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Counting on a New Era For Bitcoin: An Interview With Leonidas

Exploring the Development of Ordinals and Inscriptions on the Bitcoin Network

Article by Tigi76 | Edited by Melior and Trewkat | Cover Art by Trewkat and ab_colours

Here I am again to talk more about ordinals and inscriptions! So much has happened since my semi-serious introduction to the topic in the article I published in early June. The ordinals and inscriptions phenomenon has continued to spread, found new admirers, and established solid roots for a bright future in the blockchain world.

In just under nine months, there have been more than 21 million inscriptions. To help us understand what’s going on, I interviewed Leonidas, one of the leading players in the ordinals and inscriptions scene.

With almost 100,000 Twitter followers and as co-founder and co-host of some of the most-followed Twitter Spaces on the topic, Leonidas is, in short, a figure somewhere between the star and the sacred for those who know this world.

I asked Leonidas some questions about the origins of the phenomenon, upcoming trends, the relationship with Ethereum, and the reaction of Bitcoin maximalists. Here’s what came up…

Q: Who are you and where did your interest in ordinals and inscriptions come from?

A: I’m the co-founder of and the cohost of The Ordinal Show. I’ve been collecting NFTs since 2017 and before ordinals, I was mostly focused on studying and educating about their history. I came across ordinals last summer when a guy named Casey Rodarmor came into the Historical NFT Discord claiming to have potentially discovered the oldest NFTs.

It turned out that he had figured out a way to individually number all 2.1 quadrillion satoshis and then track them as they moved around the Bitcoin network. This effectively turned all satoshis into NFTs and thus an argument could be made that the satoshis mined in 2009 were the oldest NFTs.

I found his discovery very intriguing. Casey continued to develop his idea for seven more months until finally releasing it formally as the Ordinals protocol in January of this year. Because I had talked to Casey on and off for those seven months and had the chance to interview him about his discovery, I was eager to dive into the protocol when it was finally released.

Q. How do you see the rapid growth of this trend? Do you think this growth is sustainable in the medium-to-long term? Do you think there are purposes other than “speculative” ones related more to the BRC-20 world?

A: The release of the Ordinals protocol was a monumental moment in Bitcoin’s history because it was when people began to realize that they could use the Bitcoin blockchain for more than just creating a digital currency. An ecosystem of Bitcoin web3 builders has formed, and we have essentially started from scratch building DeFi, NFTs, lending, DAOs, and every other web3 use case that you can think of on top of Bitcoin. Given the enormous scale of Bitcoin, the opportunity is very large if it were to become a mature web3 ecosystem.

Q. What do you think is the benefit to the Bitcoin ecosystem, both culturally and technologically?

A: Ordinals have made it cool to experiment with Bitcoin again. For the past six years, Bitcoin’s culture was dominated by an ideology that all uses of blockchains other than currency are unethical. This led to a period of stagnation where all of the development energy in the crypto space left Bitcoin and moved to other ecosystems that in turn flourished.

I believe that the legacy of the Ordinals protocol will be that it broke down those ideological walls and caused thousands of developers to come try many new experiments on Bitcoin, a few of which will end up being very important innovations.

From a technological angle, the Ordinals protocol introduced two significant innovations. First, it introduced a way to take the fungible BTC currency and turn it into 2.1 quadrillion non-fungible satoshis. Second, through inscriptions, it created a way to store arbitrary data on Bitcoin, effectively turning Bitcoin into a giant database that now holds thousands of images, videos, songs, books, and more.

Q. What are the pros and cons compared to what is happening in the Ethereum ecosystem?

A: The Ethereum NFT ecosystem got a lot of things right that Bitcoin can learn from. That said, it also made some tradeoffs that have led to significant issues. The Ordinals protocol attempts to address these problems by introducing a more simplistic — but sound — NFT primitive called inscriptions.

Inscriptions are stored fully onchain whereas their ERC-721 counterparts point to off-chain data for the actual image files. By having the entire NFT fully onchain on Bitcoin, the probability of it still being around in 100 years increases dramatically.

Inscriptions are also immutable whereas with ERC-721, the metadata is often unfrozen which has led to horror stories of collectors waking up to find out that the images of the NFT they hold were changed to an image of a middle finger.

Lastly, when you hold an inscription, nobody gets in between the holder and the NFT. On Ethereum, there is increasingly a trend to adopt permissioned smart contracts in an attempt to enforce royalties. Because this can only be accomplished by adding an element of centralization, holders of these NFTs no longer have self-sovereign ownership and are subject to being ‘rugged’. Even if there is only a very small chance that this would happen, the entire point of owning assets on a blockchain is that you don’t have to trust anybody. The Ordinals protocol addresses all of these issues and hopes to establish a more sound primitive for storing value in non-fungible tokens. Sometimes less is more.

Q. Let’s talk about recursive and generative art, which is the latest trend in the ordinals and inscriptions world. What is it in simple terms? Why is there so much interest around it? How can it be used in practice on Bitcoin?

