The newest crypto on the block, Aptos, launched its mainnet this week to considerable buzz around its token airdrop to early users, but also questions about whether the network—which has raised $350 million in VC funding—can live up to the hype about its tech.
The blockchain’s first real test may come soon, however, as a rush of NFT projects prepare to launch on the network. NFT trading has in the past put the Ethereum and Solana networks under considerable stress, so how will Aptos hold up if demand for its NFTs matches the buzz?
The Aptos launch came with sizable expectations, in part due to the ample VC funding and also its origins from Facebook’s scrapped Diem initiative. But some of the buzz also came from claims that Aptos can scale to handle dramatically more transactions than any current layer-1 blockchain—over 160,000 transactions per second (TPS).
But if Aptos really can handle such huge technical demands, we haven’t seen evidence of it yet on mainnet. When it launched on Monday, Aptos was only processing a few transactions per second. As of today, the figure is hovering around 10 TPS.
Among major smart contract platforms that run autonomous code to power decentralized apps, Ethereum handles about 30 TPS on its mainnet, with Solana at around 3,000 TPS. But testnet claims don’t always match real-world conditions on the eventual public mainnet—Solana, for example, claimed hundreds of thousands of TPS on its testnet years ago.
Aptos co-founder Mo Shaikh tweeted Tuesday that the “current TPS is not representative of the network capacity—this was the network idling ahead of projects coming online. This number is expected to increase with more activity.” In other words: there’s not a whole lot happening yet on Aptos, but it’ll be ready for action.
That increased activity could be right around the corner as Aptos users prepare to mint their first NFTs, with dedicated Aptos marketplaces already live with a handful of collections. A number of additional collections are expected to launch this week and next after amassing significant social media traction.
Already, the NFT scene on Aptos is growing. Topaz, one of the marketplaces that is already facilitating trades for a handful of collections—like CryptoPunks knockoff Aptos Punk—tweeted Thursday morning that it had already processed about 12,000 APT (over $87,000) worth of trades, with about 3,700 NFTs listed on its platform.
An NFT is a blockchain token that can serve as a deed of ownership for an item, and they can be used for a wide array of use cases—including with digital artwork, physical apparel and other items, and plenty more. However, it’s applications like profile pictures (PFPs) and interactive video game items that have typically driven demand that can challenge networks’ stability.
Ethereum has faced notable scaling challenges with NFTs dating back to 2017’s CryptoKitties, which famously clogged up the network and made it difficult to process other transactions. More recently, amid the NFT market boom of late 2021 and early 2022, in-demand mints caused Ethereum gas fees (transaction fees paid to the network) to surge to hundreds or even thousands of dollars at times.
Solana, the second-largest layer-1 platform for NFTs, can handle many more transactions per second than Ethereum—but it too has faced problems around NFT drops. In April, the Solana network crashed (one of three such instances in 2022) due to automated bot programs flooding the network with transactions to try and overwhelm and game NFT launches.
So far, Aptos has a small NFT scene compared to those longer-established rivals, but it’s only been a few days so far. NFTs markets can quickly flourish and find significant demand, particularly as speculative frenzy sets in. The wider NFT market has cooled lately, but fresh opportunities can potentially bring in loads of hungry traders.
Topaz marketplace co-founder, the pseudonymous 0xclickbait, told Decrypt that initial interest in Aptos NFTs has taken them by surprise.
“In my four years of being in the crypto space, I’ve never seen such an instantaneous demand for NFTs on a new chain,” they explained. “There’s something about Aptos—the tech, the team, [and] the mission—that is attracting people and breathing new life into this crypto winter.”
They expect increased interest as the Aptos ecosystem expands, additional projects launch, and centralized crypto exchanges begin offering the APT cryptocurrency. As far as technical capabilities, they said that the Aptos testnet handled between 2,000 and 4,000+ TPS ahead of the mainnet launch “without breaking a sweat,” in their words.
A recent research report from crypto exchange FTX backs that up, listing 4,200 TPS for testnet performance. That’s still far from the claimed potential peak of the technology using Aptos’ parallel execution technique, but at least it would be in the same ballpark as Solana if that level of TPS can be matched on mainnet.
“Anybody who has been following Aptos for more than a month is pretty confident,” 0xclickbait said of the network’s ability to meet greater demand.
Topaz and rival marketplace Souffl3 are now teeing up a series of upcoming NFT drops from profile picture (PFP) collections that have amassed notable social media followings in recent weeks and months.
Bruh Bears, a project with a pixelated look akin to Solana Monkey Business, will debut on Topaz on an undisclosed date, along with Aptos Monkeys—which Shaikh has already featured via his own Twitter avatar. Another project, Aptomingos, will roll out a free mint on Friday. Souffl3’s upcoming launches include Retro Boys Club and the Okay Bears-esque Rekt Dogs.
“I’m most excited for the organic, real, grassroots, serious community builders, like Aptomingos and Bruh Bears,” 0xclickbait told Decrypt. “They’re here for the long-term, building brands and communities that will grow and last.”
When Topaz debuted its testnet launchpad for minting new NFT projects, 0xclickbait said that the marketplace received more than 1,000 applications from creators. They believe that Aptos’ much-touted Move blockchain programming language will attract developers, as well, and that NFT-based gaming will prove to be a prominent use case on the network.
Given little evidence thus far of the Aptos mainnet’s ability to scale to handle sizable demand, can the technology handle the potential demands of thousands of traders all vying to buy a limited number of NFTs at once? Based on early signs, there may be a market of eager collectors ready to put it to the test.