Bitcoin ordinals creator causes outcry for wanting to enforce renumbering

Casey Rodarmor, the creator of this year’s popular Bitcoin Ordinals protocol that spawned millions of ‘NFTs on Bitcoin,’ wants to renege on a central promise. Although, since February, he’s repeatedly assured Bitcoiners that ordinals numbers are “immutable,” he wants to renumber them. He also wants the ability to change them in the future, at his discretion.

Some people fear a rug pull. Speculation about Rodarmor dumping on users near the top — like when Charlie Lee sold Litecoin — is circulating. Others liken Rodarmor’s proposal to changing millions of phone numbers without their owners’ permission.

Ordinals numbers are part of their collectible appeal

Since inception, ordinals numbers have been a distinguishing feature of these collectibles.

OnChainMonkey Genesis, for example, carefully chose Ordinal #20219 “to commemorate the exact month and year of Genesis’ creation.”

Many ordinals use their originally assigned number within the name of the ordinal itself and collectors bid extra for specific ordinal numbers.

‘Sub10k’ (those numbered below 10,000) is the most expensive class of ordinals, for example.

However, preserving ordinals’ precise rank and order makes Rodarmor’s job difficult. He’s coding new versions of his ordinals protocol, ORD, and it’s much easier for him to allow his software to add, subtract, and renumber ordinals.

In his words, Casey Rodarmor wants previously “stable” inscription numbers to become “unstable.” Stable means the inscription numbers are ordered in the order they were recognized by his ORD protocol for most of 2023, starting with ‘0’ for the genesis inscription and extending past 33 million.

(Technically, ‘inscriptions’ refer to data attached to Bitcoin’s blockchain using an “ordinals” protocol; but in practice, many users transpose the words “inscriptions” and “ordinals” as synonyms.)

“Unstable” basically means that these numbers could change in the future — and users shouldn’t rely on numbers anymore to refer to specific inscriptions.

Read more: Bitcoin Ordinals community debunks majority ownership claim

Lots of exciting features after a rug pull

Rodarmor claims the old inscription numbering system will pose challenges for his exciting new features, of course, such as:

  • Multiple inscriptions per transaction
  • Inscriptions in reveal inputs other than the first
  • Multiple inscriptions on the same satoshi (the smallest subunit of one bitcoin)
  • Inscriptions with more even fields

Rodarmor says he attempted to solve the renumbering problem with so-called cursed, or negatively numbered, inscriptions. However, negative numbers have downsides, such as making it difficult or unstable for software to chronologically order inscriptions. Better to just renumber ordinals, he claims.

After facing backlash from the ordinals community, Rodarmor says his numbering system will simply be changed yet not abandoned entirely. He claims his new numbers would be similar to the old ones but might vary by approximately 1%.

That was hardly reassuring for collectors who paid thousands of dollars for specific numbers.

Reorg would rug special number collectors.

Developer Raphjaph published a draft pull request (PR) that wouldn’t change existing inscription numbers. That proposal would only change the method by which inscriptions are generated in the future.

In summary, although making inscription numbers variable might simplify development for Rodarmor’s software, it also violates an explicit promise he made in February 2023:

Casey Rodarmor wants to renege on this promise.

Doubly committed to that February promise, he even found a bug that hid Inscriptions 500-600 yet decided not to renumber subsequent ordinals “to avoid disruption.”

Read more: Bitcoin dev Luke Dashjr proposes to ban ‘spam’ ordinals

Will Casey Rodarmor actually renumber ordinals?

Although Rodamor has proposed a catastrophic change for ordinals collectors who purchased specific numbers, he’s not actually pushed the change live to his ORD protocol. Somebody proposed a vote. Of course, Rodarmor controls ORD protocol development, which he personally released as an ex-Bitcoin Core developer. ORD has near total dominance in the ordinals community and has never even bothered to even disguise itself as a DAO, so Rodarmor could easily ignore the results of any vote.

A nice idea, but there is no voting in ORD governance.

Rodarmor now wants to change the method used to generate inscription numbers, a move that naturally drew some criticism from collectors. Many fear a rug pull of numismatic value. Others expressed concerns about how this might affect inscribed satoshis.

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