What is Runes? Creating Fungible Tokens on Bitcoin

CoinW Exchange
3 min readApr 16, 2024
Photo by André François McKenzie on Unsplash

Bitcoin, the OG cryptocurrency, has sometimes been viewed as slow to adapt compared to the whirlwind of innovation in newer blockchains. While it revolutionized digital money, features like smart contracts, central to many DeFi applications, were absent. However, recent advancements like Ordinals and the BRC20 token standard show Bitcoin’s potential for growth.

Enter Runes, which aims to push the boundaries of what’s possible on the Bitcoin blockchain. This article explores what Runes is, how it will benefit users and how it stands apart from the existing BRC20 token standard.

What is Runes?

Runes is a new Bitcoin token standard which aims to introduce a standardized approach for issuing fungible tokens on the Bitcoin network. It was conceived by Bitcoin developer and Ordinals creator Casey Rodarmor. On his blog, Rodarmor characterizes Runes as a straightforward protocol with minimal on-chain presence and prudent UTXO management.

In other words, users can “have their cake and eat it” — they can leverage Bitcoin’s robust security and immutability to tokenize assets, without switching to another blockchain. Runes is slated to launch around April 15, 2024, coinciding with the upcoming Bitcoin halving event.

Why was Runes Created? BRC20 vs Runes

While BRC20 was a breakthrough in that it enabled the creation of fungible tokens directly on the Bitcoin blockchain without the use of smart contracts but ordinal inscriptions, it had certain shortcomings. Being non-UTXO based, it caused a lot of congestion by generating junk UTXOs in the creation and transfer of tokens on the Bitcoin network.

Here’s the low-down on how Runes differs from BRC20:

  • UTXO vs. account-based system: Bitcoin utilizes a UTXO (Unspent Transaction Output) model, where ownership is tied to specific outputs of transactions. BRC20, on the other hand, relies on an account-based system. Runes seamlessly integrates with Bitcoin’s UTXO model, maintaining consistency and avoiding the need for additional layers of complexity.
  • On-chain vs. off-chain data: BRC20 tokens often rely on off-chain data (using the Lightning Network) to track balances and transactions. This introduces an element of centralization and potential vulnerability. Runes, in contrast, stores all relevant data directly on the Bitcoin blockchain, ensuring transparency and immutability.
  • Simplicity and user-friendliness: Runes eliminates the need for a separate token to facilitate its operation. Instead, it utilizes Bitcoin’s existing script capabilities for token creation and management. This streamlined approach enhances usability for both token issuers and holders.

Why Runes Could Be the Next Big Thing

The biggest excitement surrounding Runes likely stems from the fact that it is designed to integrate seamlessly with Bitcoin. This means any tokens created using Runes would benefit from the same level of security as Bitcoin itself (which is saying a lot as Bitcoin is the only blockchain which has never been hacked till date. This is a major advantage compared to tokens built on separate blockchains, which might have their own security considerations.)

In addition, by enabling the creation of fungible tokens directly on Bitcoin more efficiently, Runes unlocks a whole new range of possibilities within the ecosystem. This includes stablecoins, security tokens, and governance tokens, which could attract new users and drive innovation in decentralized finance (DeFi) applications built on Bitcoin.

As such, Runes has the potential to be a game-changer for Bitcoin. It could transform it from a simple store of value into a platform for a wider range of financial instruments, potentially attracting more users and capital to the Bitcoin ecosystem.

With more use cases and applications, more transaction fees will be generated, thus increasing miner revenues. The more profitable it is to be a miner, the more hash power will be dedicated to the Bitcoin network, causing it to become more secure. And with the upcoming halving set to decrease block rewards, innovations like Rune will be just what’s needed to keep miners on the network.

In Conclusion

Runes stands as a promising innovation poised to reshape the landscape of fungible tokens on Bitcoin. Its integration with Bitcoin’s core functionalities and emphasis on security and efficiency position it as a strong contender for the future of tokenized assets within the Bitcoin ecosystem. But as with any new technology, it’s still early days, and the success of Runes will depend on its adoption by developers, projects, and the wider Bitcoin community.



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