Hi! I'm Casey Rodarmor, very very minor ex-Bitcoin Core contributor, current host of the SF Bitcoin Devs meetup, and full-time ordinal theory researcher.

Ordinal theory has two main branches, ordinal numbers, and inscriptions.

Ordinal numbers are a scheme for assigning serial numbers to sats and tracking them across transactions. This is done without any on-chain data, is entirely opt in, and don't affect fungibility.

Inscriptions attach on-chain content to sats, creating digital artifacts that then be tracked and transferred using the ordinal numbering scheme. These digital artifacts, just like sats that they ride on, can be contained in a normal bitcoin UTXO, transferred using normal bitcoin transactions, and sent to normal bitcoin addresses. This requires a wallet that performs sat control, like ord.

Inscriptions are NFTs, but the term NFT feels tainted, so I coined the phrase "digital artifact" to try to express what inscriptions aim to be. Inscriptions are on-chain, secure, immutable, and uncensorable, unlike NFTs which are often off-chain, insecure, and riddled with weird caveats.

Ask me anything about ordinals, inscriptions, SF Bitcoin Devs, Bitcoin, or anything else!

41 sats \ 4 replies \ @kr 18 Jan

do you expect digital artifacts to have different use cases than NFTs given that they have different properties?

Good question! I expect that there will be a lot of overlap. Some existing NFTs are already digital artifacts, namely those that are on-chain and immutable. So I think it'll be more of a question of quality and value vs use-case.

However, inscriptions, unlike NFTs on other chains, are basically as indestructible and decentralized as bitcoin itself. This difference in expected longevity may lead to different use cases. But who knows!

10 sats \ 2 replies \ @kr 18 Jan

Ah interesting. So if inscriptions are tied to sats, and most sats predate all NFT projects, is there a case to be made for collecting inscriptions simply because of their historical significance?

Sats start out uninscribed, but you can always inscribe an old sat. I think that people will definitely collect both sats and inscriptions for their historical significance. And it'll be the height of swag to have an inscription on a blinged out sat, like a particularly old one, or one that was the first in its block.

10 sats \ 0 replies \ @kr 18 Jan

ah i see

What's your favorite mainnet inscription?

Oooo, vv tough question.

This one has hidden meaning: https://ordinals.com/inscription/fb3c060cd4506731c3295311e9bc0e8d8d0d865f72c5175494c9acb31710e3dfi0

This one was the second, and of course it was a dick butt: https://ordinals.com/inscription/26482871f33f1051f450f2da9af275794c0b5f1c61ebf35e4467fb42c2813403i0

This one is a higher res version of a signet inscription, which is appropriate: https://ordinals.com/inscription/22d7fa836a87e0532e9aff8d29a1b0aa872ce45545e55d9d9c73cb4309fc8bc3i0

And this one has a high degree of bang for buck: https://ordinals.com/preview/114c5c87c4d0a7facb2b4bf515a4ad385182c076a5cfcc2982bf2df103ec0fffi0

Impossible to pick a favorite!

Is it very expensive to run an Ordinals indexer node?

When Ordinals as Nostr identifiers?

Yah, pretty expensive. There are two modes to run ord in, one which indexes the sats in every UTXO, and one which doesn't. Everything works in the latter mode, you just can't see specific sat numbers. (But inscriptions work, since that's not dependent on sat numbers, just sat movement.) Building the full index requires ~150 GB of space and 64 GB of ram to do in a reasonable amount of time.

I love the idea of Ordinals as Nostr identifiers, but having to run a bitcoin core node and ord index just to be on Nostr sounds like a hard sell!

30 sats \ 1 replies \ @kr 18 Jan

do you expect to make money from collecting various rare inscriptions?

do you plan to create some other kind of business model here (opensea for sats inscriptions)?

I've never been much of a collector, although inscriptions tempt me more than pokemon cards, so who knows!

