Taking its cue from Ethereum's ERC-20, the Bitcoin blockchain's BRC-20 is an experimental token standard. Ordinals protocol supports the generation and transfer of fungible tokens.
What Are BRC-20 Tokens?
Taking its cue from Ethereum's ERC-20
, the Bitcoin
is an experimental token standard. They follow the concept of ERC-20, which is an Ethereum token standard that enables developers to create tokens that are compatible with the broader Ethereum network and have built-in smart contracts.
The Emergence of BRC-20 Tokens
The BRC-20 token standard for Bitcoin was introduced in March 2023 by an anonymous on-chain
analyst. It utilizes the Ordinals
protocol that enables programmers to generate and transmit fungible tokens.
BRC-20 tokens work by using ordinal inscriptions, which were made possible because of Bitcoin's Taproot upgrade
. Ordinal inscriptions are the behind-the-scenes tech plumbing that make BRC-20 tokens work.
The rising popularity of memecoins
, such as Pepe
(PEPE), has contributed to the growing prominence of the BRC-20 standard. According to available data at the time of writing, there are currently 8,500 tokens in circulation that have been minted using the BRC-20 standard. The majority of these tokens are classified as memecoins.
How BRC-20 Tokens Work
The BRC-20 "token standard" is an experimental fungible token stored on the Bitcoin base chain. Ordinal inscriptions of JSON data are used for deploying token contracts and minting and transferring tokens.
Unlike the EVM
chains that use smart contracts to manage the token standard and its various rules, BRC-20 tokens simply store a script file in Bitcoin and use it to attribute tokens to satoshis and then allow them to be transferred between users.
BRC-20 tokens do not make use of smart contracts and require a Bitcoin wallet to mint and trade these tokens.
BRC-20 Tokens vs ERC-20 Tokens
Although the BRC-20 token standard is modeled after Ethereum's ERC-20, there are fundamental differences between the two:
BRC-20 tokens are issued on the Bitcoin network, protected by Bitcoin's proof-of-work security mechanism, while ERC-20 tokens are issued on the Ethereum blockchain, protected by Ethereum's proof-of-stake
Smart Contract Functionality
: BRC-20 tokens do not utilize smart contracts, limiting their use cases and making them less versatile than their Ethereum counterparts. ERC-20 tokens, on the other hand, can be used in various applications like decentralized exchanges
, borrowing and lending
protocols, and more.
Programmability: Due to the lack of smart contracts, the BRC-20 protocol has limited functionality compared to ERC-20.
Versatility: ERC-20 tokens are a well-established token standard that has been around for years, while BRC-20 has only been in use for a few months at the time of writing. As a result, ERC-20 tokens are currently the more versatile choice for the industry.
The Growth of BRC-20 Tokens and Their Impact on the Bitcoin Network
The BRC-20 token frenzy has had a significant impact on the Bitcoin network. Between April 29 and May 2, the number of BRC-20 transactions
on the Bitcoin blockchain reached over 50%, outperforming regular BTC transactions. This increase in BRC-20 transactions has also led to a surge in transaction fees.
Challenges and Risks Associated with BRC-20 Tokens
As an experimental token standard, BRC-20 tokens come with their own set of challenges and risks:
Lack of Widespread Adoption: BRC-20 tokens are still in the early stages of development and have not yet gained the same level of traction as their Ethereum counterparts.
The tooling surrounding BRC-20 tokens is still in its infancy, and there have been instances of security breaches. For example, on April 23, 2023, Unisat, one of the most prominent wallets for minting, storing, and transferring BRC-20 tokens, was hit by a double-spend attack
Network Congestion: The growing popularity of BRC-20 tokens has led to network congestion, similar to the memecoin craze on the Ethereum blockchain. This can result in slower transaction times and increased fees.
Despite the challenges and risks associated with BRC-20 tokens, they represent an interesting use case for tokens on the Bitcoin blockchain. They have introduced the creation of fungible tokens to the Bitcoin network, adding versatility and attracting more developers to the platform.