Interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has reached almost the same level as interest in ICOs in 2017, according to Google Trends data shared by Unfolded, a crypto analytics website. 

Google Trends
Google trends for ICO and NFT searches. Image: Unfolded

As the above graph shows, ICOs, or initial coin offerings, surged in popularity in the second half of 2017, alongside Bitcoin’s bull run to an all-time high price of just under $20,000. As Bitcoin’s price collapsed in early 2018, so too did interest in ICOs—as reflected by Google search volume. 

NFTs, cryptographically-unique tokens that can be used to represent media such as artwork and music, shot to prominence in 2020 and 2021 amid a series of high-profile digital art sales. Digital artist Beeple sold one NFT at auction for a record-breaking $69 million—making it the third most expensive artwork by a living artist—while celebrities and artists flocked to create their own NFTs. 

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That rise in interest is mirrored in Google Trends search data for NFTs, which has visibly shot up and is almost a vertical line in 2021. 

What are ICOs?

An ICO is an initial coin offering—a type of crowdfunding that uses cryptocurrencies. During Bitcoin’s 2017 bull run, investors poured approximately $22 billion into ICOs; many either failed to live up to their hype, or failed completely.

In addition, the US Securities and Exchange Commission cracked down on a number of ICOs, claiming that they had conducted unregistered securities sales. Since then, the mania for ICOs has cooled somewhat—and NFTs appear to have seized the limelight.