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What Are Bitcoin Ordinals? A Full Guide

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Bitcoin Ordinals
Bitcoin Ordinals

As the digital art and collectibles landscape continues to evolve, the realm of Bitcoin Ordinals has emerged as a groundbreaking innovation, challenging the status quo and redefining the non-fungible tokens (NFT) space. This captivating new world of on-chain digital artifacts has captured the attention of creators, collectors, and investors alike, as it weaves together the intricate tapestry of technology, art, and environmental concerns.

In this article, we explore the fascinating world of Bitcoin Ordinals, delving into their origins and unique characteristics, as well as their impact on the environment and the NFT ecosystem as a whole. We also discuss the recent launch of DeGods as Bitcoin Ordinals, highlighting the intersection of established NFT projects with this novel technology.

Background

Ordinal Inscriptions have recently gained significant attention in the world of Bitcoin, as their usage surpassed 100,000 on February 13. These digital assets, reminiscent of NFTs, are embedded onto satoshis, which are the smallest units of a Bitcoin (BTC). The ability to inscribe content onto satoshis was made possible by the Taproot upgrade, which was introduced to the Bitcoin network on November 14, 2021.

Since 2014, Bitcoin developers have been striving to bring NFTs to the leading blockchain. This journey began with Counterparty, creators of the Rare Pepe NFT collection, and was later followed by Stacks in 2017. The Inscription process, which involves encoding content data into the witness of a Bitcoin transaction, was facilitated by the SegWit upgrade introduced to the Bitcoin network in 2017.

Ordinals were conceived as a response to the booming NFT market based on Ethereum’s ERC-721 standard. Rodarmor, a programmer and artist, recognized the potential for a unique experience on the Bitcoin blockchain and developed the concept of Bitcoin ordinals, grounded in ordinal theory, throughout 2022.

What are Bitcoin Ordinals?

Bitcoin Ordinals are an innovative protocol that enables individuals operating Bitcoin nodes to inscribe data onto satoshis, the smallest units of a Bitcoin. In simple terms, Ordinals can be thought of as NFTs minted directly onto the Bitcoin blockchain. However, there are some crucial differences between traditional NFTs and Bitcoin Ordinals.

Typically, NFTs on Ethereum or Ethereum Virtual Machine blockchains refer to off-chain data stored on the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), a decentralized storage system. This data can be updated using dynamic metadata, which allows for changes in NFT metadata, such as image quality improvements.

In contrast, Ordinals are considered “complete” digital assets because all the data is inscribed directly on the blockchain. Casey Rodarmor, the creator of the Bitcoin Ordinals protocol, launched the concept in January 2023 to offer an immutable on-chain presence for digital content such as art, text, and video. His vision was to develop an experience similar to Ethereum’s ERC-721 standard but unique to the Bitcoin blockchain. This vision was realized through the implementation of ordinal theory, which assigns individual identities to satoshis, enabling them to be tracked, transferred, and assigned meaning.

How Bitcoin Ordinals Are Made

The process of creating Bitcoin Ordinals, often referred to as mining, minting, or inscribing, is more technically complex than minting NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. In the early days, only those who ran a Bitcoin node could mine Bitcoin Ordinals.

Tech-savvy users would utilize a Bitcoin node with the ord app, a command-line wallet, as their gateway to mining ordinals. These node operators would load their wallets with satoshis to cover gas fees and then perform the inscribing process on their ordinals.

Recently, no-code ordinal mining applications, such as Gamma and the Ordinals Bot, have emerged to simplify the process for less technically inclined users. These applications enable users to upload content they wish to inscribe and guide them through a payment process using a QR code.

Bitcoin Ordinals and the Environment

While it is true that Bitcoin, the largest blockchain in the world by market cap, consumes a significant amount of energy due to its proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism, it is crucial to consider the broader context when discussing the environmental impact of Bitcoin Ordinals.

In August 2022, a U.S. government report estimated that Bitcoin accounted for 60-77% of global crypto-asset electricity usage. Digiconomist data indicated that the combined energy usage of Bitcoin and Ethereum (before Ethereum’s September 2022 merge) exceeded 317 TWh of energy annually, placing the chains’ consumption levels between Italy and the United Kingdom.

While this energy usage is substantial, it is essential to remember that many companies and industries have comparable or even greater energy consumption levels. For example, Bitcoin’s annual energy consumption is lower than that of the world’s residential air conditioning units and the energy requirements of global data centers. Furthermore, Bitcoin’s energy consumption is on the lower end of smaller mining industries such as copper and zinc.

In the context of the art world, it is worth noting that the fashion industry, according to Princeton’s Ngan Le, generates more annual carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

DeGods Launches as Bitcoin Ordinals

Popular Solana NFT project, DeGods, has made a significant move by bringing 535 of its NFTs to the Bitcoin network using the Ordinals protocol. This development follows the immense success of Ordinal NFTs, which can be minted directly on the Bitcoin blockchain.

In 2021, the DeGods team burned 535 of the original PFPs to limit the supply when they first launched on the Solana blockchain. Now, these NFTs have been given a new lease on life through their inscription on the Bitcoin blockchain using the Ordinals protocol. Inscribing allows assets like NFTs to be minted on the Bitcoin network.

DeGods Founder, Frank, expressed his enthusiasm for aligning with the best-known brand in crypto, stating, “Bitcoin is the best brand in crypto—just as pristine as it gets… Aligning ourselves with the best brand in crypto is a no-brainer at any given point in time.”

To achieve this, the DeGods team collaborated with Luxor Technologies CEO, Nick Hansen. They successfully inscribed all 535 DeGods NFTs onto a single block, but they had to compress the images to a low resolution of 210×210 pixels to make it work.

Conclusion

The emergence of Bitcoin Ordinals represents a significant milestone in the evolution of digital collectibles and art. By harnessing the power of the Bitcoin blockchain and its unique Ordinals protocol, artists and collectors can now create, trade, and store digital artifacts with greater immutability, security, and authenticity.

As the technology continues to mature and gain widespread adoption, we can anticipate more established NFT projects, like DeGods, making the transition to Bitcoin Ordinals. This innovative approach has the potential to reshape the NFT landscape, challenging traditional norms and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of digital assets.

As we look to the future, the Bitcoin Ordinals ecosystem is poised to drive the next wave of growth and creativity in the blockchain-based art and collectibles space. The journey has only just begun, and we can’t wait to see what inspiring and imaginative creations emerge from this transformative technology.

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