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Understanding ERC-20: The Standard for Tokenized Economies


In the world of blockchain and decentralized finance, ERC-20 has emerged as the most widely adopted standard for creating and managing tokens on the Ethereum network. ERC-20, short for Ethereum Request for Comment 20, has revolutionized the tokenization process, enabling the creation of a vast ecosystem of digital assets.

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of ERC-20, exploring its history, features, benefits, and its role in shaping the tokenized economies of today.

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What is ERC-20?

ERC-20 is a technical standard that defines a set of rules and guidelines for creating fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain.

It outlines a common set of functions that tokens must implement to ensure compatibility and seamless interaction with other tokens and applications on the Ethereum network. By adhering to the ERC-20 standard, developers can ensure that their tokens will be easily recognized and integrated by various wallets, exchanges, and decentralized applications (dApps).

If you’ve been involved in cryptocurrency before, then you’ve likely heard or used ERC-20 yourself. Many different cryptocurrencies built on Ethereum are built using the ERC-20 protocols. Some examples include, Wrapped Ether, Tether USD, USDC, Pepecoin, and more.

Related: What is the Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) ERC-20 Token?

History and Evolution of ERC-20

ERC-20 was proposed by Fabian Vogelsteller in 2015 as an improvement to an earlier proposal. He developed ERC-20 out of the desire to have a standard set of rules developers could follow as they developed dApps on the Ethereum platform. This would allow the tokens developed to be able to be used within and outside the platform in the same ways Ethereum could be used.

Since its introduction, ERC-20 has gained widespread adoption and has become the de facto standard for token creation.

Key Features and Functions of ERC-20

ERC-20 tokens share a common set of six essential functions, which include the method in which transferring tokens, checking balances, approving token transfers, and providing total supply information is processed. Tokens which don’t meet these requirements are not allowed to interact with the Ethereum platform under the guise of ERC-20 standards.

These functions ensure seamless interoperability between different tokens and dApps. Additionally, ERC-20 tokens can implement optional functions, such as token name, symbol, and decimal places for enhanced usability. But the sky is the limit as a developer and you don’t have to stop at these three optional functions, and you are able to add your own as long as the six essential functions are met.

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Benefits and Advantages of ERC-20

As a developer, you might be wondering why ERC-20 matters and why you shouldn’t just create your own token outside of these parameters. Well, the main reason developers choose to use the ERC-20 protocol is because of the benefits offered, not just to developers, but also those who use the token after development.

First and foremost, ERC-20 offers a high level of interoperability, enabling tokens to be seamlessly integrated into various wallets, exchanges, and platforms. This means when you develop a token, you don’t necessarily also need to create a wallet and platform. Instead, you can use the Ethereum platform and compatible wallets to house your token.

This compatibility fosters liquidity and market accessibility for token holders. Furthermore, the standardized interface of ERC-20 tokens simplifies token development, reducing time and effort for developers, which, in turn, fuels innovation and the creation of new decentralized applications.

Because of this increased speed of development, most platforms choose to develop their tokens as ERC-20 tokens. But of course, this isn’t the only token standard available.

Alternatives to ERC-20

As we mentioned before, ERC-20 is just one set of token standards you can use to develop your own cryptocurrency, but it certainly isn’t your own option. Other token standards built on Ethereum include ERC-721, ERC-777, and ERC-1155.

You’ve likely heard of ERC-721 before, as these are the token standards that NFTs must be built to. The other two, ERC-777 and ERC-1155 are less common, but they basically build on the already existing ERC-20 token standard, changing it in various ways to suit different developer’s needs.

Keep in mind that there are also other platforms similar to Ethereum which have their own set of token standards. All the token standards mentioned in this article are for those looking to build on Ethereum.

Related: Ethereum 2.0: What is Loopring Protocol?

Impact on Tokenized Economies

The introduction of ERC-20 has played a pivotal role in shaping tokenized economies. It has facilitated the rapid growth of initial coin offerings (ICOs), enabling startups to raise funds by issuing tokens. This means many projects don’t have to have a product ready to go when they begin to sell it.

Plus, ERC-20 has driven the emergence of decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms, where users can lend, borrow, and trade various ERC-20 tokens in a trustless and permissionless manner. This has allowed for unrestricted growth as developers are no longer needing to develop an entire ecosystem for a single coin and are instead allowed to use the infrastructure which already exists.

The compatibility and standardized nature of ERC-20 tokens have contributed to the seamless integration of different projects and ecosystems, promoting the overall growth and adoption of blockchain technology.

Do keep in mind, however, that while ERC-20 has made it easier for developers to enter the cryptocurrency space, it has also made it easier for scam coins to rise. Just because a cryptocurrency is built on the ERC-20 standard does not mean it is safe to purchase. While ERC-20 does require certain standards, it does not make a coin impenetrable and it is likely that the coin could be hacked, or the developers could disappear while the coin is in progress, taking your money with them.

Overall, ERC-20 has emerged as the backbone of the tokenized economies on the Ethereum network. Its standardized interface, interoperability, and ease of use have revolutionized token creation and paved the way for widespread adoption of blockchain technology. As the ecosystem continues to evolve, ERC-20 will likely remain a fundamental building block for the future of decentralized finance and digital assets.

You May Also Like: What is the BRC20 Standard?

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