Blockchaincc0

Primer on Blitmap and Why Flipmap is Material to the CC0 Thesis

tl;dr Whether you’re a Blitmap holder, Flipmap holder or just interested in web3, thanks for stopping by! This post is designed to be helpful for folks to better understand the Blitverse and covers the following: 

The start of the New Year was supposed to be a way to ease into 2022. No plans other than just an easy kind of day, curing a champagne hangover and just basking into what was to come. Little did I know that what was to come was a project named Flipmap, a highly polished derivative of the Blitmap universe. But before I’m able to answer what Flipmap is and why it’s important, you have to understand the foundation that it’s built on: Blitmap.

After hanging out in the Flipmap Discord, I could tell that there was a lot of excitement, anticipation and appreciation for the art of these incredible pieces that the community rallied around to mint. But, in addition to all the F&F talk (that’s flip and FUD) that’s present with any new project minting out, there was also a lack of knowledge of the project and a bit of curiosity as to what a Flipmap is. That’s why I’m writing this post—it’s in two parts: (1) describing Blitmap and giving a brief historical overview and (2) telling why I feel Flipmap is one of the most important (and ambitious) derivative projects to date.

Before we get going, I want to disclaim that I am both a minter/holder of Blitmap and Flipmap, and have a considerable position in both. This post is not meant to shill my bags (though, admittedly, I can see how it can be viewed as doing just that) or to be financial advice, but rather as a piece designed to help both communities have a better appreciation for the underlying Blitmap project and the tremendous potential of CC0.

What is a Blitmap?

Blitmap is one of the most elegant and exciting NFT projects in recent memory because it blends the instant allure of pixel art with the ability of the person minting the piece to have agency over the final project. All the data of a Blitmap is stored on-chain, a revolutionary way where the blockchain is used as a new artistic medium. Let’s dive into what each of these pieces means.

Blitmap Collection
The 1,700 NFTs from the original Blitmap collection.

Started by Dom Hofmann—a creator of Vine (always have to include that line in Dom’s bio) as well as web3 projects Loot (for Adventurers), Corruption(s*), Sugar (Genesis), Supdrive and member of the founding Nouns team—Blitmap was his first web3 project. Dom recruited 16 other artists to create a total of 100 pixel art compositions.

Each artist had freedom of the subject that they wanted to tackle, along with the name given to the composition, but there were two constraints: (1) the canvas had to be 32×32 and (2) only four colors could be used. The aphorism that “constraint breeds creativity” certainly rings true with Blitmap, as the collection of 100 compositions are sometimes whimsical, entertaining, dark, poignant, silly and straightforward. All are unique.

The first 100 compositions are dubbed by the community as originals and are numbered #0 to #99 in the Blitmap universe. They are, for the most part, still held by the artists who created them. However, some of the originals have been sold on the secondary market. The average original price is probably around 50/60 but during the peak of JPEG summer the original Blitmap Night Moon #21 sold for 222ETH!

Blitmap Minting Begins

Minting opened up on May 31, 2021 and was a completely revolutionary process. Rather than being a “blind mint,” one where you plunk down some ETH and get-what-you-get in a roulette of rarity that had quickly become the industry standard, Hofmann purposely made Blitmap different. Throughout the minting process, an individual could select any of the 100 compositions and then combine it with the palette of another composition, effectively transforming the color and creating a new piece. The Blitmap contract allowed for each of the 100 original compositions to be minted in this way 16 times, creating what has been termed as “siblings” for a total of 1600 and are numbered from #100 to #1699 in the Blitmap universe.

The first Blitmap sibling, Genesis Edition #100 minted by Blitmap artist Big Papap on May 31, 2021—it’s the combination of the Genesis #0 and Edition #6.

But in addition to what Dom termed the “communagenerative” process, one thing that makes Blitmap unique is that all the data needed to generate the piece of art, along with all the metadata around the name and properties, is stored completely on-chain. While more and more projects are storing NFTs on-chain, this was fairly revolutionary at the time and Hofmann wrote an elegant contract to make it happen.

While there are different degrees to “on-chaininess,” Blitmap NFTs are on-chain in one of the most pure ways. Each pixel is mapped to a particular value and is written directly into the Ethereum blockchain. This means that as long as Ethereum is a thing, Blitmaps will be accessible to be viewed.

