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What Are BRC-20 Tokens?

2024 Feb 23

Key Takeaways

  • BRC-20 is an experimental token standard for fungible tokens specifically designed for the Bitcoin blockchain.

  • Although highly experimental, the innovative BRC-20 standard enabled the creation of altcoins and tokenized assets on the Bitcoin network.

  • This article explores what BRC-20 tokens are, their advantages and limitations, and their potential impact on the Bitcoin space.


As one of the more recent innovations within the Bitcoin ecosystem, the introduction of BRC-20 tokens opened new possibilities and challenged traditional perceptions of what Bitcoin can achieve. In this article, we will explore what BRC-20 tokens are, their pros and cons, and their potential impact on the broader blockchain landscape.

What Is the BRC-20 Token Standard?

BRC-20 is an experimental token standard for fungible tokens specifically designed for the Bitcoin blockchain. Fungible tokens are interchangeable, meaning that every unit of the token has the same functionality and intrinsic value. 

The emergence of standards like BRC-20 introduces the concept of tokenization to the Bitcoin network, extending its capabilities beyond being a decentralized digital currency. You can think of BRC-20 as an experimental standard for creating altcoins on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Taproot and Ordinals

The Taproot upgrade, which increased the data capacity of Bitcoin blocks, played a crucial role in enabling the Ordinals protocol and subsequently laid the groundwork for BRC-20 tokens.

The introduction of the Ordinals protocol, implemented by software engineer Casey Rodarmor in January 2023, enabled the inscription of data onto individual satoshis (the smallest units of Bitcoin) using Ordinal Theory.

The numbering and inscribing system of the Ordinals protocol allowed for the creation of both fungible and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Bitcoin network.

How BRC-20 Tokens Work

BRC-20 tokens, created by the pseudonymous blockchain analyst Domo in March 2023, utilize the ordinals inscription mechanism for the creation and transfer of fungible tokens on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Unlike traditional token standards like ERC-20 on Ethereum, BRC-20 tokens lack support for smart contracts and rely on ordinal inscriptions for their functionality. While ERC-20 tokens are created through smart contract code, BRC-20 tokens are created by inscribing JSON files onto individual satoshis.

Although highly experimental, the simplicity of the BRC-20 standard, without the need for complex smart contracts, allows for easier tokenization of assets on the Bitcoin network.

Pros and Cons of BRC-20 Tokens


1. Simplicity: BRC-20 tokens employ a simplified tokenization mechanism, eliminating the need for intricate smart contracts. This simplicity facilitates easy token minting and transfer, making it accessible to a broader user base without requiring specialized technical expertise.

2. Network security: Leveraging the inherent security features of the Bitcoin blockchain, BRC-20 tokens benefit from the decentralized nature, algorithmic technologies, and proof-of-work consensus mechanism, ensuring a high level of network security.

3. Growth potential: Although highly experimental, there is a growing number of projects embracing the BRC-20 standard. The diverse and expansive user base of the Bitcoin network attracts developers, investors, and users, fostering further development and innovation.


1. No smart contract functionality: Unlike other token standards like ERC-20, BRC-20 lacks support for smart contracts. This limitation can lead to inefficiencies and restrict possibilities.

2. Dependency on the Bitcoin blockchain: BRC-20 is dependent on the Bitcoin blockchain, subjecting it to the network's intrinsic constraints. Challenges such as low scalability, slow transaction speeds, and higher transaction fees become prominent, impacting the efficiency of BRC-20 token transfers.

3. Limited interoperability: Tailored specifically for the Bitcoin ecosystem, BRC-20 faces challenges regarding interoperability with alternative blockchain systems and crypto wallets.

4. Limited utility: Primarily designed for the tokenization of fungible assets, BRC-20 is less suitable for non-fungible assets or the implementation of complex token features.

5. Network congestion: BRC-20 tokens and Bitcoin NFTs often cause network congestion, leading to slower confirmation times and higher transaction fees.

The Future of BRC-20 Tokens: Opportunities and Challenges

While the standard is still in the experimental phase, its growing acceptance and utilization indicate potential growth in the medium and long term. The growing number of projects adopting BRC-20 tokens highlights their potential to reshape the Bitcoin blockchain with new use cases and innovative products.

However, challenges such as network congestion, scalability concerns, and the absence of smart contract functionality can become obstacles to BRC-20's widespread adoption. To overcome such challenges, developers are exploring the use of Bitcoin Layer 2s and other scalability solutions.

Closing Thoughts

BRC-20 tokens represent a noteworthy exploration into expanding the functionality of the Bitcoin blockchain. The Ordinals protocol, coupled with the Taproot upgrade, has paved the way for fungible tokens on Bitcoin, challenging conventional narratives surrounding the network's capabilities. While BRC-20 tokens offer simplicity, compatibility, and security, their limitations underscore the ongoing experimental nature of this standard.

Further Reading

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