Social finance app Friend.tech has dominated web3 discourse and volume since the Base chain progressive web app’s launch in August. The talk has mostly been about volume—for a few notable weeks, Friend.tech volume eclipsed that of the entire NFT market.
In the second week and third week of October, volume has receded dramatically, including a significant 18% drop over the weekend (although key prices have, by and large, held steady). Competition—in the form of apps like the sensationally exploited Stars Arena on AVAX and the Bitcoin-based, feature-rich New Bitcoin City—has entered the market. Friend.tech itself continues to roll out new features, including customizable bio pages and alternatives to SMS-based two-factor authentication.
Friend.tech and its challengers are lucrative playgrounds for everyone from airdrop farmers and key speculators to impersonators and scammers. But what about the artists? If we set aside the boisterous energy of the eyeblink-fast traders, Friend.tech offers an intimate conversation between a user and the people who hold the keys that grant access to their private rooms.
As the Friend.tech community navigates the conflicting goals of airdrop farmers, key speculators, and people who want to connect with their audiences. Will the app become a haven for artists or a dead zone? We spoke to eight artists—and one collector—about how they use Friend.tech. Amid the noise, artists are using Friend.tech to engage with their audiences, exploring new ways to build excitement about their work, to experiment, and even to create a sense of mystery.
Daniel Chidera, an emerging artist who specializes in powerful, precise hand-drawn work, is one of the many artists using Friend.tech to grow. “I heard about it here on Twitter from another artist and Friend I trusted and learned about how we artists can use it as a space for Friends and collectors who will love to have a stronger understanding of our works while also creating value in the process,” he says.
Chidera finds the conversations in his Friend.tech room more intentional and mutual than in places like Twitter or Discord. “If they want to know what’s going on in my world or the art I make, they can do so in this very space—or they can choose to sell the ticket if they’re not interested,” says Chidera.
Sometimes, the intimate size of the room makes self-promotion a challenge. “The few people I have in my room are just calm—sometimes I just like it the way it is. Since I’m still young and new to it, I did an art giveaway of one of my eth editions, valued at 0.04. It was fun, and I’ve to do more as the room grows…I think Friend.tech will be a solid SocialFi system, just like Facebook was an incredible social media platform in its prime. All the flipping behavior will mature. It’s not easy to get people to join your room when they know you won’t be giving away eth and a car, or you won’t be giving them a huge ROI,” he says.
ProofOfEly, the musician who stormed into our consciousness with the drop of his “Checks” song celebrating Jack Butcher’s phenom open edition, followed up on that hit with his song about Friend.tech, which often features on top Spaces about the app.
Involved in Web3 since 2021, Ely had heard of Friend.tech early on but had faded until his fans at Fuck It Saturday in Miami encouraged him to join. “Thread Guy & EasyBodegaEats were in my car as we were driving to the event when they asked to listen to my latest Web3 release, “Checks (Opepen Anthem).” Once it finished, they said I needed to give Friend.tech a second look & make an anthem for it.
“That next day, I sat down and began writing and producing the track. I started using Friend.tech so I could have a finger on the pulse and content for the track. Eventually, I got addicted,” he recalls.
Applying the same care he gives to his lushly produced, catchy tracks, Ely uses Friend.tech with intention. “My keys give access to not just a place for fans/collectors/friends to chat with me, but it’s also an extension of my mind and brand,” he explains.
“Having an exclusive private room for me and those that value me has been both fun and productive…there are those who are perceived as valuable, where consumers want to buy their keys just to be a part of their room and get closer in proximity to them on a social level. That’s where artists, content creators, influencers, actors, etc., will fall under. Growing your brand, social equity, and content level will have a ripple effect. The more you increase those things, the more people will value and want to be in your room,” he says.
TheAMerk takes AI art far beyond what the casual user can create with a hurried prompt. Equipped with advanced GPUs and training his own Stable Diffusion models on his past work, he’s developed a practice that results in dazzling, intricate work, much of which has a synth-wave, cyberpunk flair.
AMerk takes Friend.tech, seriously, airdropping work every day on Base to his holders and cycling into lots of other people’s rooms to connect. The result is a loyal holder base and a gradually growing buzz about his work.
“I’m always genuinely interested to get to know [people], but also hopeful that they’ll ask about me so that I can share my passion. Plus, I’ve given my holders access to hundreds of original desktop/phone backgrounds that they can use in any non-commercial way,” he says. AMerk is branching out into competitor app New Bitcoin City, but will maintain his art drop project, $FRIENDS ARE MONEY$ (FaM), for his Friend.tech keyholders alone.
