Ordinal NFTs, introduced on January 20, 2023, are the latest method of creating NFTs on the Bitcoin blockchain. While Bitcoin-based NFTs have existed before, ordinal NFTs present a unique architecture that sets them apart from other Bitcoin NFTs. They have gained popularity since their launch, with over 200,000 ordinal NFTs minted by a growing community of users, developers, and enthusiasts who are excited about the potential of native Bitcoin NFTs.
So, what exactly are ordinal NFTs and how do they function differently? Let’s delve deep into them in the blog post!
What are Ordinal NFTs?
Ordinal NFTs allow for the embedding of various types of media directly into individual satoshis, which are the smallest units of Bitcoin. Unlike traditional NFTs that represent a complete token, ordinal NFTs assign unique ownership and metadata to individual satoshis. This granular level of tokenization provides increased flexibility and opens up new opportunities for digital ownership and provenance within the Bitcoin ecosystem.
To achieve this, ordinal theory, an arbitrary but logical ordering system, is used to assign a unique number to each satoshi. This means that ordinal NFTs are native to Bitcoin and don’t require any changes to the Bitcoin protocol or additional layers. They are designed to be compatible with the existing Bitcoin network. A satoshi, also known as a “sat,” represents the smallest unit of Bitcoin, equal to 1/100,000,000 of a single Bitcoin.
The History of Ordinal NFTs
Ordinal NFTs were made possible by ordinal theory, but their implementation was enabled by two Bitcoin Protocol updates: Segregated Witness (SegWit) in 2017 and Taproot in 2021. These updates unintentionally expanded block space for arbitrary data storage, allowing images, videos, and games to be included in ordinal NFTs. These changes facilitated the development and use of ordinal NFTs on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Segregated Witness (SegWit)
Segregated Witness (SegWit), introduced in 2017 as a soft fork of the Bitcoin blockchain, brought significant changes to the transaction structure. It separated transaction and witness (signature) data, creating a separate section called witness data. This update aimed to address issues such as block size limitations, enable optional data transmission and prevent unintended transaction changes.
With SegWit, transactions no longer required including witness data (e.g., digital signatures) directly within the transaction itself. Instead, a separate structure for witness data was added at the end of a block. This design allowed for the inclusion of arbitrary data within the witness section and introduced a discounted “block weight” mechanism to keep data within the block size limit without requiring a hard fork.
SegWit’s implementation marked an important step towards ordinal NFTs, as it expanded the capacity for including arbitrary data in transactions. This innovation paved the way for the future development of ordinal NFTs, which leverage the increased flexibility in storing media files, such as images and videos, within the Bitcoin blockchain.
Taproot, implemented in November 2021, was a comprehensive upgrade designed to enhance Bitcoin’s privacy, scalability, and security. Among its improvements, Taproot introduced a more efficient system for storing arbitrary witness data and relaxed the limitations on the amount of arbitrary data that could be included in a Bitcoin transaction. Originally focused on enhancing smart contracts like time-locked contracts, Taproot’s changes became instrumental in enabling ordinal NFTs.
Ordinal NFTs utilize Taproot’s script-path spend scripts to store NFT data. The upgrade streamlined the structuring and storage of arbitrary witness data, providing the foundation for the “ord” standard. Additionally, the relaxed data requirements allowed for a single transaction to potentially fill an entire block, up to the blocksize limit of 4MB, with both transaction and witness data. This expanded capacity opened up possibilities for including a wider range of media types directly on the blockchain, further enhancing the potential of ordinal NFTs.
How Do Bitcoin NFTs Work?
To grasp the functioning of ordinal NFTs, it is crucial to distinguish between the terms “ordinals” and “inscriptions” used in reference to this new form of Bitcoin Nft.
Ordinals refer to a system of organizing individual satoshis in a manner that establishes the essential “non-fungible” characteristic required for creating NFTs. They provide a means of uniquely identifying and ordering these satoshis.
Inscriptions, on the other hand, encompass the actual content of the ordinal NFT. This includes elements such as images, text, videos, or any other arbitrary data that users would typically associate with an NFT. Inscriptions can be thought of as the equivalent of the token ID and metadata found in non-Bitcoin NFTs.
To better understand ordinal NFTs, it can be helpful to draw a parallel with non-Bitcoin NFTs. Just like non-Bitcoin NFTs, ordinal NFTs are distinct, one-of-a-kind tokens. However, instead of using tokenID and metadata, ordinal NFTs rely on ordinals for uniqueness and inscriptions for their specific content.
What is an Ordinal Inscription?
For nearly a decade, Bitcoin developers have been working on integrating non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into the Bitcoin blockchain. This journey began in 2014 with the introduction of Counterparty, which enabled the creation of NFTs like the Rare Pepe collection. Subsequently, in 2017, Stacks emerged as another solution for Bitcoin-based NFTs.
The Inscription process is responsible for writing or recording the data of the content into the witness section of a Bitcoin transaction. This witness section was initially introduced as part of the Segregated Witness (SegWit) upgrade in 2017, which aimed to improve the Bitcoin network.
To create Ordinals, users need to download Bitcoin Core and synchronize their node with the blockchain. Once the synchronization is complete, the next step involves setting up an Ordinals wallet and transferring some satoshis (the smallest unit of Bitcoin) to that wallet. This lays the foundation for engaging with Ordinals and participating in the creation of Bitcoin NFTs.
In conclusion, ordinal NFTs represent a new way to create non-fungible tokens on the Bitcoin blockchain. Developed through the conceptualization of ordinal theory and made feasible by the Segregated Witness (SegWit) and Taproot updates to the Bitcoin Protocol, ordinal NFTs offer a fundamentally different architecture compared to other Bitcoin Nft.
With ordinal NFTs, media types such as images, videos, and more can be embedded into individual satoshis, the smallest unit of Bitcoin. Unlike previous Bitcoin-based NFT solutions that relied on separate layers or networks, ordinal NFTs are entirely native to the Bitcoin blockchain. They do not require changes to the Bitcoin protocol or additional layers, making them backwards compatible with the network.
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