Cats Clog Ethereum, the Sequel

Demand was high for Stoner Cats NFTs.

AccessTimeIconJul 29, 2021 at 5:55 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:32 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconJul 29, 2021 at 5:55 p.m. UTCUpdated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:32 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconJul 29, 2021 at 5:55 p.m. UTCUpdated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:32 p.m. UTC

Ethereum had another hairball, this time called “Stoner Cats.” Sales of the much-anticipated, star-studded animated series with a non-fungible token (NFT) tie-in resulted in losses of 344.6 ETH ($790,000) because of failed transactions at the show's launch on Tuesday, according to Dune Analytics

Demand was high for the rare crossover event between crypto and Hollywood that was developed by actress Mila Kunis and that featured Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin alongside a host of comedic legends. Some 10,420 Stoner Cats NFTs sold out at 0.35 ETH (about $785) within 40 minutes. 

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But many ran into cat-astrophe while minting their Stoner Cat NFTs. The influx of users throttled the Ethereum network and caused the pricing mechanism on the minting contract to present incorrect gas fee estimates. 

The high-profile event once again raises age-old questions about the limitations of the Ethereum protocol, as well as newer considerations about the responsibility creators have to their audience. 

What went wrong

According to industry publication The Defiant, the majority of users who lost out were likely those who attempted to mint 20 NFTs (the maximum allowed) without manually adjusting the gas limit in Metamask, which is a software cryptocurrency wallet that's used to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. An influx of buyers temporarily drove Ethereum gas fees to $33.67 (from $9.50), according to analytics firm Defi Prime, meaning those whose bids placed earlier likely didn’t have enough gwei to pay for the entire transaction. Although those transactions failed, the gas was still paid.

“In this case, the gas limit wasn’t set high enough to cover all steps in the transaction, so the transaction failed. However it’s not failing until it runs out, so ~100% of allocated gas is actually being used even without the transaction succeeding,” decentralized finance developer 0xWave theorized. 

In crypto, the prevailing ideology is that people take responsibility for their actions. If you “ape into” an unaudited project and lose your shirt, that’s on you. In this instance, that mindset is complicated. As many have noted, it’s possible that Stoner Cat developers failed to anticipate the demand for the project and set the minimum gas price too low. 

The developers have reportedly blamed MetaMask, a key component of the Ethereum stack. It should be noted the show delayed its NFT launch after technical challenges on Monday. 

Another piece of the puzzle is the inbuilt limitations of Ethereum itself. Although it has ambitions to become a global computing platform for anyone to deploy unstoppable code, spiking gas fees and limited throughput (the rate of processing transactions) have long plagued the second-largest blockchain by market cap. 

“As usual, cats clogged Ethereum,” DeFi Prime tweeted, in a nod to the first successful NFT project, CryptoKitties, which infamously caused Ethereum to crawl to a halt in 2017. Back then, the cat-themed dapp reportedly prevented 30,000 transactions from being processed. 

Transactions were delayed, people complained, and Ethereum’s core developers began work on a complete network overhaul, called Ethereum 2.0, which is still in progress. It can’t come soon enough. 

“Stoner Cats” is reportedly the first TV show entirely funded by NFTs, or at least the first that mainstream media cares about. It’s unlikely to be the last. The show raised over $8 million on Wednesday by selling NFTs. The production team plans to release a further 3,000 each episode. It’s a model that lets fans share in the wealth created while also giving its creators near-complete creative control. 

But there are still bugs to work out. "Stoned Awakening" – the series’ first episode – is set to premiere today. The “Stoner Cat” team said they have “fun stuff to try and make everyone feel good” after Wednesday’s minting meltdown.

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