The future of NFT interoperability on Polkadot is coming to a reality! We’re excited to announce the first-ever cross-chain transfer of an NFT on Polkadot using Polkadot’s Native XCM Protocol! This is a pivotal moment, as we welcome more opportunities and capabilities by moving NFTs between different parachains — unleashing powerful tech for the next generation of Web3 applications. Read more below:

In the context of this blog post, the key acronyms are clarified as follows:

  • PoC: Stands for Proof of Concept.
  • XCM: Represents cross-chain, emphasizing the significance of interoperability and connectivity across different blockchain networks.
  • NFTs: Denotes Non-Fungible Tokens.

For a while now, the surge of XCM (cross-chain capabilities) and the proliferation of bridges have been reshaping the Polkadot landscape. This evolution is guided not only by the expertise of ecosystem experts and key thought leaders but also by the visionary minds within the Technical Fellowship.

This self-governing expert body, equipped with profound technical knowledge of the Kusama and/or Polkadot networks and protocols, plays a pivotal role in propelling Polkadot towards greater decentralization. As community members and ecosystem agents collaborate, Polkadot continues its journey towards a more decentralized and interconnected future.

However, when it came to cross-chain transfer of digital assets, there was always one particular thing lacking for parachains: cross-chain NFT transfer capabilities. Thus preventing many of us from moving NFTs between different parachains.

That, today, has changed. With the first-ever Cross-Chain NFT PoC (Proof of Concept), introduced by Unique Network and with the help of Acala, making NFT transfers available via XCM.

Delivering the First NFT XCM Proof of Concept

We’ve seen from the early days of Polkadot, when the Polkadot whitepaper by Gavin Wood was first introduced, explained the importance of interoperability, and cross-chain transfers between parachains. Whilst there wasn’t a definitive solution back then, in May of 2022, XCM v3 arrived, but only for Fungible Tokens (FTs). NFT transfers were crucial for the vision of Polkadot and to maximize adoption amongst communities and the rapidly growing trend of NFTs. It was important to implement a solution like this, and that’s where Unique Network took the leadership role in making this a reality that we see today.

Since January 2023, we’ve been working closely with Acala on the NFT XCM solution to allow easy NFT transfers across the network. We've engaged with ecosystem members and various other thought leaders in the space to create a Proof-of-Concept and roadmap for delivering our vision.

Our goal is to make NFTs more accessible, unlock new ideas and concepts, and bring NFTs to Polkadot. Alexander Mitrovic, the CEO of Unique Network, delivered the first proposal outlining our vision for easy NFT transfers on September 15th, 2023 highlighting the vision for mass adoption of NFTs.

Since then, the team has been developing a proof of concept to test this functionality and becoming one of the first to successfully create a solution where you can now transfer NFTs via XCM on Polkadot.

Purpose of the NFT XCM & Use Cases

Without XCM, reliance on bridges may expose users to risks for centralization, which is common for most bridges, due to unclear disclosures. In contrast, XCM ensures decentralization, enhancing security and transparency for all users across the network – making NFT XCM transfers the most reliable process of sending and receiving NFTs.

However, it's essential to note that XCM operates exclusively within the Polkadot ecosystem, limiting transfers to a specific relay. It seamlessly facilitates transfers within Polkadot parachains or between Kusama parachains, but not across the Kusama-Polkadot or Polkadot-Ethereum boundaries.

Some specific use cases of XCM include:

  1. Influencing Decisions: You can use this system to ask for specific actions on another system, like voting on decisions.
  2. Dedicated Chains: Imagine having separate chains for specific tasks, like managing assets. For instance, you could have a chain solely dedicated to handling different types of assets.
  3. Paying Fees on Different Networks: You also have the option to pay fees on a different network for the actions you're requesting.

NFT XCM PoC: How We Built It

Throughout the process and developing the initial PoC, we made sure that transfers were fully secure, ensuring maximum security and issues such as double spending or asset loss were also prevented. The team taught the native NFT pallets on both Karura (Founded by Acala and using a native ORML Substrate pallet for NFTs) and Quartz (Unique’s Canary Chain, using Unique NFT pallet) to pack NFTs together into XCM messages (to effectively interact with each other, e.g. parachains using a standard messaging format), and unpack them on the other end to enable such cross-chain transfers on the network.

A special component was used in the XCM Executor Configuration called the AssetTransactor – effectively allowing the packing and unpacking of NFTs. In future, we plan to generalize to allow NFT transfers on all other parachains that wish to utilize this tech and send NFTs across different parachains, in addition to building out a UI platform for viewing NFTs and executing XCM transfers.

Unique Network's contribution to the XTokens pallet in ORML enables parachain teams to effortlessly integrate XCM NFT support into their parachains. This development opens up novel interoperability opportunities within the Polkadot Ecosystem, facilitating advanced NFT use cases. It further enhances the utility of both NFTs and fungible assets across the Polkadot Ecosystem

Bryan Chen, Co-Founder of Acala Network

The NFT XCM Proposal by Unique Network

In September of 2023, the CEO of Unique Network, Alexander Mitrovic submitted a proposal (#1910) to work on an NFT XCM solution. This proposal was the initial first step in getting closer to the PoC that we see today and marks an important part of eventually having a fully working solution readily available to everyone on the Polkadot Network.

Quoted in the proposal discussion, Alexander says:

Moving NFTs between different parachains will unleash the capabilities for the next generation of Web3 applications that are not constrained by any one chain.

Daniel, Senior Rust Developer at Unique Network also talks about cross-chain interoperability and expanding NFT functionalities and interactions within the Polkadot ecosystem, highlighting the need for NFT XCM support for developers in the space.

More in-depth information about the proposal can be found here.

We also recommend checking out Alex's talk on the AAG Podcast, where he discusses the future of NFTs in Polkadot:

About XCM

In short, XCM (Cross-Consensus Message Format, or Cross-Chain Messaging) is a messaging format and language used to communicate between consensus systems. Imagine it like a special language that is used between different blockchains within the Polkadot ecosystem to communicate and share information.

Want to learn more about XCM? We recommend checking out this video by Keith Yeung, core developer at Parity Technologies talking about the future of XCM.

Polkadot's interoperability promise (from the whitepaper) has finally been delivered by the community – us! We're excited for the future and invite all to join us in exploring the power of NFT XCM!

Build with Us!

We’re the number 1 next-generation NFT chain for Polkadot & Kusama, providing the necessary tools and platforms to achieve your dreams with no code or blockchain experience needed.

Unique Network empowers you to step right into the world of web3 with NFTs 2.0, complete with unlimited advanced NFT features built for today and for the future.

Are you interested in diving into the world of digital assets and exploring what Unique has to offer? We encourage you to check out our ecosystem, where you can create, mint, customize, list and share your work with the rest of the world – the opportunities are truly endless.

Join us on our NFT journey and be part of the thousands who are currently using Unique for their dream projects:

Stay Up To Date!

Follow Unique Network to get all the latest information, and join us to start your own unique, development journey:

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