The Bitcoin World is Aflutter With ‘Runes’: What are they?

Maria Irene

Casey Rodarmor, the creative genius behind the Ordinals project, has just dropped an alternative to BRC-20 fungible tokens called ‘Runes.’ While many may argue that the world of fungible tokens is rife with scams and memes, Rodarmor’s proposal makes a compelling argument for a new token standard that may just play a role in boosting Bitcoin’s fortunes.The Bitcoin community’s debate over fungible token protocols is nothing new. Complexity, user experience, state models, and the necessity of native tokens have always been major sticking points. Current solutions like BRC-20, RGB, Counterparty, Omni Layer, and Taproot Assets have their own quirks, often making them less than ideal for wide adoption. Some demand a high level of complexity and use of off-chain data, while others require native tokens for protocol operations, which can be cumbersome for users.

Enter Runes—a simple, UTXO-based fungible token protocol designed for a better user experience in the Bitcoin ecosystem. But what sets Runes apart?

The Basics of Runes
In Runes, the balances are held by UTXOs (Unspent Transaction Outputs), and each UTXO can contain any amount of any number of runes. Transactions that include Runes contain an OP_RETURN followed by a data push of the ASCII uppercase letter ‘R.’ An invalid protocol message would simply burn the Runes, allowing room for future updates without legacy issues.

Integers within the protocol are encoded as prefix varints, simplifying the transaction process. The protocol message is decoded as a sequence of integers, interpreted as tuples that identify the ID, output, and the amount of the rune. For instance, if the sequence is [(100, 1, 20), (0, 2, 10), (20, 1, 5)], it makes the assignments of ID 100, output 1 with 20 runes; ID 100, output 2 with 10 runes; and ID 120, output 1 with 5 runes.

Token Issuance
Runes protocol also has a token issuance mechanism, allowing anyone to create up to 2^128 – 1 of a specific rune. If a second data push exists in the protocol message, it’s treated as an issuance transaction decoded as two integers—SYMBOL and DECIMALS. While SYMBOL is a human-readable representation, DECIMALS defines the number of digits after the decimal point for that rune.

Pros and Cons
One of the most significant advantages of Runes is that it’s simple. It doesn’t require off-chain data or a native token, and it fits naturally into Bitcoin’s existing UTXO model. It has the potential to divert users from other less-efficient token protocols and bring more developer and user attention to Bitcoin.

However, the controversy remains. The world of fungible tokens has its share of deceit and malpractice. Is Runes just another player in this game, or is it a genuine attempt to better the Bitcoin ecosystem? Rodarmor himself seems to be in two minds, suggesting that while Runes could bring transaction fee revenue, developer interest, and users to Bitcoin, it could also be adding to an already problematic landscape.

Whether Runes are magical spells that can improve Bitcoin’s token standard or just another gimmick remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it’s a conversation starter that pushes the boundary of what is possible within the Bitcoin ecosystem. And with that, we all wait, eyes on Runes, to see if they’ll turn out to be valuable assets or just cool-looking scribbles in the blockchain.


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Maria Irene
Maria Irene
Maria Irene is a multi-faceted journalist with a focus on various domains including Cryptocurrency, NFTs, Real Estate, Energy, and Macroeconomics. With over a year of experience, she has produced an array of video content, news stories, and in-depth analyses. Her journalistic endeavours also involve a detailed exploration of the Australia-India partnership, pinpointing avenues for mutual collaboration. In addition to her work in journalism, Maria crafts easily digestible financial content for a specialised platform, demystifying complex economic theories for the layperson. She holds a strong belief that journalism should go beyond mere reporting; it should instigate meaningful discussions and effect change by spotlighting vital global issues. Committed to enriching public discourse, Maria aims to keep her audience not just well-informed, but also actively engaged across various platforms, encouraging them to partake in crucial global conversations.


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