Aoife O’Dwyer calls her work “joyfully maximalist AF,” and looking through her creations confirms this—everything from the whimsical, hand-drawn Foofees to her trippy, ethereal 1/1s combine a meticulous style and a joyful, neon sensibility.
“My first impression of Friend.tech was thick with icky dystopian and probably bad for our sense of self-worth and mental health in the long run vibes,” says O’Dwyer. EmilyLuvsCrypto, a foolproof founder and an astute commentator in the space, convinced her to join. Seeing the big-money action on the site, Aoife needed to think strategically. “I knew I wasn’t gonna have the cash or trading skills to ‘play the game’ for profits, so my main goals were to first of all figure out how it all worked and secondly, to see if there was something I could offer to my key holders to make it interesting and valuable,” explains Aoife.
O’Dwyer has quickly connected with artists looking to build on the site, including the artist-led initiative “Friend.tech for Artists,” but the cost is a barrier to full participation in artists’ rooms. “I don’t feel like I’ve really gotten the full FT experience yet because I haven’t been able to afford to buy that many keys from other creators or people I think are interesting. That financial barrier to being able to fully engage and connect is one of the main differences for me compared to other web3 community hubs,” she says.
Nevertheless, O’Dwyer is finding some benefit from her active room on the site. “I view my room as a web3 powered hub for folks that would find exclusive perks and access to me and my art process useful or interesting… I’ve already seen folks discover my work via FT that have transferred over to Twitter/X and my Discord community, which I didn’t really expect. Individuals have come through without knowing me elsewhere just via the limited in-app discoverability and have been enjoying the work I’ve shared in there so far,” she adds.
O’Dwyer has plans for her keyholders—bringing in other web3 technologies to create great experiences for them. “Creating exclusive artwork that I can airdrop or set up as free claims for my FT key holders was something I wanted to try before I even got an invite to the platform, and it’s something I’m actively working on right now. I’m figuring out airdrop options and I’ve also been experimenting with the Props platform, which is one of the first I’ve seen that allows artists to set exclusive NFT claim eligibility to FT key holders only.”
Slander came onto the web3 scene as a trader and found he really enjoyed the process of creating art. “I look at Friend.tech as a new way to monetize content on the internet—essentially a leveraged subscription service, where you are not only buying the subscription but betting on the fact that others will want to buy it as well,” he says.
The NFT art Slander drops to his holders weekly on “Slander Sunday” is pure meme: they can include anything from send-ups of Jack Butcher’s Checks to Batman to Pepe, often with a wry incorporation of friend.tech branding. He’s finding success with this funny, self-referential approach but worries that the current economic model focused on airdrop farming and long-term no-sell agreements between key holders can’t continue indefinitely.
“I hope as time goes on, people will begin to create value in other ways than simply having a lot of capital. Many of the successful accounts currently exist on the premise of (3,3), which essentially means: If you buy my key, I’ll buy yours. This is done to increase portfolio size, which translates to more airdrop points. I understand the reasoning behind this, but it all seems very unsustainable to me, so I hope we see a shift soon,” he expressed.
Some of the most intriguing art has a purpose—and that’s definitely the case with avoidthegame, a kind of friend.tech based alternative reality game that kicked off when Forgotten Runes founder Dotta found its initial tweet and sent money to its contract address. Since then, The Game has been a parade of expertly crafted FOMO tweets and imagery, building hype and sending its key price to .2 and beyond. (Keyholders get early access to information about the Game, loads of personal interaction, and—so far—free airdrops of their first mintable art release.
The full mechanics of The Game have not yet been revealed, but its generative word-art mint critiques the notion of 3,3—a reference to cooperation between two parties being beneficial. In this case, people advocating 3,3 on friend.tech have made deals in which each buys and holds the other’s keys. These agreements have largely persisted over weeks—but The Game hints at a way out for people wanting to “defect” or break the 3,3 agreement.
The Game uses art to carry its message—from silhouettes of famous folks in crypto to mysterious figures and characters. “We create our art to highlight and draw attention to the underlying incentives of the blockchain space and to challenge those/give people different perspectives. The mysterious nature of the project and deeply personal nature of the art tends to make people take note and want to explore both the project more and how it pertains to themselves when they are the ones pictured in the art,” says The Game’s anonymous creators.