Storing data directly on-chain can be quite expensive, that is why pixel art tends to be the visual style for many on-chain projects. But in doing so, these on-chain NFTs achieve a certain permanence that is just unattainable in other artistic mediums. There is no way for them to be “deleted,” be it a server to crash, records to be deleted, a datacenter to get lit on fire, flood, or get swept away by a hurricane. There is no historical conflict that will cause a Blitmap to burn in a bombing or to go missing in a raid. In fact, this method of using the blockchain to store Blitmap on-chain is, what I believe, a revolutionary new medium for artists. Code is art, the blockchain a canvas. You can read more about the importance of on-chain art in my piece Provenance and Permanence.

Blitmap minting ended on July 2, 2021 with the last piece Chessbirdy Jess #1699 minted by, now very popular NFT influencer, Dame after a flurry of us original minters tried to score the last Blit. This long minting period, coupled with the fact that the individual got to choose their NFT, resulted in a unique community of people who really had some skin in the game with what they minted. After all, we had agency in choosing what composition/palette combinations would end up in the final universe—every decision made impacted those that would fall on the cutting room floor. Consequently, this strangely emotional attachment to a 32×32 piece led directly to a number of people having diamond hands.

Another feature of Blitmap is that there really is not much inherent rarity for the collection. Each composition has an original and 16 siblings. The only thing “rare” is really the palettes chosen—but this once again led to an interesting twist: the most popular palettes (ie Genesis and Gato) turned out to be the least rare. Overall, palette rarity has not been as much a thing in the Blitmap universe—instead, people purchase the pieces that they identify with rather than trying to find “Top 5% rarity” on rarity sniper. 

Of course, there are certain compositions that have become valued in the community. Genesis is one because it represents the first Blitmap minted. Rose has become the web3 calling card of Dom, so it is always popular. Teddy, Jess and Say What are also up there. But in the Blitmap universe, each composition has an equal distribution. This also creates an environment of cooperation where we are all on the same footing rather than that of a “floor ape” versus “trippy fur”—it’s not necessarily better or worse, it is just different, ultimately a key ingredient that fostered a cohesive community.

Blitmap Becomes Part of the Public Domain

Then on August 12, 2021, the original 17 Blitmap artists came together and did something revolutionary. They all took a vote and decided to make the collection of 100 originals part of the public domain under the CC0 license. This was, though I am unsure on the specifics, one of the earliest NFT projects to do this (I believe Nouns and a few others predated this decision). The Blitmap holders community followed with a vote and allowed all the 1600 siblings to be part of this CC0 license.

This decision effectively allowed anyone to do anything with a Blitmap. Commercially or otherwise.

The web3 thesis that is en vogue with a number of forward thinkers in the CC0 camp is that allowing people to create derivatives ultimately drives value back to the original. The theory is that the more fan love there is for a piece and/or collection, the more people are eventually going to want to get an original. Intellectually, this makes sense, and we saw this play out with CryptoPunks. While unsanctioned, many of the derivatives that were made in homage to the Punks ultimately spread the gospel of the NFT far and wide. While I may not be able to afford an OG Punk, I could buy a Fast Food Punk (or any one of the derivatives) that fit my taste.

However, Larva Labs, the creators of CryptoPunks and the retainers of the IP, have recently began to crack down on these derivatives and get many of them banned from platforms, like OpenSea. I’d argue that these fan “love letters” ultimately contributed to the rise of the Punks being one of the most coveted assets. In fairness, Punk maxis would point out that its popularity is due to its fact that it was a truly revolutionary project and changed the NFT/crypto landscape forever. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Regardless, CC0 makes this point mute for Blitmap and any Blit-related derivatives.

Why Flipmap is Important

Now that you have a little more insight into Blitmap, the stage is set for why I am so excited for Flipmap and what it means to the CC0 thesis at large.

Flipmap is a Blitmap derivative project that was created by When Lambo and Sara Sioux that has the same minting mechanic of Blitmap (the combination of the composition and palette) but “flips” the composition on the y-axis in the same way that Phunks face left instead of right. The team realized that in the Blitmap universe there were effectively 8,300 combinations that would never see the light of day—remember only 16 of the possible 99 siblings of a composition could ever be minted—and wanted to bring those pieces to life.

Some examples of Flipmap NFTs, the combination of a Blitmap composition with a previously unused palette in the original collection, then flipped.

From just general chatter in the Blitmap Holders channel, the team had to know there was pent-up demand to have the ability to mint the lost 83 palettes for a given composition. After all, When Lambo and Sara Sioux are not just the creators of Flipmap, they’re also Blitmap owners. Furthermore, bringing back this “communagenerative” was something many holders missed—crafting your own Flipmap is much more engaging than a blind mint. And with the CC0 license, they could build this experience without having to ask for permission—but the team floated the idea anyway and everyone seemed genuinely excited about the prospect. 

