Metadata Standards & Limitations
The bulk of us have come across the term metadata in the NFT domain, but we may still be unsure of what it exactly means. At the end of this article, we hope that you will be well on your way to grasping what metadata actually is, how it is compatible across chains, and why it is stored on or off-chain rather than on-chain.
To begin, let’s look at a broad description of metadata. Metadata provides information about other data and resides fully off-chain in order to keep networks efficient and scalable. In terms of NFTs, metadata describes the essential contents of that NFT that the creator finds important to communicate. This can take shape of the NFT properties such as its name, the description, transactional history, and any other information that may reside on the smart contract. It is through this information that one can also learn about the NFT’s characteristics, such as its level, traits, and the rarity of each trait, among other things.
Metadata in NFTs is connected to a cryptographically uniform resource identifier (URI) that the token references back to. This URI can be linked to numerous places/locations off-chain where it is stored. As such, the metadata on the NFT contains a wide range of information about the device without needing to host large files directly onto the blockchain.
Blockchains use the same metadata standards, making them interoperable and easy to comprehend and utilize. The unwritten consensus is that metadata standards relating to NFTs were maintained with the goal to cater to the largest players in the game which have set the norm due to their sheer size (think down the lines of OpenSea). Consider this: what if each chain had its own set of standards? It would raise the entry barriers and make it nearly impossible for blockchains to communicate with one another.
Case in point, the OpenSea structure is followed by 99 percent of the NFT space. The reason for this is that they control over 80% of the NFT market and appear to be the backbone of most markets. Furthermore, because of this structure and standards, digital assets can be shown easily within the app. The digital assets are also represented by a unique identifier (known as the token id), which allows them to have extra attributes. These standards allow metadata to be shared across blockchains, whether it’s Ethereum, Solana, or XRPL.
Despite the fact that all blockchains adhere to the same metadata standards, there are a variety of ways to store metadata. Because storing such big files on the blockchain would be inefficient, costly, and put too much burden on the network, all of this metadata is held off-chain. The Interplanetary File System is one of the most widely used techniques for storing metadata (IPFS). Interplanetary? Yes, let’s put it like this- If a coworker had requested a blog page on conquering Martians, for example, you could easily obtain it from them, just as you would on Earth. It could be used to distribute bits of the internet on other planets, hence the moniker Interplanetary File Systems.
This is a peer-to-peer protocol that allows you to save and access files, webpages, apps, and data. Since you can’t change the content of IPFS because it’s saved on the basis of the hash and what you save, it’s utilized more frequently than other storage techniques.