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Revisited: how meme stars of the early internet struck it rich with NFTs – podcast

Revisited: how meme stars of the early internet struck it rich with NFTs – podcast

For the last week we have been revisiting some of our favourite episodes from 2020. This one was first broadcast on 24 June.

On 28 May 2016 the photographer Jeff McCurry was taking pictures of a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla called Harambe in Cincinnati zoo when a child entered the enclosure. The zookeepers reacted by shooting the gorilla dead. The child was unhurt. What was a local story suddenly became a global phenomenon as a result of McCurry’s picture and social media. Harambe’s image was everywhere. Despite his photo being shared billions of times, however, McCurry did not gain much financially. Since then advances in technology have given the world non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and McCurry has a way of finally cashing in on his famous image.

The Guardian’s technology editor, Alex Hern, tells Rachel Humphreys that this year’s craze for NFTs follows speculation on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Now similar technology means unique images, film clips, animations and even poems are being bought and sold online for increasingly large sums.

The Guardian reporter Sirin Kale spoke to stars of the early internet who have begun cashing in on their viral images this year, and from those people willing to pay the large amounts of money needed to acquire these digital collectibles.

AN NFT exhibition in Beijing, China. Photograph: Sipa Asia/REX/Shutterstock

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