The project launched on January 1, 2022 in the Blitmap Holders channel by When Lambo. I hopped in and minted three (because I always like to support derivative artists) but my mind kept churning about the project and what it could become. I had the following Twitter thread on the launch of Flipmap that highlighted a lot of the opportunity and I fleshed out this idea further below in this blog post.

The Flipmap team did several unique things:

  1. They purposely restricted Flipmaps from using any composition/palette combination that was present in the Blitmap universe. This was massive because I think that by omitting the original 1,700 pieces, Blitmap holders retain a sense of “uniqueness” to the original Blitmap. It also presented the opportunity for the Flipmap collection to be entirely “net-new” rather than having some duplicates—one could argue this decision gives the feeling that Flipmap is a derivative that is complementary and a completion of the 10,000 total Blitmaps.
  2. They provided a 25% payout to the original Blitmap artists. While this is not required by CC0, it was a smart move to honor the people who built the foundation for their universe to exist. It also fostered an environment where many of the OG Blitmap artists have been popping into the Flipmap discord and providing information and conversation. Essentially, the Flipmap team instantly gained “mods” who can help shape and form culture along with answering questions.
  3. They put Flipmaps on-chain. Just like Blitmap, the Flipmaps have all the data needed to construct the image on-chain. This again pays homage to the work by Dom Hofmann and demonstrates that the project put in that extra effort rather than taking the easy way out and storing the graphics as JPGs on IPFS. But it does something even more powerful: by having all that data on-chain, Flipmaps are just as composable as their Blitmap counterparts.

It is this third point that begins to open a number of potential future opportunities. By having this data completely on-chain, other builders and individuals can “call” on Flipmap information in the same way as Blitmap and create and derive new things from it. And while Flipmap is a derivative and holds no access to Blitmap airdrops/expansions—just as other derivatives such as Stitchmap or a Dripmap would have not have access—it doesn’t mean that cool shit can’t be built on top of it.

You can easily envision a separate NFT derivative that chooses to build on both BLIT and FLIP tokens in tandem, creating something completely new and a very different arc in the Blitmap universe. I don’t even know what that would be (sidekicks to the nauts? digital Blit land we can build a la cryptovoxel? an ERC-20 coin? a physical piece of clothing? tickets to a Yankees game?), but the composability of each project can allow that.

I want to preface this next statement by saying that Flipmap is completely separate from the original Blitmap project and holds no “rights” in the Blitmap universe (e.g. access to the Holders channel, airdrops, expansions, etc). But one could see a future where the two universes co-exist and interact, much in the same way how there are multiverses in Marvel. You could argue that Blitmap is like Earth-616 in the overall story arc, but just like we’ve seen with the Spiderverse, who’s to say that there can’t be crossovers? Collabs? Interactions? And just because it is not Earth-616, who’s to say that Flipmap can’t achieve an amount of fame and adoration in the same way that Miles Morales has done in comparison to Peter Parker?  

THIS is the point I am most excited about (but must absolutely stress for anyone looking to jump and invest in Flipmap is totally conjecture and not an absolute truth so please DYOR and do not take this as financial advice) and can see the potential for. And it is all because of the care that the Flipmap founders put in place with their project to develop it in a way that it creates a cohesive 10,000-piece universe.

Flipmap NFTs represent a roughly 5:1 ratio to Blitmap NFTs, and as a member of the Blitmap community, the Blitmap project immediately got new exposure to a wide range of people who were either unaware or priced out. To me, Flipmap has the ability to deliver on the promise of CC0 by creating a derivative that has intrinsic value in-and-of-itself WHILE ALSO contributing back to the value of the underlying asset. And like many things with Blitmap, this experiment just seems too serendipitous with these ingredients for success:

  • Two on-chain projects that are composable and can be built upon
  • A derivative collection that is complementary and additive to the original universe, rather than a simple copy/flip
  • A derivative collection that has a 5x supply as the original (with, again, all pieces being net-new to the universe)
  • A genuine interest and excitement from Blitmap holders in the success of the derivative collection
  • A tandem of founders who are willing to put in the work and develop ideas in an elegant way

This is the moment for the CC0 thesis to prove itself out. It is a moment for the world to see that web3 doesn’t have to be shackled by the traditional thoughts around IP and trademark. That there really is an advantage in creating art, music, photography, code and more in the public domain.

I don’t think that there’s any other situation that can be more of a perfect storm and am excited to see what comes out of it.  

Additional Resources

If you’re looking to learn more about Blitmap or Flipmap, here are some additional resources:

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