HOW ORDINAL NFTS COULD IMPACT THE BITCOIN ECOSYSTEM
In the ever-evolving world of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin has long stood as a dominant force, primarily known as a digital cash system and a store of value. However, the introduction of Ordinal NFTs marks a significant shift in its functionality and potential. This Cryptopolitan guide dives into how Ordinal NFTs are changing the landscape of Bitcoin, examining their unique characteristics, the challenges they pose, and their impact on the Bitcoin network and its community.
What Are Bitcoin Ordinals?
In January 2023, the Bitcoin network witnessed the introduction of Bitcoin Ordinals, a novel approach to creating Bitcoin-based non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This innovation involves attaching unique data to individual satoshis, Bitcoin’s smallest unit, through a technique known as “inscribing.”
Traditionally, NFTs have been predominantly associated with blockchains like Ethereum, Solana, and BSC Chain. However, this perception shifted with the Ordinals project, which brought to light the potential for NFTs within the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Altering Bitcoin’s core code has always been a challenging endeavor, due to its decentralized nature and the reluctance of its community to compromise network security. This has somewhat hindered the widespread adoption of Bitcoin NFTs. Despite these challenges, the evolving landscape of cryptocurrency has paved the way for forward-thinking individuals who see Bitcoin NFTs as a key component in the evolution of Web3.
The Ordinals platform has seen a steady increase in activity since its launch. A diverse array of content, including images, audio files, and videos, is being inscribed by its growing user base. Next, we’ll explore the mechanics behind this innovative process.
Bitcoin Ordinals operate through a unique system that assigns serial numbers to satoshis, the smallest unit of Bitcoin. This system, known as the Ordinals protocol, enables users to transform ordinary satoshis into distinct entities by attaching additional data, a process termed “inscription.”
A satoshi, named in honor of Bitcoin’s enigmatic creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, represents the minutest fraction of a Bitcoin (BTC), with one BTC divisible into 100 million satoshis. Each satoshi is equivalent to 0.00000001 BTC.
The uniqueness of each satoshi is determined by its sequence in the mining and transaction process. The ordinal numbering is based on the chronological order of mining, while the transactional sequence is determined by the order of transaction inputs and outputs. This is the essence of the term “ordinals.” For instance, the very first satoshi in the initial block is assigned ordinal number 0, the next one is 1, and so forth. In ordinal theory, these numbers serve as consistent identifiers for the data linked to the satoshis.
While there are similarities between traditional NFTs and ordinals, notable distinctions exist. Typically, NFTs are created using smart contracts on blockchains like Ethereum, Solana, and BSC Chain, and often, the represented assets are stored externally.
In contrast, ordinals are directly inscribed onto individual satoshis and are incorporated into the Bitcoin blockchain‘s blocks. This means that ordinals are entirely contained within the blockchain, eliminating the need for sidechains or additional tokens. As a result, ordinal inscriptions benefit from the inherent simplicity, immutability, security, and robustness of the Bitcoin network.
Key Distinctions Between Ordinal NFTs and Traditional NFTs
Storage on the Bitcoin Blockchain
One of the primary advantages of ordinal inscriptions over conventional NFTs is their decentralized nature and enhanced security, courtesy of Bitcoin’s cryptographic strengths.
Ordinal inscriptions are essentially satoshis that are permanently stored on the Bitcoin blockchain. This feature ensures their decentralization and security.
When you inscribe a satoshi using an inscription tool, your Bitcoin NFT is transferred to your Ordinals wallet and securely recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain, offering a straightforward and reliable process.
On the other hand, most traditional NFTs are hosted on decentralized applications using self-executing smart contracts, such as those on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). This setup makes these NFTs reliant on the specific rules and logic of the contract. Consequently, any unexpected changes in the Ethereum network or EVM could potentially impact the NFTs’ functionality.
Increased Liquidity with Ordinals
Bitcoin’s status as the most established and widely traded cryptocurrency, available 24/7 on various exchange platforms, lends a significant liquidity advantage to ordinals. By inscribing digital artifacts on Bitcoin, you effectively link your art or asset to the most liquid cryptocurrency in the market.
In comparison, other NFT-supporting cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Polkadot, and Binance Coin may not offer the same level of liquidity. This is partly due to potential concerns about their security features, robustness, and market value among users.
Choosing Bitcoin for your digital creations not only safeguards your art or asset but also provides access to a broad and deep market, allowing you to sell whenever the need arises.
Bitcoin NFTs don’t have royalty dilemma
Bitcoin NFTs stand out due to their straightforward approach to royalties, which is inherently different from other platforms. This simplicity in handling royalties contributes to their immediate liquidity and clear-cut nature for creators regarding compensation:
Creators understand that relying on Bitcoin’s on-chain mechanisms means no royalties from secondary sales. Therefore, they adjust the pricing of their initial sales to reflect this.
Alternatively, creators can opt for off-chain methods, like traditional contracts, to secure royalties on secondary transactions.