A: A recent upgrade to the Ordinals protocol introduced a standard for inscriptions to be able to reference other inscriptions, which is called recursion. Imagine if you had a 10,000 profile picture (PFP) collection that you wanted to inscribe. Before recursion, you would have had to inscribe all 10,000 images to Bitcoin which would have been very costly. With recursion, you could instead inscribe 400 tinier images of each trait and then make 10,000 HTML inscriptions that are each just a few lines of code that programmatically pull in the few traits that are needed and then arrange them to look like a PFP. The recursion method achieves the same result with one-hundredth of the storage and cost.

People are very excited because this unlocks the ability to do everything that Art Blocks does on Ethereum, but on Bitcoin. People have already inscribed the JavaScript packages that Art Blocks uses, so now any artist can pull in those existing packages to their code and inexpensively generate incredibly compelling pieces of generative art.

Q. How is the community moving around this news? Where can people learn about ordinals, inscriptions and the new trends?

A: There are many ways to get involved in the ordinals ecosystem. A great place to start is to tune into The Ordinal Show every Monday at 14:30 UTC and Wednesday at 22:30 UTC where we discuss all of the latest happenings live. If you have more technical questions you can always jump into the Ordicord, which is the official Discord for the protocol. (Editor’s note: you can also listen to The Ordinal Show as a podcast and read the Substack.)

Q: Let’s talk about, a creation of yours that allows you to enter the world of ordinals and inscriptions. Where did this idea come from and what is possible through it?

A: is an ordinals explorer built for collectors. We did two things that are really interesting that nobody else is doing, even on other chains. First, we introduced a “God Mode” view that has all ordinal NFTs in a single interface. Collectors can then do advanced filtering and sorting based on the entire dataset rather than just on a single collection. By allowing all NFTs to be compared to one another like this, it gives collectors a new framework for thinking about where value should live.

The second interesting thing that we did was introduce NFT upvoting. Anyone can go to our site, connect an ordinals-compatible Bitcoin wallet, and as long as they hold at least one inscription, they can start upvoting. The more upvotes an inscription gets, the higher chance there is that it will trend in our algorithm and show up on our homepage.

Crowdsourced upvoting helps us separate signal from noise, which improves the discovery experience. Most NFT marketplaces achieve this through manual curation, where they effectively do the same thing by paying attention to what collectors are interested in on Twitter and then spotlighting those NFTs on their homepage. We do it in a fully automated way, which puts the curation process in the hands of collectors instead.

Source: website

Q. Beyond recursion and generative art, what trends do you see in a year?

A: The organic traction around the rare and exotic satoshis narrative has been incredible to watch. It’s an entirely new asset class that doesn’t exist on any other chains and is truly native to Bitcoin. I believe that virgin, rare, and exotic satoshis may potentially become a very strong store of value and that lots more people will become interested in them once more tooling is built.

Q. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Altcoins: will there only be one left?

A: Just like how there are many nation states in the world, there will also be many successful network states. Bitcoin and Ethereum can coexist, and it is very healthy to have competing protocols that make different architectural tradeoffs.

Q. Do you have a message for maximalists?

A: If you are a laser-eyed Bitcoin maximalist reading this who believes that the best way for your BTC bags to go up is to scare away developers from Bitcoin so that it never changes, the bad news is that you are wrong, but the good news is that there is now a vibrant ecosystem of developers experimenting on Bitcoin again, which will ultimately pump your BTC bags for you, which is what you really wanted all along.

Thank you, Leonidas, for taking the time to chat about ordinals and inscriptions.

Author Bio

Tigi76 is an attorney qualified in Italy — In house Lawyer (Commercial, Contract Law, M&A) — Blockchain, Web3 and Crypto Enthusiast — BanklessDAO Contributor — Contributor — Member of the Blockchain Association Italy — Member of Blockchain Education Network Italia.

Editor Bios

Melior is a DAO enthusiast with experience in engineering, data science, development, design, project management, and writing. Melior comes from the word meliorism, which is the belief that humans can make the world a better place.

Trewkat is a writer, editor, and designer at BanklessDAO. She’s interested in learning about crypto and NFTs, with a particular focus on how best to communicate this knowledge to others.

Designer Bios

Trewkat is a writer, editor, and designer at BanklessDAO. She’s interested in learning about crypto and NFTs, with a particular focus on how best to communicate this knowledge to others.

ab_colours is a versatile designer with over seven years of experience. He specializes in doing product design, UX design and brand identity. He has been DAOing for the past eight months and has been able to amass quite a lot of knowledge about the fascinating blockchain space.

BanklessDAO is an education and media engine dedicated to helping individuals achieve financial independence.

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This post does not contain financial advice, only educational information. By reading this article, you agree and affirm the above, as well as that you are not being solicited to make a financial decision, and that you in no way are receiving any fiduciary projection, promise, or tacit inference of your ability to achieve financial gains.

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