Credit: Iaremenko/istock

Ordinals: Bitcoin Congestion Is Actually a Blessing in Disguise

BY Langston Thomas

February 22, 2023

Bitcoin Ordinals are here and seemingly here to stay. But not everyone is happy about their presence. Because Ordinals increase traffic on the blockchain, seasoned HODLers and those accustomed to using Bitcoin solely for its primary purpose (transacting) have raised concerns about the congestion these digital artifacts might be causing.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that when independent developer and Taproot Wizards founder Udi Wertheimer purposefully orchestrated the largest block and largest transaction in Bitcoin’s history, the keepers of tradition weren’t thrilled. But to industry disruptors like him, maxing out BTC’s block size and its corresponding effects aren’t a cause for contention but for celebration.

Why? Because it means innovation is still possible on the world’s first blockchain.

Blockchain congestion: A good problem to have?

It’s almost universally understood that network congestion is a problem. Congestion leads to slowed transaction speeds, increased energy demands, higher fees, and, ultimately, a decline in usability. Yet, without a problem, there can be no solution. Recently, the crypto industry witnessed Ethereum’s energy consumption drop to almost 99.99 percent thanks to the long-awaited merge. But before the switch, congestion had to be tackled in other ways.

Ethereum survived for years before merging from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake with the help of layer two solutions like the Polygon blockchain that helped process transactions off of the mainnet. While Bitcoin surely doesn’t need the same level of salvation that a merge or other overhaul might provide, with congestion increasing, layer twos may act as a saving grace once again.

Currently, blockchains adjacent to BTC, like the Internet Computer (ICP), Stacks, and others, have the potential to alleviate the issues befalling Bitcoin as a result of Ordinals. By taking transactions off the Bitcoin mainnet —which can only complete seven transactions per second — as opposed to ICP — which can execute 11,500 — these blockchains help loosen the grip that Ordinals is gaining. But while this act, at face value, might read as a major win for BTC, these layer twos also stand to benefit as a result.

While congestion can inhibit Bitcoin, it provides opportunities for developers, especially those working with layer twos, in the form of usership and liquidity. Stacks alone has already seen a significant spike in the price of its native token, STX, as a direct result of handling Ordinals traffic. And who’s to say that further benefit cannot come from the current hardships being felt on Bitcoin? This is precisely the thinking of those like Wertheimer, who feel there’s value in pushing boundaries.

Congestion as a catalyst for change

Wertheimer believes that rules must be broken and the status quo must be challenged to muster up renewed interest in innovation on the Bitcoin blockchain. While he thinks that the Bitcoin community would have once agreed with this statement, he feels that it lost momentum, with the unique, creative, and humorous culture once established by early crypto adopters now transferred to the NFT space.

“I feel like the Bitcoin community, in the last two or three years, has been very dismissive of everything that’s been happening in crypto. I think that’s wrong. I think it’s very different from what Bitcoin culture used to be,” Wertheimer said in an interview with nft now. “Bitcoin culture used to be very open, very experimental. People were interested in trying things that were never tried before, even if they didn’t know if it was going to work out.”

Through Taproots Wizards, which Wertheimer launched by way of the aforementioned larger-than-life 4MB Bitcoin block, Wertheimer hopes to reignite that flame of innovation.

While Wertheimer is undoubtedly acting to bring excitement back to Bitcoin — as illustrated by Taproots Wizard’s “Make Bitcoin Magical Again” tagline — he says his secondary goal is to remind developers that failure is a necessary part of growth. Now seen as somewhat of an outlier of the traditional Bitcoin community thanks to the hand he played in network congestion, and one that exists between NFTs and BTC, he is hoping to communicate a simple idea: if it is possible to do something on the blockchain, why not try it?

“The statement we’re trying to make is: whatever the Bitcoin protocol allows us to do, we’re going to do it. Even if something is potentially damaging, then by doing it, we’re going to learn what the issues are, and then, if we need to, fix them,” said Wertheimer. “It’s not possible to have software that is completely perfect. I think that a much better approach to life, and Bitcoin as well, is that failures and mistakes are going to happen, but they should be embraced because that’s how you correct your path. That’s how progress is made in all fields.”

Although Ordinals are far from being accepted by the greater Bitcoin community, thanks to Wertheimer’s actions, new conversations are happening on the world’s most secure blockchain. While some might argue against fixing something that isn’t broken, as proven within Web3, stagnancy is becoming less and less sustainable. To make the proverbial omelet of the metaverse, eggs must be broken — and beyond NFTs, according to those like Wertheimer, that all starts with Bitcoin.

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