The irreversible nature of Bitcoin transactions means that once a transaction is completed, its record cannot be altered. This characteristic poses a challenge in implementing long-term royalty mechanisms. For instance, ensuring consistent and automatic royalty payments from secondary sales is problematic using Bitcoin’s blockchain, due to its transactional finality.
Bitcoin’s scripting language, while capable of supporting basic smart contracts, lacks the complexity and versatility found in other blockchain platforms like Ethereum, which is specifically designed to accommodate sophisticated smart contracts. This limitation makes it less suitable for managing digital assets and automated payment flows.
Despite these limitations, some tools developed for Ordinals, such as Gamma, claim to offer a solution with a “fixed opt-in royalties” system for creators. This indicates a potential evolution in how Bitcoin NFTs can handle creator compensation, albeit within the constraints of Bitcoin’s existing framework.
Ordinal inscriptions are immutable
The Bitcoin protocol’s design ensures the immutability of transactions through cryptographic hashes and a consensus mechanism. Each block in the Bitcoin blockchain includes the hash of the preceding block, forming a chain that is resistant to tampering. Once a transaction gains confirmation by the majority of nodes on the Bitcoin network, it becomes an unalterable part of the public ledger. This structure significantly reduces the risk of fraudulent activities and the alteration of existing records.
In contrast, Ethereum NFTs, while immutable in their core, often have mutable metadata. This metadata, which can include details about the NFT’s owner, associated images or videos, and other attributes, is typically stored off-chain on centralized servers. It is linked to the NFT via its token ID and can be updated by the NFT’s creator or owner.
For instance, an artist with an Ethereum-based NFT can modify its metadata, such as changing the attached image or updating descriptions and titles. This is done by altering the metadata on the central server and re-linking it to the NFT’s token ID.
Bitcoin ordinals are scarcer
Bitcoin’s fixed supply limit of 21 million coins, governed by a transaction halving mechanism and a proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm, contributes to its scarcity:
Miners receive new bitcoins as a reward for creating new blocks in the blockchain. This reward halves every four years, reducing the incentive for expanding the Bitcoin network and maintaining the supply cap.
The difficulty of creating new blocks increases every 2016 blocks (roughly every four weeks), ensuring a stable rate of new block creation over time.
These factors make mining increasingly costly and uphold the supply limit. Consequently, ordinal inscriptions are limited to the existing bitcoins and a finite number yet to be mined, preventing market oversaturation and preserving the value of digital artifacts.
In comparison, Ethereum NFTs, typically based on the ERC-721 contract, can represent an unlimited number of NFTs within a single contract. This is because the contract doesn’t store the data but points to it off-chain. However, creating a Bitcoin ordinal inscription requires a specific Bitcoin transaction, with the content stored directly on the Bitcoin blockchain, emphasizing its uniqueness and scarcity.
How Will Ordinal NFTs Change Bitcoin?
Undoubtedly, Bitcoin reigns supreme in terms of market capitalization. Initially, its purpose was solely as a digital cash payment system. Over time, it evolved into a value storage medium, giving rise to several new cryptocurrencies through hard forks, including Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin.
The ability to allocate data to individual satoshis introduces both advantages and challenges. By integrating with the mainnet, this simplification allows NFTs to capitalize on Bitcoin’s established security features and provides a method to verify the ownership and uniqueness of digital assets.
This development, however, brings certain dilemmas for miners. They are faced with the choice of dedicating block space to either standard transactions or a mix of ordinal and smaller transactions. With increasing interest and speculation in ordinal NFTs, the competition for block space intensifies, necessitating miners to selectively choose which transactions to include.
Are Ordinals Bad For Bitcoin?
Should ordinal inscriptions begin to overshadow standard transactions, accessing block space could become more challenging, potentially escalating the fees for on-chain transactions. Consequently, many proponents and early adopters of Bitcoin argue that the blockchain should prioritize BTC transactions over data storage, in line with its original purpose as a monetary network.
Conversely, the growing demand for block space might be seen as beneficial for the network’s long-term health. This is because miners could earn more from transaction fees, especially as the block reward decreases with each halving.
Moreover, the inclusion of larger files in the blockchain will inevitably enlarge its overall size. This growth will cause more advanced technical capabilities to operate a full node, possibly leading to increased centralization as fewer nodes can manage the expanded storage requirements.
However, the direct storage of these files on the blockchain ensures that the NFTs are protected from censorship and remain unchangeable. These files are permanently integrated into the blockchain, making them indelible.
Ordinal NFTs represent a groundbreaking development in the realm of Bitcoin, offering new possibilities and challenges. While they bring innovation and additional utility to Bitcoin, they also raise questions about network capacity, transaction fees, and the fundamental purpose of Bitcoin. As the crypto community navigates these changes, the long-term implications of Ordinal NFTs on Bitcoin’s role and functionality remain a subject of keen interest and ongoing debate. The protocol could potentially attach ordinal satoshis to individual security tokens or stablecoins, enable Bitcoin smart contracts, and introduce the cryptocurrency to a broader audience.