RedrumXArt’s artworks all have two things in common: the color red and unsettling, often grotesque subject matter. The best way to get his distinctive pieces is from Friend.tech—Redrum runs weekly “RED Fridays” giveaways for his key holders and works hard to cultivate relationships with creators and collectors on the app (including Spvce, also featured here). “On Friend.tech you can go and rely on a smaller circle of people who you know for a fact are interested in what you have to offer; you also get to cultivate, in a more ‘personal’ way, Friendships and connections,” he says.
The current decrease in trading volume on the site and an ongoing standstill of most key prices has led RedrumXArt to think through his strategy—he’s considering creating new works to mark his achievement of goals like reaching a certain price for his keys. As an artist who sells strongly and has exhibited at Superchief, it will be interesting to see how things unfold for Redrum.
Spvce is an OG—he’s been in crypto since 2017 but started collecting NFTs in 2021. His collections range from high-value items like Punks and Mooncats to the works of smaller creators. As for Friend.tech, he got involved when he heard chatter about it on Twitter—and was blown away.
“To me, Friend.tech is maybe the best crypto app ever made. If you want to talk about an app made for crypto natives, this is it…You cannot larp as a crypto/NFT fan on Friend.tech. I know many times FT can be slow to work, but in terms of getting in touch with a Friend, developer, big name, idol, or anything of that sort, it is the fastest communication tool I have seen,” he says.
Spvce uses rarity and exclusivity in the form of weekly holder-only art drops to drive his Friend.tech room. “Jack Butcher and the Visualize Value community opened me up to the idea that everyone is an artist, especially most of us posting about NFTs, AI art, etc. I think everyone has a creative side. I decided one of the many avenues to provide value to my key holders would be art drops. These weekly and sometimes daily art drops are from artist connections I have made over the years on art/NFT Twitter, all spectacular people and artists. I got a unique piece from them with permission to distribute one time to my current FT holders that day and never again. This adds scarcity to these unique pieces,” he explains.
Artists participating in his airdrops so far include Luke Weaver, RedruM, Hsky, charlesai, DeltaSauce, theOMparticle, jhekub, Msm Samuel, MisterShot, and Ansia.
“It’s kind of dead,” says Sterling Crispin about his Friend.tech room. An inveterate follower of the degen side of crypto Twitter, Sterling, a conceptual artist and engineer whose creative output runs the gamut from sculptures to meme coins to alternate reality games, got involved in Friend.tech “to speculate, and out of curiosity.”
“At first, I think everyone was just using the Friend.tech app to complain about how broken the app was. And then people tried to figure out how to provide some value and make the awkward one-to-many group chats work. I think everyone in Friend.tech rooms are expecting some very direct value from being there, which is unlike other platforms…for example, I raffled off one of my mints from my latest ArtBlocks project Flourish to my room,” he says.
After an initial flurry of activity, Crispin says his room died. “I think the one-to-many group chat model doesn’t make sense for most people unless you’ve got a ton of holders. I wish I could turn that feature off and just let people chat…maybe it also works if you’re an active day trader and you’re providing calls on what to buy and sell,” he explains.
Crispin is guarded about the app’s future. “I appreciate that they tried something, and people came to speculate on it. I love the experimental, ‘just ship its vibe of crypto and the degenerate gamblers. But verifying your product has a good user fit and is providing value before introducing speculation is the way to build something that’ll last,” he says.
Will It Last?
It’s difficult to predict how any product in web3 will change and adapt in response to the movements of the markets and developments in culture and technology. There’s a tension between the desires of airdrop farmers and key speculators, who want a lively, volatile Friend.tech with high volume, and the desires of influencers, creators, and artists, who want to use the technology to connect with their fans.
With the baked-in focus on financial rewards that is endemic to crypto projects, trends in volume loom large. With a consecutive weekly decline in volume, even some of the most dedicated and active users, such as Pranksy and Herro, have seen significant price decreases. As keyholders feel pressure to sell, this can disrupt even the most art-focused communities on the site. No matter how amazing an artist’s room is, it can become a ghost town if the sitewide volume dries up for good.
But the history of web3 tells us that the most persistent and flourishing communities coalesce around products that offer a public good or service that outlasts cycles and volatility. Friend.tech and SoFi more broadly offer truly innovative features in a world where algorithms on apps like X/Twitter change daily. Its success will depend on more than the total volume locked in its smart contract—it will depend on a sustainable community of people who are getting benefits from the site and creating value with it.
Disclaimer: Lorepunk holds keys for Aoife, Ely and The Game, and NFTs for Ely, RedruMX and The Game.