One of the reasons why I did this whole thing was so that I could make my own generative art inscriptions. I've made a bit of generative art (a bunch of random examples are on my home page) and as generative art became popular on Ethereum, I looked into making my own Ethereum NFTs. Ultimately, I didn't feel like I could make and sell Ethereum NFTs in good conscious. Everything in that ecosystem is so bad, from the fundamental chain security and decentralization, down to the tooling and NFT standards, so I had to make my own. So I'll definitely be making my own inscriptions and trying to sell them. It'll be fun to transition from working-on-ordinals goblin mode to actually-making-inscriptions goblin mode.

I want to keep everything decentralized, so a lot of business models in the broader NFT ecosystem won't work. Opensea is essentially a custodian. When you sell an NFT on Opensea, it doesn't leave your wallet, but you give them permission on-chain to transfer your NFTs on your behalf, so they can effect sales and transfers. I wouldn't want to introduce that kind of centralization, so I'm going to try to implement decentralized non-custodial offers to buy and sell. (See here for a sketch of how it would work, it's pretty simple.)

I might have some kind of gallery of highlighted inscriptions for sale on ordinals.com, and maybe you could pay via lightning to have your offer higher up, but that's about it.

91 sats \ 1 replies \ @k00b 18 Jan

What motivates people to collect? I can feel the impulse within me and generally resist it, but haven't given it much thought.

This is a question that I personally wonder about myself, and I'm not much of a collector myself, so I might not be able to give a great answer. I think that community is a big part of it. Collecting things is often very social: You buy and sell from other collectors, and talk online and in real life with other people in the hobby.

What do you say to the haters, of which there are many, who say "ordinals r fake and ghey"?

So many haters T_T

Let's break down "ordinals r fake and ghey" into more specific criticisms:

  • Ordinals break Bitcoin's fungibility: This is probably sort of true, but it's not actually a problem in practice, since everyone can just ignore ordinal numbers and inscriptions, and if you get a sat from a wallet that isn't doing sat control, i.e., sending specific sats to specific outputs, which sat you wound up getting isn't actually meaningful.

  • Ordinals break Bitcoin's privacy: People definitely shouldn't use ordinals if they want privacy, since the protocol is designed with public display and trading in mind. If you need privacy, you shouldn't use ordinals, or at least you shouldn't your cardinal and ordinal wallets.

  • Ordinals are a distraction from Bitcoin's mission: I actually think ordinal numbers and inscriptions, if they get popular, will be good for Bitcoin's adoption. People like art, and they'll like Bitcoin more if they can make art with it. I think a lot of people got into Ethereum because of NFTs, and then they stayed in that ecosystem. Hopefully there will be people who get into inscriptions, and then wind up getting into Bitcoin.

  • NFTs are lame: I kind of agree with this. Most NFTs are lame. However, the good ones can be really cool, especially generative art NFTs, like artblocks.

  • Inscriptions will spam the blockchain: Inscriptions are very resource-unintentsive for Bitcoin Core nodes to process, they're an OP_FALSE OP_IF <data pushes> OP_ENDIF in the witness, so core nodes just skip them. They will take up block space, and must pay fees, but I ultimately think that that's good. Bitcoin needs a very strong fee market to survive, and people publishing and trading inscriptions will contribute to that.

Love it, great answers!

For each sat?

How many of them would it be possible to do this?

All sats have an ordinal number (and a name, and a few other representations), but because inscribing a sat requires a relatively expensive transaction, only a vanishingly small fraction of all sats will ever be inscribed.

You can use the ordinals.com block explorer to search for sats using the differ representations. The twobithits sat is coming in 2025. Relatively soon!



Amazing how exciting 1 sat can be

Are there any extra privacy implications of this theory and its inscriptions?

Not if you don't use it, so normal bitcoin transactions are users are unaffected. Everything is designed for public use, however, so if you do use, you do need to keep in mind that inscriptions and inscription transfers are public.

This is awesome.

"The feeling of owning a wallet full of UTXOs, redolent with the scent of rare and exotic sats, is beyond compare."

So would someone be able to set up a wallet and have only their collectable satoshis there? Like 10 sats in the wallet that are 10 rare or interesting inscriptions/ordinals?

