Bitcoin Ordinals, non-fungible tokens inscribed on the Bitcoin blockchain, and meme coins launched under the BRC-20 standard reached a fever pitch over the weekend, congesting the network with hundreds of thousands of pending transactions and sending the gas fees paid to miners through the roof.
The ramp up coincided with the continued rise of meme coin season on multiple blockchains, including Ethereum. Galvanized by the success of PEPE, an ERC-20 token that had once risen into the top 50 of all coins by market cap, new meme coins have been launching every day. Now, that hunger has reached the Bitcoin blockchain.
According to BRC-20.io, a website that tracks BRC-20 tokens, there are 14,200 meme coins currently launched on the Bitcoin blockchain. The leading token is “ordi” with a market cap of $514 million and a 24-hour trading volume of $128 million. It retains 59% of the market cap for all BRC-20 tokens and was the first meme coin launched under the BRC-20 standard.
Other BRC-20 meme coins include “pepe,” “bank,” and “meme.” An anonymous on-chain analyst called Domo created the BRC-20 standard in early March to allow Bitcoin users to trade fungible tokens on the blockchain. So far, programmers have used it to create mostly speculative coins but that could change in the future.
Meanwhile, inscriptions of Ordinals also exploded over the weekend. According to Dune Analytics, there were over 400,000 Ordinals inscribed on the Bitcoin blockchain on Sunday alone, an all-time high. That brings the total number of inscriptions to 4.7 million. The number of Ordinals inscribed on the blockchain has gone parabolic since late April with 74% of all Ordinals inscribed after April 20th.
Bitcoin Ordinals and Meme Coins Clog Network, Raise Fees
The adoption of the BRC-20 standard and the number of ordinals inscribed on the blockchain over the weekend caused a steep rise in fees paid to miners, rivaling the most recent bull run in 2021. According to Dune Analytics, users paid 493 BTC in blockchain fees on Sunday: $6.9 million for BRC-20 tokens and $6.9 million for Ordinals inscriptions.
The result was so unusual that Block 788,695 had higher fees paid than the miner reward, an outcome not seen since 2021 that many believe contributes to the decentralization and security of the network.
In fact, the network fees became so high that Binance, a leading cryptocurrency exchange, halted Bitcoin withdrawals twice in the span of hours. All told, there are currently hundreds of thousands of pending transactions on the blockchain, most within the Satoshi-per-byte range of 1-31.
The Bitcoin network hash rate, which reached a two-year low on October 2022, has become robust as of late, rising up to 440.7M on May 1st and remaining above 280M for the entirety of May so far. The hash rate is indicative of the security of the network, with a higher hash rate being better for security. It also serves as a benchmark for how difficult it is for miners to “crack the code” needed to win the next block.