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Runes & BRC20: Deciphering Bitcoin’s Fungible Token Horizon
September 28, 2023

Bitcoin’s fungible token ecosystem is at a crossroads. The established BRC20 tokens and the nascent Runes are steering community discussion, fueled by Casey Rodarmor recent unveiling of the Runes concept.

As we navigate this evolving landscape, several dimensions emerge.

The Runes Landscape: 48 Hours and Counting

In just two days since its introduction, Runes is unraveling as a multifaceted entity. Key observations include:

  • Divergent Paths: The absence of a unified standard has led to fragmentation in the Runes ecosystem. While some prefer individual paths, collaborations are also emerging.
  • Runestone & Beyond: Casey’s Runestone on Github sketches a potential Runes standard. Yet, with open questions looming, its definitive shape is yet to crystallize.
  • Enter PIPE: Trac’s $PIPE, a more advanced Runes version, promises features like token deployment without claim and minting. It’s quickly gaining traction with a fair launch.
  • Infrastructure Hurdles: Despite rapid tool developments by teams like the Ordinals Wallet, indexing Runes remains a challenge, primarily due to the absence of a consistent standard.

BRC20 vs. Runes: A Comparative Dive

As Runes emerge, it’s essential to understand their positioning vis-a-vis BRC20:

  • Standardization: While BRC20 enjoys a sturdy foundation with its established standard, Runes is fragmented, with potential standards like Runestone and PIPE vying for dominance.
  • Technical Attributes: BRC20’s matured account-based model contrasts with Runes’ promise of Lightning Network compatibility using OP_RETURN data.
  • Community Engagement: BRC20’s vast engagement, especially in Asia, offers it a strong foundation. Runes, being in their infancy, are still carving their niche.

Blending the Best of Both Worlds

It’s crucial to recognize the strengths of both BRC20 and Runes in the Bitcoin DeFi ecosystem. By integrating the efficient encoding and OP_RETURN attributes of Runes into BRC20, it’s possible to enhance the latter’s efficiency, negating the need for an entirely new standard. Such a move would make it abundantly clear that BRC20 can rival Runes in efficiency.

Historically, markets seldom support dual standards.

Thus, the ultimate choice might boil down to either BRC20 or an alternative. While the idea of a module is intriguing, it risks accommodating a secondary standard primarily for its advantages, which might not align with BRC20’s best interests.

Concluding Thoughts

The ongoing dialogue around BRC20 and Runes symbolizes the dynamic essence of the Bitcoin fungible token landscape. While Runes introduces fresh perspectives, BRC20’s foundational robustness stands firm.

The path forward may call for harmonizing the best attributes of both, ensuring a potent and efficient standard for the community.

APPENDIX: Rune’s Potential and Challenges


  • UTXO Model: Unlike BRC20’s account-based approach tied to wallet addresses, Runes adopts a UTXO model. Rune tokens exist in Bitcoin-native UTXOs and get “spent” during transfers.
  • Efficient On-chain Footprint: Data suggests BRC20 has exacerbated Bitcoin UTXO bloat. Runes’ design minimizes this, offering a superior technical solution.
  • Data Storage & Indexing: While BRC20 uses JSON text, Runes employs the OP_RETURN data of a Bitcoin transaction, making it more index-friendly and aligning with platforms like the Lightning Network.


  • Fair Launch Concerns: Runes currently lacks a community-driven launch. However, Trac’s $PIPE, with its minting feature, shows promise.
  • Adoption Hurdles: BRC20 tokens, with their extensive adoption and infrastructure, contrast the nascent Runes ecosystem, which is yet to cement a recognized standard.

Despite the current speculative nature of Runes discussions, its elegant fungible token implementation has the community intrigued. Its ability to match BRC20’s reach and engagement, however, remains to be seen.

source @BobBodily:
source @BobBodily: