What are Bitcoin Ordinals?

Over the past decade, the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain has evolved at an unprecedented pace. From Bitcoin and Ethereum to stablecoins, staking and DeFi, the crypto space has witnessed a plethora of innovations.

Recently, the ecosystem was taken over by important crypto news. On January 21st 2023, Bitcoin Core software engineer Casey Rodarmor launched the ordinal protocol, which has been the talk of the ecosystem since.

What are Bitcoin Ordinals?

Although there are some important differences between NFTs and Ordinals, a rough way of defining Ordinals could be to say they are Bitcoin NFTs you can mint directly on the Bitcoin blockchain. Let's take a closer look.

Each Bitcoin is broken into 100,000,000 units called satoshis (or sats). Each sat is serially numbered, starting at 0. These numbers are "ordinal numbers" in the mathematical sense, giving an order to each sat in the total supply. Satoshi scarcity is cut in half every four years (halving every 210,000 blocks).

As Casey Rodarmor explains in a podcast interview, with the new Ordinals protocol, people who operate nodes in the Bitcoin network can inscribe each sat with data, creating an Ordinal.

Ordinals were made possible by Bitcoin's recent Taproot network upgrade. The Ordinal Theory Handbook states that, "individual satoshis can be inscribed with arbitrary content, creating unique Bitcoin-native digital artifacts that can be held in Bitcoin wallets and transferred using Bitcoin transactions. Inscriptions are as durable, immutable, secure, and decentralized as Bitcoin itself."

Differences between Ordinal NFTs and other NFTs

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) such as ETH NFTs or Stacks NFTs, generally point to off-chain data which is kept on IPFS (Interplanetary File System). IPFS is a decentralized file storage system that can be changed using dynamic metadata. As an example, a token image in a given NFT collection can be updated, and metadata can be refreshed on NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea and Gamma.io.

When Casey Rodarmor created the Ordinal protocol, he was trying to improve what he considers to be a deficiency: NFTs require off-chain metadata which can be changed, making them "incomplete" to him. Ordinals, however, are "complete" because all the data is inscribed directly on-chain, and are intended to reflect what NFTs should be: true digital artifacts.

Notable Ordinal inscriptions

The rise of Ordinals caused a lot of excitement and controversy within the Bitcoin community, and it was just weeks before collections emerged as ordinals. Ordinal Punks is one of the most notable projects and pays homage to CryptoPunks. Ordinal Punks is a set of 100 Bitcoin NFTs minted within the first 650 Inscriptions on the Bitcoin chain.

The Taproot Wizards, a collection of hand-drawn NFT wizards, represents the largest block and transaction in the BTC chain's history, with a staggering 4MB.

Ethereum-based collection OCM (OnChainMonkey), minted 10,000 Ordinals into a single Inscription, making it one of the first 10k collections on Bitcoin.

NFT marketplace Gamma.io used its no-code ordinal inscription service to broadcast their press release directly to the Bitcoin blockchain, making it the the world's first press release inscribed to Bitcoin.

It's still very early in the Ordinals market, but the web3 ecosystem has been buzzing and many new projects have been emerging. It was just a few weeks before a developer forked the Bitcoin protocol to create Litecoin and used it to mint the first-ever Litecoin ordinal NFT.

Inscribing Ordinals

Despite the surge in interest in ordinal inscriptions, the process of actually creating an inscription is highly technical, complex, and time consuming. Gamma's no-code platform removes these barriers.

The Gamma no-code creator platform makes ordinals accessible to anyone with a Bitcoin address. Paired with the creator launchpad on the Stacks programming and scaling layer for Bitcoin, the Bitcoin NFT creator experience is finally ready for mainstream adoption, without sacrificing superior levels of security, trust, and decentralization that only Bitcoin can offer.

In February 2023, NFT wallets such as Xverse Wallet also quickly announced Bitcoin Ordinal supported functionality, making it easier to set up a Bitcoin address for your Ordinal. Hiro Wallet developers also confirmed support for Ordinals was on the way.

Getting Ordinals

Once your wallet is set up, you have three options to get an Ordinal. You could run a node and inscribe an Ordinal yourself, which is complex, especially if you don't already run a node. Another option is to find an Ordinal owner and buy directly from them. To find Ordinals, you can go to ordinals.com, where you can see some of the latest inscriptions, or the Ordinals Discord Channel. At the time of writing, there is no Ordinals marketplace yet, so you may have to break every rule you've ever learned about trading digital assets in web3. You may have to connect with people directly in Discord, conduct direct transactions with other people, etc. We recommend you use great caution when trading Ordinals. Lastly, you can explore the Ordinals Collections on Gamma, where you can also see those created using Gamma's no-code platform.

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