This is an opinion editorial by Robert Hall, a content creator and small business owner.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a disappointing trend that has divided the Bitcoin community into two warring factions. On one side, the “Bitcoin transaction maximalists” believe that Bitcoin Layer 1 should be used purely to process transactions. On the other side of the spectrum, the “Ordinal enjoooyers” want to use Bitcoin’s Layer 1 to inscribe arbitrary data and generally want to experiment with the base layer.
I personally don’t have a dog in this fight. I think both sides make compelling arguments for their use cases. The purpose of this article isn’t to say one is right and the other side is wrong, it is to raise the alarm about what happens if the infighting continues and how this could hinder the movement.
Sympathy For Bitcoin Transaction Maximalists
The current schism in the Bitcoin community appeared right when Ordinals showed up on the scene in January 2023. The Ordinals protocol essentially allowed for NFTs on Bitcoin. Until then, NFTs were generally left to the Ethereum crowd and their ilk. Ordinals changed that dynamic and brought the creators who were minting NFTs on Ethereum to Bitcoin, and this new influx brought new developers and, of course, higher transaction fees.
As we all know, the Bitcoin blockchain is not optimized for speed. This is why we have the Lightning Network and other Layer 2 solutions. The purpose of mainchain Bitcoin is to transfer value ultra securely and consistently. The Bitcoin network has an uptime of 99.98%, which is a remarkable achievement. This is exactly what we want in a base money that can be trusted: not to debase over time.
When new participants come into the Bitcoin ecosystem and want to transact on the network, inevitably, transaction fees are going to go up. It comes down to the simple issue of supply and demand. With every block, there is only a limited amount of block space, so users have to compete to get their transaction into the next block.
This leads to users getting outbid and having their transaction action languish in the mempool or priced out of sending a transaction in the first place.
As someone who is lucky enough to live in the Western world, this isn’t a huge deal for me because I can wait for transaction fees to come back down. Many users in the global south don’t have that same luxury.
They are using Bitcoin as a monetary network to conduct day-to-day business, so Layer 1 fee spikes are a detriment to their daily survivals. This is where I am sympathetic to the argument that Bitcoin should be primarily used for transactions.
Sympathy For Bitcoin Ordinal Enjoooyers
But the rules are the rules, and Ordinals follow the parameters of Bitcoin. Since Ordinals launched, there has undoubtedly been an explosion of activity on the Bitcoin network. Before Ordinals, transactions could be sent for pennies, but after Ordinals, fees spiked to over $19.20 in May 2023. This represents a 560% increase.
Obviously, this is a massive spike in fees, but on the flip side, it has shown the Bitcoin community that fees can replace the block subsidy in time. With block 788,695, for instance, there was 6.7 BTC in fees, versus the standing block subsidy of 6.25 BTC.
Ultimately this is what we want to happen, but from what I can venture to guess, Bitcoin transaction maximalists didn’t want this to happen so early in the Bitcoin adoption cycle. Considering how early we are, I can see why they would be upset with the Ordinal enjoooyers.
Many of these maximalists think Ordinals enjoooyers are nothing but degenerate altcoiners, bringing their garbage to the Bitcoin network and clogging it up with monkey pics and d**k butts. Fair point, there is some of that going on. But there is nothing that can be done about it.
Bitcoin is for everyone, right? It is permissionless, and people can do whatever they want with Bitcoin as long as it doesn’t violate the rules.
But this tension in Bitcoin right now is creating two distinct camps in Bitcoin, which is sad to see because we should be united in the mission of getting the world on a Bitcoin standard.
We Are The Emissaries For Bitcoin
The division between the pro-Ordinal and anti-Ordinal camps mainly existed on Bitcoin Twitter, but it definitely came to a head at the Bitcoin 2023 conference in Miami.
If you watched the “Great Ordinals Debate,” you saw the tension from the get go. Both camps, represented by speakers on stage, came out swinging against each other, accusing one another of harming Bitcoin and Bitcoin adoption:
The debate came off as childish, and the arguing over BRC-20 tokens was little more than a sideshow. This schism was the front that was presented for the world to see, four guys arguing over something the general public doesn’t understand. Perception is everything right now, and if the goal is to onboard billions of people around the world, arguing over wizard pictures and obscure protocols isn’t the way to go.
In my view, this debate highlighted the struggle for the soul of Bitcoin right now. What does it mean to be a Bitcoiner? How should the network be used? Do Bitcoiners get to tell other Bitcoiners how to use the network?
These are questions that will probably continue to come up as long as Bitcoin exists and other use cases are created for Bitcoin.
I don’t like the infighting on Bitcoin Twitter or at the conference as it makes the Bitcoin industry look bad and like it isn’t ready for the big leagues. How can bitcoin become the world’s reserve currency when we don’t have our own house in order? Don’t s**t where you eat, guys. We are the emissaries for Bitcoin, and we should always be cautious of how Bitcoin is shown to the world.
The mission of Bitcoin is to offer a better alternative to the world and take away the power from the people who corrupt society with fiat currency. The powers that be won’t take Bitcoin seriously until we get serious numbers of people adopting it. If we want to change the world, the community needs to stay focused and presentable to a wider public. Ditch the wizard hats, and turn off the laser eyes. We are all on the same team and working toward the same goal. Let’s not forget what brought us to Bitcoin.
This is a guest post by Robert Hall. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.