What Are Bitcoin NFTs? A Brief Guide to Ordinals

November 16, 2023

Bitcoin NFTs, also known as Bitcoin Ordinals, represent a new wave of unique digital assets built on the Bitcoin blockchain. Unlike other blockchain networks, such as Ethereum, that have hosted NFTs for years, Bitcoin Ordinal NFTs are a relatively new phenomenon, bringing the world of non-fungible tokens to the largest and most secure blockchain network. 

What Are Bitcoin Ordinals?

Ordinals, or Bitcoin NFTs, are individual, one-of-a-kind digital assets inscribed directly onto the Bitcoin blockchain. They leverage the ordinal numbering system, which assigns a unique number to every satoshi, the smallest unit of Bitcoin. This system enables users to embed specific satoshis with additional data, transforming them into unique, identifiable assets.

Bitcoin Ordinals came into existence towards the end of 2022, going on to February 2023, marking a new chapter in the world of NFT technology. Although Bitcoin Ordinals share many characteristics with traditional NFTs, they also diverge significantly in key aspects.

Primarily, ordinals are crafted by altering Satoshi units, the smallest denomination of Bitcoin. This enables the division of Bitcoin into smaller denominations, facilitating a range of transactional activities. In 2023, Satoshi units have expanded their capabilities by incorporating the ability to be inscribed with various types of data, including text, code, and images. This transformation allows for the creation of Bitcoin Ordinals, functioning in a manner akin to NFTs.

The inscription process ensures that Bitcoin Ordinals benefit from Bitcoin’s security features by remaining on the blockchain. 

How Do Ordinals Work?

Ordinals work by embedding additional data into the Bitcoin blockchain. This data can include images, text, or other types of content, effectively turning a standard unit of Bitcoin into a unique, non-fungible asset. Since each Bitcoin is divisible into 100 million satoshis, there are numerous opportunities for creating these unique assets.

  • Inscription: Users inscribe data onto specific satoshis, including anything from artwork and texts to other forms of digital content.
  • Identification: Each inscribed satoshi is uniquely identifiable thanks to the ordinal numbering system.
  • Transfer and Ownership: Just like regular Bitcoin transactions, owners can transfer these inscribed satoshis, with each transaction recorded on the blockchain. 

Bitcoin Ordinals vs. NFTs

While Bitcoin Ordinals resemble NFT technology to some extent, they are built on a fundamentally different foundation, resulting in key differences. Let’s take a look at the most significant ones below. 

Inscriptions versus Tokens

NFTs require minting from scratch on the blockchain, existing as standalone digital assets. Bitcoin Ordinals, however, utilize inscription technology to modify existing Satoshi units. While this makes ordinals technically fungible, they store the entire digital asset on-chain, contrasting with NFTs that often require off-chain data. This on-chain operation endows Bitcoin Ordinals with the security and decentralization of the Bitcoin network, giving them a distinct edge over traditional NFTs.

Size Limitations and Rarity

Bitcoin Ordinals are subject to a 4-megabyte limitation per inscription, presenting challenges for content-rich inscriptions. Furthermore, the scarcity introduced by the finite number of Satoshi units, due to Bitcoin’s 21 million cap, potentially enhances Bitcoin Ordinals’ long-term value. However, given the vast number of Satoshi units, immediate scarcity is unlikely to be a concern. 


Bitcoin Ordinals benefit from their direct link to Bitcoin, the most liquid cryptocurrency. This, combined with their retention of currency features, enhances their liquidity compared to NFTs. 

Trading Ecosystem

While Bitcoin Ordinals offer unique advantages, they lack the established trading infrastructure of NFTs. NFTs have a decade’s head start, resulting in a refined marketplace for seamless trading. Bitcoin Ordinals, conversely, have a more complex and less accessible trading environment. 

Risk and Regulation

Similar to NFTs, Bitcoin Ordinals are susceptible to loss through various vectors, such as theft or user error. Additionally, their complete decentralization and anonymity present challenges in regulating content, potentially opening the door for malicious use. 

Benefits of Bitcoin NFTs

The emergence of Ordinals has introduced several advantages:

  • Security: Leveraging the robust security of the Bitcoin network, Ordinals are considered highly secure.
  • Decentralization: Built on the decentralized Bitcoin blockchain, these NFTs are not dependent on any central authority.
  • Uniqueness: Each Ordinal is truly one-of-a-kind, with its unique data and specific location on the blockchain.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite the potential, Bitcoin NFTs face certain challenges:

  • Limited Functionality: Compared to other blockchain networks that host NFTs, the Bitcoin blockchain offers limited functionality for these assets.
  • Storage Concerns: The additional data inscribed onto the blockchain could lead to an increase in blockchain size, potentially impacting the network’s efficiency. 

Future Trajectory and Considerations

The advent of Bitcoin Ordinals introduces a new dimension to digital assets, creating an intriguing intersection of technology, art, and finance. As the technology matures, observing how the community addresses the challenges and harnesses the potential of Bitcoin Ordinals will be interesting. 

The unique attributes of Bitcoin Ordinals, particularly their security, decentralization, and liquidity, position them as a compelling option for digital asset creation and trading. As the technology evolves and the trading infrastructure improves, we could witness a surge in adoption and innovation. 

With innovation comes responsibility. The Bitcoin community, regulators, and users must work together to establish guidelines and safeguards, ensuring ethical and responsible use of Bitcoin Ordinals.

The Bitcoin network must find a balance, accommodating the growth of Bitcoin Ordinals while maintaining network efficiency and sustainability. 


Bitcoin Ordinals stand as a testament to the continuous evolution of blockchain technology, offering a novel and secure means of creating digital assets. As we navigate this new frontier, the challenges and opportunities presented by Bitcoin Ordinals will undoubtedly shape the future of digital asset creation and trading, painting an intriguing picture of what is to come.