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. The data inscribed on the satoshi can include smart contracts, enabling NFTs.

Ordinals were made possible by Bitcoin's recent Taproot upgrade combined with the 2017 Segregated Witness (also called Segwit) update. 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.

Because block size on the Bitcoin blockchain is limited, so is the size of an inscription, resulting in some other technical differences. Unlike traditional NFTs which can be updated, Ordinals are completely immutable, so some possible uses differ, such as semi-fungible or dynamic NFTs, and any use case that implies updating the NFT.

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 and buying 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.

Gamma launched its Ordinals Launchpad, a no-code platform for creating NFTs on the native Bitcoin ecosystem, utilizing Ordinals technology. With Gamma's platform, anyone with a Bitcoin address can easily create Ordinals. To enhance the user experience, Gamma also released Ordinals Collection Mints, which allows for seamless NFT collection launches similar to Stacks NFT collections. Creators can also customize transaction fees. In short, 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.

The Ordinals marketplace is built on the Bitcoin blockchain, with an L1 infrastructure, allowing users to explore, sell, trade, auction and buy these digital assets directly in a trustless way. Unlike other marketplaces, Gamma's marketplace does not rely on other chains such as Ethereum or Solana, for Ordinals trading. In March 2023, Gamma.io released the Ordinals marketplace, making all inscriptions immediately tradable. Additionally, Hiro wallet and Xverse wallet, which were initially STX and BTC wallets compatible with Gamma.io, quickly added Ordinal functionality and have developed into Ordinals wallets. If you're ready to inscribe and purchase your own Ordinals collection, head over to Gamma.io!

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