A non-fungible token is a record on a blockchain which is associated with a particular digital or physical asset. The ownership of an NFT is recorded in the blockchain, and can be transferred by the owner, allowing NFTs to be sold and traded.
Like physical money, cryptocurrencies are fungible, meaning that they can be traded or exchanged, one for another. For example, one $ZEUS is always equal in value to another $ZEUS. Similarly, a single unit of AVAX is always equal to another unit. This fungibility characteristic makes cryptocurrencies suitable as a secure medium of transaction in the digital economy.
NFTs shift the crypto paradigm by making each token unique and irreplaceable, thereby making it impossible for one non-fungible token to be equal to another. They are digital representations of assets and have been likened to digital passports because each token contains a unique, non-transferable identity to distinguish it from other tokens.
These tokens are an evolution of the relatively simple concept of cryptocurrencies. Modern finance systems consist of advanced trading and loan systems for different asset types, ranging from real estate to lending contracts to artwork. By enabling digital representations of physical assets, NFTs are a step forward in the reinvention of this infrastructure.
To be sure, the idea of digital representations of physical assets is not novel nor is the use of unique identification. However, when these concepts are combined with the benefits of a tamper-resistant blockchain of smart contracts, they become a potent force for change.