When Ordinals launched in January, it caused an uproar in the Bitcoin community as enthusiasts, advocates, and developers argued the merits of putting JPEG on the blockchain. While the heated debate continues, the number of Bitcoin inscriptions using Ordinals has already surpassed 11,000 on Tuesday, according to a Dune report.
Ordinals are the latest project aiming to bring NFTs into the Bitcoin ecosystem. The first project, Counterparty, first introduced non-fungible tokens to Bitcoin with the Rare Pepes collection in 2014, with Stacks following in 2017. However, the Ordinals project is different because the assets, including JPEGs and even video games, are inscribed directly on satoshis on the Bitcoin blockchain without needing a sidechain or additional token.
The Ordinals project has consumed the Bitcoin community and sparked new debates and questions about the ultimate purpose of the Bitcoin network. For some, Ordinals opened Pandora's box of threats to the Bitcoin network, including malware attacks and skyrocketing transaction fees.
Other responses are not as apocalyptic.
Long-time Bitcoiner Dan Held tweeted his support of Ordinals, saying the project is “good for Bitcoin.” Held shared a screenshot from an email by the late Hal Finney, where he wrote about “crypto trading cards.” Held said Finney would like Bitcoin NFTs. Finney, who passed away in 2014, is one of many believed to have been the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.
Unlike Ethereum and Solana, Ordinals calls its NFTs “digital artifacts,” with others in the Bitcoin space calling the digital asset simply “inscriptions.” Ordinal inscriptions are possible thanks to a feature introduced by the Bitcoin Taproot upgrade in November 2021 that allows storing arbitrary data to a satoshi’s witness.
Interest in Ordinals has steadily increased since developer Casey Rodarmor launched the project on January 21, 2023, with some looking to push the limits of what can be inscribed on a satoshi.
“The Ordinals project is a milestone for bitcoin, demonstrating how innovation on the bitcoin network can give rise to a breadth of new applications beyond its use as sound money,” Lolli co-founder and CEO Alex Adelman told Decrypt in an email, calling Ordinals a homecoming moment for Bitcoin.
Adelman says that while Bitcoin still lags far behind Ethereum in the volume of investment and talent committed to innovating and developing new applications, Bitcoin NFTs will attract a new wave of interest and capital and create new opportunities for developers to build novel solutions to facilitate scalability and efficiency.
While the thrill of minting NFTs on the Bitcoin blockchain has drawn new attention from adherents to the OG blockchain, Ordinal inscriptions lack the features many associates with NFTs, like smart contracts, which the Bitcoin blockchain does not natively support.
Satoshibles developer Brian Laughlan believes the limitations of Ordinals will bring more attention to projects like Stacks.
“The reason I am bullish on Stacks even more now is because people will eventually start to feel the limitations of ordinals—high main chain fees, no smart contracts, etc,” Laughlan told Decrypt on Discord. “They will look to L2 solutions, and Stacks is ready to fill that gap.”
Laughlan says backlash from Bitcoin maximalists has made it hard for Stacks to “get its voice heard,” adding that Ordinals is the best thing Stacks could have asked for.
“Now more people are looking at Bitcoin than ever,” he said. “You got ETH Maxis running Bitcoin nodes and Bitcoin Maxis loving jpegs all of a sudden! The world has gone mad.”
As the debate surrounding Ordinals continues, inscriptions on the Bitcoin blockchain are clearly here to stay—whether Bitcoin maxis like it or not.
Stay on top of crypto news, get daily updates in your inbox.