The new social app Bondee has seen viral success in Singapore and Asia, but will it be able to achieve success with its NFT aspirations?

A new social media platform has hit the app market, and it’s causing waves amongst social media users with its unique take on digital networking with friends. Launched on 17 January, Bondee has become the next internet fad for people to hang out online, and users are sharing their QR codes on other platforms like Instagram to get their friends onboard.

What is Bondee, and what can I do on the app?

Developed by the Singapore-based tech company Metadream, Bondee provide users with an avatar which they can choose to doll up with different facial appearances, clothes, and accessories. Users can select different emotions from a list of choices while sharing their latest social updates on the app.

As a millennial, the first thought that popped in my mind was, “We’ve really come full circle back to Habbo Hotel” when I entered the app for the first time. Browsing through the list of emotes and clothes from the list, it seems some of the accessories are available for a limited time only although I expect they will be made available for purchase in the future.

bondee social media square room which users can decorate

What’s unique about Bondee’s take on social media is its concept of ‘Living with your friends’; the app does this by giving you a square room which you can customise and decorate however you like. You can indulge the interior designer streak in you as you choose from a list of furniture, potted plants, instruments, electronics, and even windows to create your own ideal space. Your imagination is your only limitation, and you can customise your spot as a cosy bedroom or a bustling office space to name a few.

Since house prices are way out of range at the moment, I opted for the second-best option and customised my ideal living room layout within the walls of my Bondee space. The best part? By inviting friends to your social circle within the app, their own personalised space will also be added to your neighbourhood space, and you can see or interact with their avatars that are added to your virtual plaza.

Setting Sail with Bondee

When you navigate the app, you might have come across a boat-like icon on the homepage. This leads to the Set Sail function which sees your avatar in a boat floating across an endless ocean expanse and accompanied with its own Lo-Fi soundtrack. While it seems like there isn’t much to do at first other than watching your avatar float around, this seemingly underwhelming feature has become my favourite feature on the app.

The Set Sail function seems to be a wondering mode that lets you reach out to other users whom you aren’t connected with on the app. I can’t confirm if these are Bondee users that appear in your vicinity, but it has led to a few interesting interactions with other avatars with their own rafts as well. If you feel like casting your voice out to the digital void, you can write messages under the Drift Bottle tab and ‘throw’ a bottle into the ocean where others can pick up your message as they drift along and leave their replies.

Seeting sail with one's avatar on the Bondee social media app

But staying adrift in Set Sail mode gives you more than just calming music and a chill wallpaper. Stay adrift long enough, and you might come across designated lucky items of the week such as furniture items or weather effects that you could augment your Bondee avatar’s personal space with.

If you want to unlock these cool perks without having to set your app to Set Sail mode all the time, just press back and select Offline Floating so that your avatar can continue to explore while you go about your daily life. Not only might you find added perks when you return, you may occasionally receive fun snapshots of your avatar’s journey under the Floating Album icon.

Controversy Surrounding the Bondee App

Not long after its launch, rumours of Bondee being a front for a credit card scam quickly arose as some users claim they received notifications of unauthorised transfers being charged to their credit cards. Thankfully, the rumours were proven to be untrue with Bondee’s parent company, Metadream, issuing a statement that cleared the air of rumours.

A picture of B-bean prices to buy NFTs on Bondee
B-Brean prices Image Credit: Youthtopia

Another controversy that Bondee has been drawn into is its intention to include non-fungible token (NFTs) in the near future. When the app launched in mid- January, users of the Bondee app noticed that its privacy policy included allowing users to “create a blockchain-based wallet on the public blockchain within the platform”. The policy also stated that B-Beans, a form of in-app currency, will also be introduced to purchase NFTs.

But when we went into Bondee’s privacy policy and terms of service, it seems all mention of NFTs and B-Beans have been removed from the document at the time of writing. This could be due to the flak that Metadream has received from its younger audience for wanting to include the digital asset as part of the app.

Yet it isn’t surprising that the idea of including NFTs has drawn sharp criticism from Bondee’s younger user base. While we believe that NFTs has a lot of potential to change the current way of life, it has been less than stellar in presenting itself as part of the future. Multiple scams, unsightly pictures of monkey images being sold for millions, news of NFT minting driving up energy costs, and untold headlines of NFT hacks has painted a deeply negative of non-fungible tokens even within the Web3 community itself.

From the POV of individuals outside the Web3 community, NFTs has become the generational boogeyman; it is a commodity that is not environmental-friendly, and it is an extravagant plaything of the rich that takes without giving back to others. In fact, we emphasised this in our predictions for 2022 when NFTs were still a nascent technology in which we highlighted that NFTs had the potential to revolutionise our way of life, but the rampant art plagiarism and non-eco-friendly energy consumption needs to be addressed before mass adoption could even begin.

The Merge not most important 1

Yet revamped it did. 2022 saw Ethereum, one of the most popular blockchain networks for NFT projects, transition from a Proof-of-Work (PoW) to Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism during the Merge in September 2022 last year. This effectively reduced power consumption in the Ethereum ecosystem by 99.9% as cryptocurrency mining rigs became useless after the transition. Plus, other NFT-focused blockchains like Tezos are also using the eco-friendlier PoS which alleviates the concerns of energy pollution with NFTs.

Art plagiarism is at an all-time low thanks to NFT projects creating original (and more eye-catching) designs, and NFT hacks are being monitored and actively prevented as the NFT sector grows ever larger.

Unfortunately, news within the cryptocurrency and Web3 sphere tend to stay within the space, which would explain why non-Web3 users within the younger audience still has a bad impression of NFTs as digital assets. With NFTs being a potential asset class that could elevate content creators like artists and musicians, more education and outreach needs to be done to redeem the public impression of NFTs.  

How can companies reconcile NFTs with avatar-based social media?

Avatar-based social interaction isn’t a new concept. Platforms like Minecraft, Roblox, and yes, even Habbo Hotel, has achieved varying degrees of success. The same can’t be said for their decentralised counterparts, mainly the Sandbox and Decentraland. While the team behind these two digital worlds have been actively organising new events within the metaverse, their user participation has been dipping further.

A picture showing different digital collectible avatars on Reddit

But if anyone has perfected the art of mass NFT adoption, it’s the social news platform Reddit. The popular platform launched their blockchain-based NFT avatar collection in July 2022, and they managed to reach mass adoption by December with 4.25 million unique NFT wallets and more than 5 million NFTs minted.

Their success? By not mentioning a word about NFTs. Instead of hyping up the new-fangled tech aspect of their collectible avatars, they simply called the avatars the same name we have been calling digital items for a long time – Digital Collectibles. The term makes it instantly clear for all their users without miring the whole programme with blockchain jargon, and it lets them focus on the fun aspect of dolling up their avatars with different facial appearances, clothes, and accessories.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Bondee focuses on the same aspects on its social app. Let users customise their avatars to their heart’s content while decorating their room with digital collectibles which they can earn through unique interactions such as sailing or visiting other’s spaces, and allow people to hang out online without bogging them down with the idea of NFTs. That’s the way to create a timeless social app for people to use and remember for years to come.

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