The Efficiency of Inscriptions in Bitcoin Block Space

The Efficiency of Inscriptions in Bitcoin Block Space

Bitcoin block space has been a topic of debate among critics, particularly regarding the efficiency of inscriptions such as BRC-20 tokens and their impact on regular BTC transfers. However, a closer analysis of on-chain data suggests that these inscriptions are not a denial of service attack but rather a way to optimize block space utilization. This article aims to debunk the misconceptions surrounding inscriptions in Bitcoin transactions and shed light on their benefits.

The Analysis

According to Glassnode analyst James Check, the majority of Bitcoin block space still consists of normal monetary transfers. Inscriptions, on the other hand, are inserted into the remaining space around these transfers. Contrary to popular belief, inscriptions actually have a more efficient use of block space compared to regular transactions. Despite accounting for roughly 50% of total Bitcoin transactions, inscriptions utilize less than 10% of the block data size while generating 20% to 40% of the network’s total fees. This highlights the value, fees, and data that can be accommodated within the same block.

Bitcoiners initially associated inscriptions with weighty, image-based NFTs being inscribed into the blockchain. However, the introduction of the BRC-20 token standard brought about a “second wave” of smaller yet more frequent text-based inscriptions. These inscriptions have significantly increased Bitcoin’s Unspent Transaction Output (UTXO) set, filled its mempool, and driven transaction fees higher. The prevalence of a BRC-20 token called SATS further emphasized this trend, with its minting process resulting in a 45.5% increase in 21 million Bitcoin UTXOs. The market’s response to this growth is evident in Binance’s decision to list trading pairs for SATS.

Text-based inscriptions can be likened to filler in a shipping crate alongside valuable contents. They occupy available block space in less active blocks and are eventually displaced by more urgent monetary transfers. This dynamic allows for the efficient utilization of block space, ensuring that valuable transactions are prioritized while still accommodating additional data.

Critics of inscriptions have been labeled as purely ideological and subjective by Check. He emphasizes that Bitcoin’s consensus rules are objective, unresponsive to personal feelings or subjective values. Bitcoin Core developer Luke Dashjr’s repeated claim that inscriptions are “spam” exploiting a code bug in Bitcoin is not supported by the data. Instead, the analysis suggests that inscriptions play a crucial role in optimizing block space utilization and benefiting the network as a whole.

Inscriptions in Bitcoin block space, particularly the BRC-20 tokens, are often misunderstood and criticized. However, a careful analysis of on-chain data shows that these inscriptions are not a denial of service attack but rather a more efficient way to utilize block space. The prevalence of text-based inscriptions alongside monetary transfers highlights the value, fees, and data that can be accommodated within the same block. It is important to recognize the objective nature of Bitcoin’s consensus rules and the benefits that inscriptions bring to the network.


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