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Utah Business

As the metaverse expands, more people are asking "What are NFTs?" Simply put, they're tickets to private communities.

NFTs are just tickets to private communities

“Community” is a word that you’ll see used frequently in NFT circles.

While NFTs are frequently looked at as an investment, those who buy-in often also begin to look at themselves as a member of a unique social group, from the high-priced projects all the way down.

For example, if you buy one of 8,888 Apocalyptic Apes, drawn by Salt Lake City artist Marcus Hadlock, you join the #AAPES, which has included thousands of fellow ape holders, from former BYU linebacker and two-time Super Bowl champion Kyle Van Noy to five-time Premier League champion soccer player John Terry. If you buy one of 1,993 gm groundhogs, founded in part by Utah’s Roger Emmer, you join the hogs.

On Discord

For NFT groups like these, a large part of these communities happens on Discord, a Slack-like app that has rocketed to the top of the app store charts during the pandemic. As of January 27th, it was the top social networking app on the Apple App Store with more than 150 million monthly active users and more than 19 million weekly active users 

Each Discord “server” has different channels users can talk in. For example, gm groundhogs, which released 1,993 NFT profile pictures, has a Discord server with more than 200 members, from Emmer, nicknamed “The Hogfather,” to “Luke Hogwalker,” and “Notorious H.O.G.” The server hosts conversation about people’s NFTs, GIFs of groundhogs, Q&As with gm groundhog holder and MLB All-Star pitcher Ross Stripling, videos from Emmer, and more. 

“People who come to our Discord will say one of two things: 1) This place is not like any other discord I’ve ever seen, and 2), I can’t believe that Roger is posting a daily video in the Discord about how his morning’s going,” Emmer says. 

The Apocalyptic Apes discord group had nearly 28,000 members as of the end of January, and it’s growing daily. Much of the conversation in the Apes’ quick-flowing server steers toward the floor price of the Apes and abundant GIF usage—though during the NFL Championship Game weekend, the chat was alive with chatter about the tightly contested matchups. 

With so many people in the Discord server—most of them using Hadlock’s ape drawings as their profile photos—many of these Discord communities are anonymous. Even though members might talk to one another every day, they rarely know each other’s identities—and still, there is a connection. 

“There is this weird sense of brotherhood when you meet somebody and you realize that you’re both invested in the same project,” Hadlock says. “And it’s kind of a weird thing. There’s not a good explanation for it.”


Most people in an NFT Discord server don’t live close to one another—but Salt Lake City is quickly gathering a community of enthusiasts. 

Emmer, who has attended a few meetups, references one held at 3 Cups Coffee in Holladay and attended by about 100 people from around the area—with minimal advertising of the event. “We were very surprised about the turnout—and the type of people that showed up,” he says. “There were a few people who had CryptoPunks and Bored Apes, and had been in the NFT game for the past year or so, and there were people who had no idea what NFTs were.

“We just created a space that it was, ‘come have some food, hang out, and ask some questions to the team.’ I gave a little presentation on NFTs and it was really, really fun—people enjoyed that.”

NFTs may appear to be just a digital picture of an ape, but they have living, breathing communities—online and IRL. “The internet has made this happen in such a different way—with Discord servers that turn into local meetups, but with people all over the world. And yet it actually happens in a very grassroots way,” Emmer says. 

“Like the Homebrew Computer Club, where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak got together and came up with their ideas around Apple, it’s people meeting up who are enthusiasts, and hobbyists, who get really excited about something and say: ‘Hey, I want to know who else that lives around me is excited about this stuff. So let’s throw an event and see who shows up.’”