost as little as $4, though most three-emoji combinations (the vast majority of Yats range between three and five emojis) cost in the hundreds. The more popular the emoji, the higher the price. (And, yes, of course someone has already bought pretty much any combination of the eggplant emoji you can think of. This is the internet, after all.) The site takes credit cards, Google Pay, and, yes, some cryptos as payment.

One- and two-character Yats can’t be bought directly on the site and are sold via a virtual auction, where prices escalate quickly.

Celebrity investors include Paris Hilton and Lil Wayne. They seem to agree with Yat Labs cofounder Naveen Jain, who tells the Journal that Yats are a better way to express yourself than via a username (and calls Yats a “censorship resistant, internet identity system” in an introductory video).

Like NFTs, Yats are a commodity which can be sold. So, if you desperately wanted to buy the Yat with the peace sign and heart emoji, you could see if rapper Common (the owner of that particular combination) would be willing to part with it for the right price.

So where does one use a Yat? That’s up to you. Current adopters attach them to their social media pages to guide people to websites.

Buyer beware, though. Yats aren’t NFTs. Owners, however, do have the option to create a token on the Ethereum network proving ownership of the emoji combination for an extra fee (often more than $100). And just as Bitcoin spawned altcoins and many NFTs resemble others, there’s nothing preventing a competitor from setting up a similar service.

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