1 min read

What the heck are inscriptions?

There's been a lot of buzz about inscriptions lately. Mainly because they've been testing the scalability of just about every blockchain out there. Some have been crushed under the transaction load, but even those that fair well become unusable for most people. Why?

Inscriptions are pretty straightforward. All you're doing is using additional network resources, thus paying extra gas fees. Usually this looks like fitting extra data into your transactions (like writing a note/memo to go along with a transfer). But what's the point of paying these extra fees?

You can think of it as proof-of-gas-spent. Say you want to distribute a new token to everyone who shows up for your fair launch mining phase. You could do a proof-of-work launch like Koinos and many others have done. When you submit PoW hashes, you are proving that you spent a certain amount of computer time & energy. That's a real economic cost.

You could accomplish this same model with inscriptions. People show up and spend a bunch of gas in order to acquire your token. Importantly, you don't receive the fees (same as PoW). If you're trying to raise funds, that would be an ICO which is difficult to pull off in today's regulatory landscape (at least in the US).

But how would inscriptions look on Koinos where there are no gas fees? This would be proof-of-mana-spent. By locking up your KOIN, you prove that you own access to network resources and you pay the opportunity cost of not being able to do other things with that time on chain.

You could simulate opportunity cost inscriptions on other gas chains. It would basically be a staking dApp that limited how much could be staked each block. Unfortunately, the act of staking/unstaking would still incur gas fees, but it would result in less impact to the network.


P.S. Blockchains are meant to be used. Spiking gas fees are a feature, not a bug. It's unfortunate that this feature results in terrible UX. This is why I'm bullish on Koinos.