WTF Is... An xNFT

TL;DR: An executable NFT (xNFT) is a new token standard built on the Solana blockchain. An xNFT tokenizes code in a similar manner to how an NFT tokenizes a JPEG. In the case of a normal NFT, such as a Cryptopunk or Bored Ape, the metadata refers to an image stored elsewhere. However, with xNFTs, the metadata additionally points to a code bundle. This feature enables users to engage with their NFTs and explore novel and exciting possibilities.

What are xNFTs?

Unlike traditional non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that function primarily as collectible art, music and gaming assets, xNFTs combine the functionality of NFTs with the power of applications. The term itself stands for executable non-fungible token, emphasizing its ability to execute code within its unique digital framework. The defining characteristic of xNFTs lies in their capacity to host and run applications directly within the token itself. This means that an xNFT can serve as a gateway to playing games, enjoying music or accessing decentralized finance protocols, all within a single open and programmable ecosystem designed for Web3.

According to developers, xNFTs do not seek to replace or alter NFTs; rather, they augment them: “It's not replacing any of the existing metadata structures for NFTs," said Tristan Yver, co-founder of Coral, the Solana framework development company behind the creation of xNFTs. "All it does is add an extra line to the NFT metadata that points at a code bundle."

So everything else remains the same, but there's now the addition of a new code bundle that is attached to the NFT itself. The familiar aspects of NFTs remain intact, while this new code bundle becomes an integral part of the NFT, coexisting harmoniously with the original attributes.

WeChat as an inspiration for its creation

We've seen early inspiration for xNFTs before. Yver's team wanted to create a wallet that offers similar functionality to that within the global messaging and payment app, WeChat. Inspired by WeChat's mini-programs, the team envisioned a wallet with a multitude of plugins, or mini-apps, that could execute inside the wallet's ecosystem, without the need to connect to any third-party software or website. However, concerns arose regarding the legal liability of hosting such applications.

During this thought process, the breakthrough came — an epiphany that the application could be hosted through an executable NFT. By denoting ownership over the code within the xNFT, the team recognized the potential to execute decentralized applications directly within a wallet. “It's actually fully decentralized because it's just hosted by the NFT itself, not by an individual, not by somebody that registered a domain on a website,” said Yver. 

This discovery served as the pivotal moment that solidified their purpose, leading them to build xNFTs and Backpack, the wallet that acts as xNFTs operating system. The wallet hosts xNFTs locally and allows them to run the code inside the wallet, without having to access third-party platforms. 

Image credit: Backpack  

Are xNFTs cross-chain?

xNFTs and the Backpack wallet were built on the Solana network. The team had spent nearly three years building in the Solana ecosystem which gave them strong relationships and a deep understanding of the platform. Yver’s co-founder Armani Ferrante, also built Anchor, the leading developer framework for Solana. This solid foundation, along with the existing rapport within the ecosystem, served as a key factor in their decision to initially focus on Solana. 

However, xNFTs are not limited to the Solana network alone. They have the capability to exist across multiple blockchain networks, making them cross-chain in nature. “You can have an xNFT minted on Solana, but at the backend have it linked to an Ethereum platform such as Uniswap, for example” said Yver. This means that even with the current Solana-based xNFTs, one can incorporate Ethereum applications within the xNFT experience. 

Current use cases for xNFTs

xNFTs are currently being utilized in two main segments: xNFT apps and xNFT collectibles. 

In the realm of xNFT apps, third-party developers have created various applications accessible through platforms like These apps can be existing projects and protocols that have repackaged their offerings as NFTs to tap into the Backpack audience. Users can interact with these applications within their wallets, benefiting from the distribution mechanism provided by xNFTs. Additionally, some developers are building their entire businesses around the xNFT concept, focusing on games and other projects that solely exist as xNFTs.

On the other hand, xNFT collectibles, exemplified by the initial release of Mad Lads, offer a distinct experience. While xNFT apps can be installed and used by anyone with the NFT added to their backpack wallet, xNFT collectibles require ownership of the specific NFT to access the associated application experience. Mad Lads served as both a showcase for the potential of xNFT collectibles and a catalyst for other projects to incorporate this functionality. Already, teams like Rogue Sharks and the Solana Monkey Business collection are upgrading their collections to embrace xNFT functionality.

Mad Lads’ xNFT collection

Mad Lads, as a cultural component, plays a crucial role in communicating the xNFT concept to a broader consumer audience. It acts as the top of the funnel, drawing users into the ecosystem and introducing them to the possibilities offered by xNFTs. The technology component, Backpack, then provides users with immersive experiences within the ecosystem. “We realized that, as a technology company, it's really hard to communicate to a consumer audience,” said Yver. “Maybe the crypto nerds that understand all this and think the tech is cool will care."

But will the average consumer find xNFTs appealing? That's where a collectible comes in. This strategic approach aims to bridge the gap between technology enthusiasts and mainstream users, ultimately driving adoption and engagement with the xNFT ecosystem.

The revolutionary potential of xNFTs

In the future, xNFTs have the potential to revolutionize both application distribution and collectible experiences. If successful, xNFTs could become a primary distribution mechanism for existing products or new ventures, similar to how businesses repackaged themselves as iOS apps for broader reach. On the collectible side, the convenience of token-gated experiences will become paramount. Token holders will seek a streamlined process where their access to exclusive experiences is just one click away from the NFT itself. Collections will likely upgrade or initially mint their new collections as NFTs to offer this enhanced user experience.

With the potential to transform application distribution and enhance collectible experiences, xNFTs are poised to shape the future of the blockchain ecosystem. As more projects embrace this innovative approach, we can anticipate a dynamic landscape where creativity, utility and accessibility converge within the realm of non-fungible tokens.

This is not financial advice. If you don't want to spend money investing in crypto or Web3 — you don’t have to. The intent of this article is to help others educate themselves and learn.

Sabrina Bonini is the Founder of Cripto Es Cultura, a community and creative agency that helps brands and creators adapt to the Web3 and NFT space. She pays special attention to the education and empowerment of Spanish-speaking artists, women and underrepresented groups and is fully committed to helping make the blockchain ecosystem more diverse and inclusive. Connect with her on Twitter @criptoescultura.

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