What are Bitcoin Runes, and how do they differ from BRC-20 tokens?

Back to Blog

Exploring Bitcoin Runes: A Breakdown

Bitcoin, renowned as the pioneer of cryptocurrencies, has long been hailed for its decentralized nature and utilization of blockchain technology. Satoshi Nakamoto, the enigmatic creator, introduced Bitcoin as an open-source distributed network with a revolutionary shared ledger, known as the blockchain, meticulously recording every transaction.

Initially esteemed primarily as a digital store of value, Bitcoin faced limitations due to its scripting language, hindering the development of smart contracts and fungible tokens directly on its blockchain. Consequently, alternative blockchain networks like Ethereum, Solana, Cardano, and Polkadot emerged, offering a more versatile environment for decentralized applications (DApps) and attracting a diverse user base.

However, a paradigm shift occurred in 2023 with the debut of BRC-20 tokens, followed by the April 2024 unveiling of Bitcoin Runes, marking a significant milestone in Bitcoin's evolution by facilitating the creation of fungible tokens and community-driven projects directly on its network.

This article delves into the recent innovations within the Bitcoin ecosystem, exploring token standards, the Bitcoin Runes protocol, distinctions between Runes, BRC-20 tokens, and Bitcoin Ordinals, along with the advantages offered by Runes. Additionally, it provides a comprehensive guide on purchasing Bitcoin Runes.

Distinguishing Bitcoin Runes from BRC-20 Tokens and Bitcoin Ordinals

Understanding the Runes protocol necessitates an examination of Bitcoin Ordinals and the BRC-20 token standard.

Bitcoin Ordinals Protocol

Introduced on January 20, 2023, by Bitcoin developer Casey Rodarmor, Bitcoin Ordinals represented a significant leap forward in tokenization on the Bitcoin blockchain. This protocol enabled the inscription of various data types, including text, images, videos, and smart contracts, directly onto the Bitcoin blockchain.

Enabled by crucial upgrades to the Bitcoin network, such as the 2017 Segregated Witness (SegWit) and 2021 Taproot upgrades, Bitcoin Ordinals allowed for the embedding of substantial data on the blockchain. These inscriptions, integrated into satoshis, Bitcoin's smallest units, paved the way for the creation of Bitcoin nonfungible tokens (NFTs), adding utility and value beyond Bitcoin's role as a store of value.

BRC-20 Tokens

Following the advent of Ordinals, the BRC-20 standard emerged in early March 2023, crafted by Domo, a pseudonymous developer. Analogous to Ethereum's ERC-20 standard, BRC-20 tokens facilitated the creation and transfer of fungible tokens directly on the Bitcoin network through Ordinal inscriptions. Despite rapid adoption and reaching a $1 billion market cap within three months, BRC-20 tokens encountered network congestion issues due to excessive unspent transaction outputs (UTXOs), clogging the network and impacting transaction efficiency.

Bitcoin Runes

Bitcoin Runes were introduced to streamline fungible token creation on the Bitcoin blockchain and address challenges like UTXO bloat associated with BRC-20 tokens. Leveraging Bitcoin's UTXO model and the OP_RETURN opcode, Runes simplify token creation by associating a unique digital asset, Rune, with a UTXO using a protocol message. Unlike protocols reliant on off-chain data or specialized tokens, Runes utilize Bitcoin's inherent capabilities for on-chain data storage, minimizing network congestion. Furthermore, Rune balances are tracked within UTXOs rather than wallet addresses, and transfers are executed using Bitcoin transactions with OP_RETURN outputs specifying transfer details. Runes can be etched, minted, and transferred via runestones, enabling seamless interaction within the Bitcoin ecosystem.

Difference between BRC-20 and Bitcoin Runes

BRC-20Bitcoin Runes
InceptionMarch 2023April 2024
CreatorDomo (pseudonym)Casey Rodarmor
ModelOrdinals protocolBitcoin UTXO model
Lightning network compatibilityNoYes
On-chain footprintHigh (UTX0s bloat)Low
Data storageInscribed on a satoshisStored in the OP_RETURN field

Purchasing Bitcoin Runes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Bitcoin Runes do not have a specific token; instead, they are represented through thematic collections based on the Bitcoin Ordinals protocol. To acquire Runes, follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose a Bitcoin wallet compatible with Runes.

Step 2: Ensure you possess BTC to cover transaction fees.

Step 3: Connect to a Runes-supporting marketplace. Select a Runes project, review trading activity, and proceed with trading.

Noteworthy is the requirement to purchase Runes in "bags" typically comprising a minimum of 100 tokens.

The Future of Bitcoin DeFi

The Bitcoin decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem holds promise, driven by technological advancements like Taproot and SegWit. These upgrades enhance Bitcoin's scalability, privacy, and functionality, paving the way for complex transactions and novel applications.

While Bitcoin Runes represent a pioneering step in facilitating fungible token creation on the Bitcoin blockchain, the protocol remains in its early stages and is subject to further development and refinement. Hence, staying abreast of the latest developments is crucial for informed decision-making. By maintaining its foundational principles while embracing innovation, Bitcoin continues to evolve, demonstrating resilience and adaptability within the ever-changing landscape of cryptocurrency.

Share this article

We use cookies to improve your experience. By closing this message you agree to our Cookies Policy.