Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
The buzzy Bitcoin protocol Ordinals achieved a sizable new milestone on Monday, just days after its creator signaled that he would take a step back. But Casey Rodarmor will not disappear entirely, the project’s new caretaker told Decrypt.
Launched by Rodarmor in January, Ordinals allows for the creation of NFT-like assets on Bitcoin called inscriptions, where unique bits of data can be assigned to satoshis—the smallest unit of currency that Bitcoin can be divided into.
Less than 660,000 inscriptions existed two months ago, but Ordinals’ popularity has grown rapidly of late due to experimental tokens that can be built on Bitcoin using the protocol. The total number of inscriptions made surged past 10 million on Monday, according to a Dune dashboard.
Several cryptocurrency exchanges have rolled out support for BRC-20 tokens—which are modeled after ERC-20 tokens like PepeCoin on Ethereum—while NFT marketplaces like Magic Eden have moved to accommodate inscriptions as well.
Despite the growing attention, Rodarmor tweeted over the weekend that he would step down as the protocol’s lead maintainer, handing over the project's reins to a pseudonymous developer who goes by Raph.
“I haven't been able to give [Ordinals] the attention it deserves,” Rodarmor tweeted, adding that Raph had “agreed to step up as lead maintainer.”
I haven't been able to give ord the attention it deserves, so I am pleased to announce that @raphjaph has agreed to step up as lead maintainer!
Raph is an impoverished student, and his work on ord will be entirely funded by donations. If you can, please consider donating!…
— Casey (@rodarmor) May 28, 2023
Similar to how Bitcoin core developers are supported through acts of charity, Rodarmor said that Raph’s “work on [Ordinals] will be entirely funded by donations.”
Even though Rodarmor’s title has changed, he will still be involved in the project, Raph told Decrypt in an interview, explaining that Rodarmor “just doesn't want to be [Ordinals’] public face at the moment.”
Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto famously stepped away once his creation had started to catch on. But Raph’s new role includes regular phone calls with Rodarmor, he said.
Rodarmor did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Decrypt.
Raph, who said he is based in Germany and is currently pursuing an educational degree, said his role will be part-time. But as the project’s lead maintainer, he’ll have greater control over maintaining the codebase for Ordinals on Github, where the protocol’s most recent software can be downloaded.
“Casey was a little bit of a bottleneck because I always had to wait for his approval on code review and stuff like that,” Raph said. “He's still doing stuff on GitHub as well. He just wants to make me his shield.”
Raph pointed out that the project’s codebase has shifted from Rodarmor’s personal GitHub to an account that belongs to Ordinals as its own organization. And he noted he’s not the only one who can release new code or make changes.
While Ordinals has attracted talent from across the digital assets industry and perked the interest of companies like MicroStrategy, the protocol has not been embraced entirely by the Bitcoin community. Some Bitcoiners are concerned by the high transaction fees that BRC-20 tokens have caused, for example.
One area that Raph said he is shifting his focus to over the next few weeks is documentation, explaining that there will be a community-led effort to make materials available on GitHub that can better help people understand Ordinals’ technical elements.
Raph said he is no stranger to Ordinals or Rodarmor, however, having worked on the project for almost 10 months—long before the protocol ever went live.
“I am very familiar with the codebase. And, more importantly, I'm very familiar with how Casey likes to do stuff,” Raph said. “That's kind of why I was the perfect fit for this role.”