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Bitcoin NFTs: what are Ordinals?

Bitcoin NFTs are all the rage right now because of the launch and huge success of the "Ordinals" protocol. Ordinals provide a new way to create NFTs on the Bitcoin blockchain. The latest increase in Bitcoin resources is due to the launch of the CryptoPunks (Ethereum-based NFT) collection equivalent to Bitcoin. Although all the hype is meeting with mixed reactions from the web3 community. So what are Bitcoin ordinals?


What are NFT ordinals?

On January 21, software engineer Casey Rodarmor launched the Ordinals protocol on Bitcoin's blockchain. Each Bitcoin can be divided into 100,000,000 units called "sats" (short for Satoshi). This new protocol allows users and builders to inscribe each "sat" with data, known as ordinals. This data can also be smart contracts and then NFTs can be minted on them. In essence, the Ordinal protocol allows builders to create NFTs on the Bitcoin blockchain.


Furthermore, one of the key distinctions between Ethereum-based NFTs and Bitcoin is that Ethereum NFTs usually point to off-chain data on the IPFS system. With this protocol, all data is inscribed directly on-chain. "An Ordinal is meant to reflect what NFTs should be, sometimes are, and what inscriptions always are, by their very nature," Rodarmor says. This new ecosystem could benefit the NFT industry in general by enhancing the very concept of digital collectibles. In addition, because of the entirely on-chain data enrollment for Ordinals, Rodarmor refers to them as something beyond NFTs, calling them Digital Artifacts.


How do Bitcoin Punks change the game?

February 8, 2023 was just another day in the web3/nft space, until a Twitter profile with a dozen or so followers and a discord server with just 20 members appeared on the scene.

To make the BTC Punks website, the team of developers checked the hash of every image uploaded to Ordinals and compared it against the original 10k punk images. The links to Bitcoin Punks are the first-seen inscriptions (lowest ID) that contain these hashes on Ordinals. After a few hours, everything changed, and the storm of bitcoin punks began. The fomo spread quickly on Twitter and among the various discords, with a real onslaught of inscriptions of these punks, even slowing down the bitcoin network.


In many ways, Bitcoin Punks mean a new wave of NFT bitcoin, digital collectibles, and marketplaces. Bitcoin Punks are the first byte-perfect uploads of the original Ethereum CryptoPunks onto the Bitcoin Blockchain using Ordinals.


The entire 10K collection minted out in less than 24hrs, with one Punk (#620) sold for 9.6 BTC (~$214,766.50). However, one of the problems with the project at the moment is that there is simply no market to buy and sell the cryptocurrency once minted. But this, of course, does not prevent the Web3 community from buying and selling the digital pieces.


So far more than 80k ordinals have been inscribed on Bitcoin's blockchain. There has also been a backlash against the entire protocol from Bitcoin maximalists. According to them, the whole idea of Bitcoin NFT is against Bitcoin as a financial resource. Some even argue that Ordinals are just a waste of network space compatible with Bitcoin.


How to actually purchase ordinals?

To purchase an NFT Ordinal , one must first download a Bitcoin-compatible wallet. I've been using a Sparrow since the beginning of this new "meta". Once done, the user must then follow a detailed guide from GitHub to make the BTC wallet compatible with Ordinals. Next, the user must run their Bitcoin node and inscribe an ordinal (which would not be possible with bitcoin punks now since the project has been minted). Then there are two other options available for people to purchase a BTC Ordinal NFT.


Using Emblem Vault and buy ordinals on OpenSea, with ethereum. Emblem Vault is a tokenized multi-asset wallet on the Ethereum blockchain that can contain one or more tokens or NFTs. You can use Emblem Vault to trade portfolios of NFTs and cryptocurrencies, including assets from different chains, as a single token. Most of the nfts collectors are using Emblem to buy and trade NFTs on Bitcoin.


The other easy way is to find ordinal owners and purchase it from them directly (OTC). Owners can be found on Discord servers. Browsing the link-your-project channel on their discord allows users to explore what Bitcoin projects are out there. This is, of course, a huge risk for potential customers, as the sites and discords could be total rugs. Also, unless there is trust between buyers and sellers of the project, it can lead to scams and fraud. In addition, BTC ordinals can take hours or even days to appear in your BTC wallet.


Create an Inscriptions

Moving on, if you want to create/register an Ordinal yourself, there are services out there that allow this. The services allow users to register them without actually running a node. For example, the popular Bitcoin project Satoshibles has created an OrdinalsBot, which allows users to inscribe NFTs into their Bitcoin wallets. I personally used OrdinalsBot to inscribe Bitcoin Punks during the first day of "mint".



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