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Developer's Guide to Ordinals Jubilee

The Jubilee represents a major upgrade to the Ordinals protocol; here’s everything you need to know to be ready for the changes.

Deep dive
January 5, 2024
Staff Engineer
Staff Engineer
Jubliee text in ASCII style

What Is the Jubilee?

The Jubilee is an event to resolve the issue of “cursed” inscriptions - making it easier for devs to build with Ordinals.

What Are Cursed Inscriptions?

Ordinals have dominated Bitcoin for most of last year. The metaprotocol is highly experimental, meaning standards for inscription types are still evolving. This has led to quirks in the protocol, such as “cursed” inscriptions.

Early in 2023, certain inscriptions types were not recognized by ‘ord,’ the reference implementation for Ordinals. Developers needed a way to track these so-called “cursed inscriptions” so the Ordinals team introduced a parallel sequence separate from the regular sequence as a temporary solution. Unlike regular inscriptions, cursed inscriptions have a negative inscription number, counting backwards. They are unstable, meaning the protocol doesn't make guarantees about the ordering of negative inscription numbers, making it hard for developers to rely on. That's a huge issue for trading, building and experimenting with ordinals.

Curing the Curse

The Ordinals community has been divided on how to cure the curse, that is finding a stable sequencing solution, one where inscription numbers don’t change over time. Back in April 2023, Ordinals creator Casey Rodarmor proposed a fix that would recognize “cursed” inscriptions at a specified block height and convert them into “blessed” inscriptions, making them stable. Thus the Jubilee was born, "a special event in which debts and sins are forgiven."

Domo, BRC-20 creator, expressed concern about rushing the Jubilee and possible unintended consequences for BRC-20 tokens, by far the most popular type of Ordinal inscription standard. Designed before the introduction of cursed inscriptions, BRC20 faced potential issues if these cursed inscriptions weren't properly managed. Currently, there are over 450K cursed inscriptions.

But now, it seems most Ordinals builders, wallets and developer tools are working to support the Jubilee and prevent any splits or disruptions for BRC-20.

When Is the Jubilee?

With the Jubilee implementation, starting at block 824544, new inscriptions that would have been previously categorized as 'cursed' will be indexed within the 'blessed' or main sequence.

The Jubilee represents a significant network upgrade, akin to a hard fork, in the blockchain ecosystem. In order to support this change, indexers and API providers need to be updated to the latest code version to avoid computing a different sequence of events and discrepancies.

The Jubilee impacts the inscription number, not the Ordinal number or the Inscription ID. These three terms are important and distinct. For any developer building with Ordinals, it’s helpful to keep these definitions in mind:

- Ordinal Number: This denotes the specific satoshi being inscribed. There are various notations for this.

- Inscription ID: A unique identifier for each inscription, composed of the transaction id and an additional index. Inscription IDs are immutable and never change.

- Inscription Number: The position of an inscription within the sequence recognized by indexers. Inscription numbers can change depending on the protocol spec.

Hiro’s Approach to the Jubilee

Most app developers and wallets rely on APIs or indexers to keep track of the latest inscriptions, wallet balances, and activity. At Hiro, we maintain Ordhook, our own indexer which powers our Ordinals API, giving us flexibility to adapt to these changes. We aim to respect the design decisions of both the Ordinals and BRC20 teams.

If you're utilizing the ordinals-api, make sure to upgrade to the API v2.2.0 and continue as usual.

If you're utilizing the ordinals-api, make sure to upgrade to the API v2.2.0 and continue as usual. We expanded the inscription_number attribute to accommodate both Jubilee and BRC-20 standards.

This approach ensures that protocols like BRC20, which cannot overhaul their design due to the Jubilee, continue to function while also allowing developers to utilize the latest inscriptions for new protocol designs.

If you are using ordhook, we're replacing our existing

:inscription_number: int


inscription_number: {    
       jubilee: int, // eliminate negative numbers post-block 824544    
      classic: int, // continue to return the inscription number with positive numbers for blessed and negative for cursed inscriptions.

If you’re new to building on Ordinals, check out our tools, the Ordinals API and the Ordinals Explorer which are open-source and free to use.

Feeling #Blessed

The Jubilee marks a milestone in the development of Ordinals, one that will make the protocol more stable and reliable for builders. What began a year ago as a fun experiment has undeniably shifted the energy and market momentum around building on Bitcoin layers. We’re excited to see what other milestones 2024 has in store.

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