OK, let me explain. That string of emojis is a URL that, when entered into the address line in the Opera browser, takes you to singer Kesha’s website.
Opera said on Monday that it had enabled emoji-only based web addresses “to bring a new level of creativity to the internet.” You don’t need “www” or “.com” to access these sites—only a string of mini icons like the one above. The feature was added in partnership with Yat, a company that sells emoji-based URLs, much like Domain.com does with traditional domains.
These unique emoji strings are called Yats and their owners can tokenize them as an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain and sell or hold a short animation of the string on OpenSea. The company plans on letting users connect their Yats to electronic payments. Yats are between one and five characters and can sell from anywhere between a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars: The most expensive Yat was a single-character gold key that went for $425,000 in mid-2021.
Severable notable celebrities—mostly musicians—have already purchased Yats for website hosting or promotions. Kesha is one example, and you can visit Steve Aoki (🎂🎵) or Lil Wayne’s (👽🎵) webpages or the iTunes listing for Questlove’s “Questlove Supreme” podcast (❓❤️).
“It’s been almost 30 years since the world wide web launched to the public, and there hasn’t been much innovation in the weblink space: people still include .com in their URLs,” Jorgen Arnesen, executive vice president of mobile at Opera, said in a press release.
With its Yat integration, Opera becomes the first browser to simplify visiting a Yat-based webpage by removing the need to type a “y.at” prefix into the address bar as you do on other browsers (a full Yat URL looks something like this: https://y.at/👑✨). Also, emojis embedded in web pages will now link to Yat pages, so whenever you come across an emoji string on any website, it will direct you to the corresponding Yat page (if one exists).
Yat believes the emoji strings it sells can help people personalize their online identity and give celebrities more online visibility. It’s a fun concept, and I can see how these visual URLs could draw people in, but the dollar amounts being thrown around to own one of these are preposterous. Especially since the process of typing in a Yat on a PC is tedious, even when using Opera, and the URLs themselves still contain “https://y.at/.” It’s also a lot harder to remember the order of these emojis than everyday words, and choosing the exact emoji (Raised Back of Hand Medium Skintone, for example) can be a guessing game.
That said, I could see Yats being used in marketing campaigns or bought and resold at egregious prices—if NFTs and crypto have taught us anything, it’s that people will attempt to make money off even the most dubious digital assets.