Are emojis the Web3 equivalent of a username, or will they? Nashville-based startup Yat believes so. With 160,000 units sold, valued at $20 million combined, it seems that many ordinary people believe the same.

A Yat is a string that contains between one and five Emojis. It can be used to create your digital username, website URL, and payment address for your digital account. It is a hybrid of a domain address and a nonfungible token (NFT). However, not all Yats can be tokenized.

“Yat lets You use Emojis as Your Universal Username and Identity on the Internet,” The company posted to its Discord server.

“Imagine being known as fire-snake or robot-ghost-crown instead of coffeequeen98 or By owning a Yat — let’s say ocean-trident-palm tree — it’s yours forever. You are the ~only~ one on earth who owns these emojis.”

Theoretically, Yat could be a decentralized alternative to the current Domain Name System (DNS), which is administered by the internet regulator ICANN. DNS uses a centralized, hierarchical system to organize and help users find things on the internet.

Yat owners have had the option to tokenize their string of emojis as an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain for an additional cost since July 2021, but purchasing a Yat isn’t the same as minting an NFT.

To turn the Yat into an NFT, owners must first use Yat’s “visualizer tool” to create a short animation of the emoji string. The visualization is then tied to the Yat, itself, and can be minted as an NFT to be held or sold on OpenSea.

A one- to five-character design can cost anywhere from $4 to hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase initially, plus additional fees to turn it into a NFT. The shorter and more memorable the combination, the higher the price.

The most expensive Yat was the single character of a golden key, which went for $425,000 at the Yat Destiny auction in mid-2021. At the time of writing, Yat has a trading volume of 410 ETH ($1,258,622 USD) on Opensea.

Yat already has several notable celebrity investors, including Paris Hilton (queen crown-sparkle), Lil Wayne (alien-music note) and Kesha (rainbow-rocket ship-alien).

However, the project has also faced its fair share of challenges. They include the mundane, such as criticisms that Yat URLs can be difficult to find, because it’s not always easy to type an emoji sequence on a standard QWERTY keyboard.

And on the more dramatic end of the spectrum, Yat co-founder and former CEO Riccardo Spagnia “Fluffypony” was arrested in the United States in August 2021, where he waited for extradition to South Africa for fraud. The fraud charges were unrelated to Yat. Yat was launched in February 2021 and has since grown to a team of 55.