Inscriptions have been a major talking point across the Web3 industry in recent months. Starting on the Bitcoin blockchain in the form of Ordinals, this new approach to storing data on chains quickly found further use cases in Ethereum-based environments. EOS EVM is no exception and when a massive inscription event caused 17M+ transactions in a single day, the user experience on EOS wasn’t hindered and gas fees didn’t increase.
There’s a lot to take away from this event in how EOS stood out from the competition. In this article, we’ll be diving into what inscriptions are and how EOS outperformed other networks when faced with an influx in inscription users. We’ll also be taking a look at some of the unique ways that Inscriptions could evolve on EOS, thanks to the unique features that the EOS blockchain has to offer.
Inscribing Ordinals on the Bitcoin Blockchain
The approach to EVM based inscriptions derives from the genesis of Ordinals on the Bitcoin blockchain. Because the Bitcoin blockchain does not support smart contracts, builders wanting to create an NFT-like experience had to get creative with methods for extending the functionality of the network.
Instead of adding new features to achieve this, users would “inscribe” arbitrary content into the metadata of Satoshis. Satoshis are the smallest monetary unit in Bitcoin’s tokenomics and once the content is inscribed, it can be transferred with the Satoshi holding that data. This mimics the characteristics of NFTs and fungible tokens on EVM based chains. The following thread goes into much further detail on how inscriptions work on the Bitcoin blockchain and EVM chains.
EVM-Based Ecosystems Adopt Inscription Technology
This approach to storing data quickly became adopted by EVM based chains, where new use cases for it were found. On EVM networks, inscriptions are achieved by sending a transaction, usually to yourself and including additional content in what is known as the transactions calldata.
Calldata is optional read-only data that can be sent in a transaction, usually to send inputs into smart contracts. It is much cheaper than other forms of data storage on EVM chains but less flexible in what can be done with that data. This is because the EVM is not executing a smart contract to store that data or even storing it in a way that a smart contract can interact with it. Instead the user is simply sending a token from one account to another with a piece of information attached to it.
Users can use this feature to mimic actions that may take place if a smart contract was actually being utilized, such as minting or transferring a token. However, rather than actually minting a token, a user writes that they minted the token in the transactions metadata. An off-chain indexer can then aggregate the metadata from multiple inscription activities and calculate the outcome of that activity.
If you’re still having trouble understanding what inscriptions are, check out the video below for an in-depth explanation.
The Pros & Cons of Inscriptions
There are pros and cons to this approach of storing data. The most obvious benefit is a decreased cost to the end-user, when engaging with something like a token-minting event. However, there are also several tradeoffs to utilizing inscriptions for this type of initiative.
The biggest downside is that the information being captured can’t be interfaced with the same way as on-chain data. Because of this, there is a reliance on off-chain, centralized indexers to read inscription data in order for any functionality to be built out from an event. The result of this is that there is basically no composability between inscription projects.
The varying benefits and downsides of this technology has made inscriptions a polarizing conversation in Web3. Many see them as a useful tool for improving the economics of events requiring a lot of data to be tracked in a short period of time. At the same time, others look at it as a step backwards when considering what is already possible if a developer utilized traditional smart-contracts instead.
How EOS EVM Outperformed Competitors During the Inscription Chaos
Whether you think inscriptions are an innovation for blockchain developers or not, one thing is certain. The increase in transactions related to inscription events have done an excellent job of stress-testing many of the industry’s EVMs in real-time. Lower costs to mint, mean more people are incentivized to engage at high volumes. This uptick in activity led to an increase in transaction fees, network congestion and even network downtime on some of the industry’s most popular EVMs.
EOS however was unaffected by the influx in users, due to its unique architecture and scalable design. During a transcription event on December 11, the EOS EVM saw a massive 17.65M transactions in a single day. However, even with all of this activity, the user experience didn’t change. The EOS EVM saw no increase in gas fees, which were sub-penny the entire time. There was also no congestion for on-chain transactions and perhaps most important, no other dApps were affected by the increase in activity.
When compared to Cointelegraph’s daily transaction data from other major EVM blockchains during transcription events, EOS surpassed all networks except for BSC. However, this limit was not due to EOS EVM reaching its capacity, rather the miners reaching their minting capacity. At the peak of the event, 2159 transactions were packed into a single block on the EOS EVM. This means that the network realistically has the capacity to process 186 million daily transactions. Far more than the 32 million daily transactions logged on BSC.
All of this speaks volumes to the performance of EOS and sets EOS EVM apart from other leading EVMs in a way that is not based on theoretical speculation, but real-world data. Check out the EOS Documentation for an in-depth guide on how to leverage inscriptions on the EOS EVM.
Leveling Up Inscriptions on EOS Native
As noted in the previous section, EOS EVM is already an industry-leader in terms of what can be achieved with EVM-based inscriptions. But there is even more that can be done on EOS Native from a performance perspective, as well as some additional functionality not possible on other networks.
Perhaps the most obvious is pure performance, with EOS Native having the capacity to handle at least five times as many transactions as EOS EVM. Transaction fees are also negligible on EOS Native. So much so that even if a developer wanted to log data on a chain in a more traditional manner, without utilizing inscriptions, the user experience likely wouldn’t be affected.
There are also some unique features when storing inscription-like data on EOS Native. Greymass, the team behind Anchor Authenticator and WharfKit SDKs, have been exploring some novel methods for inscribing data onto RAM. RAM is a scarce resource on the EOS Network that represents the physical RAM in the computers running the blockchain. RAM is also mutable and has an inherent fungible value. Because of this it can be sold back to a RAM marketplace when the user no longer needs it.
With this in mind, information inscribed onto RAM presents a unique scenario where there is a bare minimum value to the token that is created, based on the bare minimum value of the RAM markets on the network. This introduces new economic possibilities for the outputs of inscription events. A user could inscribe data on RAM, then when they no longer want to hold that token, they could essentially burn the inscription and resell the RAM to the market.
Many of the potential features discussed in this section are still in the early stages of being explored by EOS innovators like Greymass. Those interested in learning more are invited to come out to the EOS Lounge on Telegram, every Wednesday at 8pm UTC. At this event ecosystem leaders and EOS enthusiasts meet to discuss the latest developments, opportunities and trends in the EOS ecosystem.
Groundbreaking Innovation or Just a Passing Craze?
The approach of inscribing data on-chain is still relatively new and there’s lots to be explored when it comes to potential use-cases of this technology. When introduced on the Bitcoin network it solved a problem by creating new functionality that didn’t exist before. However, on EVM networks that functionality already exists. While there are added benefits to inscriptions, like reduced transaction costs, there are also downsides, such as centralized data indexers.
As with all industry trends, inscriptions come with a high-level of speculation and no one really knows what the future holds. Whether inscriptions become a critical tool for developers or they are just a passing trend, there’s another notable takeaway from all of this. That is that EOS EVM remains a leader in its ability to process high volumes of on-chain data, with zero impact on the user experience and no increase to transaction costs. Beyond that, the technology on EOS Native goes even further, with new functionality being explored around the ability of inscribing data to RAM.
Stay in the loop on all of the latest developments coming out of the EOS ecosystem by following the EOS Network Foundation on Twitter. Connect with the community on the EOS Global Telegram and join the weekly EOS Lounge voice chats, every Wednesday at 8pm UTC. Lastly, connect with other EOS EVM developers by joining the EOS EVM Developer Telegram.