Yup, and in fact it's best to keep you ordinal wallets, which do sat control, and your cardinal wallets, which don't, separate. If you put inscriptions or rare sats into a cardinal wallet, you might lose them, and if you put sats from your main stash into an ordinal wallet and make inscriptions, you'll link your main stash to your inscriptions.

Again, this is awesome. I've recently been thinking about ways to make interesting online treasure hunts/puzzles incorporating bitcoin as the reward, I've posted a couple here, rewards already claimed!

This is blowing my mind, not only could inscriptions or rare sats be rewards, but the whole ordinal repository of info has so much potential for hiding clues and making puzzles etc. And finding cool sats is sick.

This one is coming soon : Rest in peace Hal And the bitcoin satoshi of course

Nice, let me know what you come up with! runningbtc is an A++++++ sat.

10 sats \ 1 replies \ @om 19 Jan

So can we do domain names on the mainnet now? (Should we?)

Yah, you could! Should we is a different question ;)

I really like this idea, but I'm wondering why the rarity of an ordinal is only based on being the first of an event.

There might be other ways of looking at how rare an ordinal is. For example, the ordinal that corresponds to the first one millionth sat being mined. That's pretty cool and rare, but things like that are not part of this theory.

Is there a reason why?, I think there might be different ways of considering how rare or unique a specific ordinal is.

Anyone can decide what sats they consider to be exotic. You could decide you really want a sat mined during block 500,000. Or maybe you really want a sat that was stolen in an exchange hack. I think the "official" rarity tiers are ones that are convenient numbers (the same way that people who collect dollar bills for their serial numbers might want ones with a certain number of zeros).

By the way, there are a few blocks that I want sats from, so I set up a bounty: https://www.rot13maxi.com/ordinal_bounties/first.txt

There certainly are different ways of determining rarity, and I definitely encourage people to come up with their own.

The "official" rarity levels, which are first in block, and first after difficulty adjustment, halving, and conjunction (difficulty adjustment and halving happen on the same bloc), are just suggestions, and I wanted to keep them as simple and objective as possible, so they're all based on things that come from the Bitcoin protocol themselves.

What did you have for breakfast?

A giant cup of a coffee in a River Financial mug. Shout out to Alex and team 😤

Yo Casey! Great project! What inspired the Hell Money pod?

ty ty!

HMP was inspired by Erin going "hey we should make a podcast", and the title was inspired by hell money, which is paper money used in ancestor worship.

10 sats \ 2 replies \ @k00b 18 Jan

What's your wildest dream for how ordinal theory develops/gets adopted?

Do you think their utility might extend beyond collectibles?

As far as utility beyond collectables and art, I'm not sure. So far we really haven't seen real utility in other NFT ecosystems, so I'm leaning towards no. One possibility is organization membership, e.g. your status as a member of an organization can be publicly verified with an inscription you hold.

Due to their longevity, inscriptions become the first digital form of high art, and the most important form of digital art every created.

Inscription content is anything that can be rendered by a browser, so this includes HTML, CSS, and JS. Inscriptions are sandboxed, so it can't access the web, but eventually, inscriptions will be able to access other inscriptions. This leads to a rich and weird ecosystem of on-chain images, code, and markup, and interlocking, recursive inscriptions.

Thousands of years from now sats with specific numbers, names, and other qualities take on mystical significance and become the basis for a new techno-animist religion.

10 sats \ 2 replies \ @k00b 18 Jan

What's the rarest ordinal that you own? Do you have a strategy for finding and collecting them?

Definitely 1846313750000000!

1846313750000000 was the first sat of the block in which it was mined, which makes it uncommon. (Sats after the first are all common.) You can see this in the decimal representation, which is 644102.0. The decimal representation is BLOCK.OFFSET, so anything with a 0 as the second number is uncommon or better.

My strat so far has been to offer bounties for interesting sats. Bounty 3 is still outstanding, but it is very hard.

(1846313750000000 is currently sitting on an Opendime on my desk.)