Quickly understand recursive runes: ordinals with LEGO blocks

In the recent bear market, Bitcoin protocol Ordinals has brought an interesting update to the table – the launch of Recursive inscriptions. It allows for referencing other inscriptions using a special syntax, making the creation of inscriptions smaller and more cost-effective. So what exactly are recursive inscriptions? This article will highlight the most innovative aspects of recursive inscriptions.

What is Ordinals Recursive Inscription

On June 12th, the new chief maintainer of the Bitcoin protocol Ordinals, Raph, merged the “Recursive Inscription #2167” proposed by Ordinals creator Casey Rodarmor into the code of Ordinals on Github. Shortly after, one of the anonymous developers of Ordinals, Leonidas.og, introduced and explained the content of the so-called “Recursive Inscription” in a tweet.

Recursive inscriptions refer to a way of engraving on the blockchain that can break the embarrassing situation in previous engraving methods where each inscription is independent and unrelated. Through its feature of self-referencing, it enables the possibility of free combination. In short, recursive inscriptions are inscriptions that request the content of other inscriptions.

Details and Innovation of Recursive Inscriptions

According to the interpretation of developer Leonidas.og, inscriptions can now use special “/- /content/:inscription_id” syntax to request the content of other inscriptions, which directly allows users to create inscriptions on the Bitcoin chain with less capacity, i.e., lower cost fees.

  • Past: To create an inscription of PFP collection, it was necessary to upload the image, and the user downloaded the image on the chain. As the image quality improved, becoming more refined and high-definition, the corresponding image memory and space occupation became larger, and the cost and expense also increased.

  • Now: The special ID syntax used by recursive inscriptions is essentially using text code to find images. The PFP collection inscription can be created by uploading corresponding features of the image, including elements such as patterns (monkeys), colors (green background), and actions (raising hands), etc. Then, the corresponding elements that already exist on the chain are found and combined, without having to upload or download images.

  • Direct advantages: This way of creating inscriptions is called by text code, so the volume is small, not only greatly reducing cost fees, but also making the inscription size exceed the limit of 4 MB of the Bitcoin block size.

  • Expansion potential: The high calling flexibility, splicing combination, and low-cost advantages of recursive inscriptions bring infinite new possibilities to inscriptions. Complex image videos, 3D games, and other forms of content can be engraved on the chain (the types of inscriptions have added “JS” and “CSS” types).

  • OnChainMonkey: The team has already engraved two completely chained npm packages on the Bitcoin chain, and then used recursion to call these packages from the inscriptions of the soon-to-be-released Dimensions collection to create beautiful 3D artworks in less than 1 KB. OnChainMonkey will release the OCM Dimensions project of recursive inscriptions on June 15th, and the resources of these packages will be public resources, just like joining the material library, and others can use recursive inscriptions to reference them.

  • Ord.io: On June 12, the Bitcoin inscription exploration and discovery platform Ord.io officially supported recursive inscription creation and display. The official Twitter account also surprised that someone had created the artistic inscription of this dynamic using only 466 bytes in a recursive way.

Infinite Possibilities of the Bitcoin Chain

Due to the features of recursive inscriptions, it makes it possible to build an internal internet. Here, not only can each file request data from other files on the Bitcoin chain, but many repositories will be able to access each other, and it also means that more valuable things can be uploaded to the Bitcoin chain.

Founder Casey Rodarmor has answered questions from community members, saying that the inscription type has added “JavaScript” and “CSS” types related to web page construction. This means that we will soon be able to see dynamic websites that exist on decentralized networks and never disappear;

There are more possibilities:

  • Inscription secondary creation: Due to the combinable and perhaps future decomposable nature of recursive inscriptions, as well as the increasingly rich public material resources, it is bound to bring more creative stimulation to inscription creation.

  • GitHub decentralization: Some people in the community believe that the combinable and perhaps future decomposable nature can also be used to move code data on GitHub to the Bitcoin chain, thus achieving complete decentralization.

  • NFT combination fragmentation: This is undoubtedly the most anticipated content. If recursive domain names implement decomposable inscriptions, NFTs will also achieve free combination and disassembly. And this technology can also look forward to more NFT gameplay innovations in applications other than the Bitcoin chain.


The recursive inscription code has just been merged for a few days. The appearance of recursive inscriptions also marks the further improvement of programmability of the Ordinals protocol at the application layer, undoubtedly an important moment on the Bitcoin chain. From the richness of the content, the reduction of cost, and the possibility of unlimited future combinations, we are looking forward to the application and expansion of recursive inscriptions. However, it is still necessary to remind that new things will inevitably have uncertain and unknown risks, and code bugs may also appear. While being optimistic and trying, please also control the risks and invest carefully.

Ordinals Github code: https://github.com/ordinals/ord/pull/2167#issuecomment-1586342841

Leonidas.og Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeonidasNFT/status/1668098460766052353

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