Ethereum’s Evolution: EIPs, the ERC Concept, and the Revolutionary ERC20, ERC721 and ERC115 Standards

Ethereum's evolution through EIPs, ERC20, ERC721, and ERC1155.

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Last updated:
January 26, 2024


  • EIPs are collaborative proposals for enhancements to the Ethereum network, ensuring its ongoing development and resilience​.
  • ERCs define essential standards for the Ethereum platform, promoting interoperability and reducing development complexity​​.
  • The ERC20 standard provides a unified set of rules for Ethereum-based tokens, facilitating consistent interactions within the blockchain ecosystem​​.
  • ERC721 enables unique, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on Ethereum, while ERC1155 allows management of multiple token types, including fungible and non-fungible, in a single contract​​.

In the revolutionary world of Ethereum, the terms 'EIP' and 'ERC' are not just mere acronyms. They represent transformative protocols and standards that have shaped the way developers create new projects and how users interact with them within the Ethereum ecosystem. Among these, the ERC20 standard has etched a significant mark, birthing a new era of digital tokens that have become integral in the cryptocurrency landscape.

To fully appreciate the depth and impact of these components, we need to unpack several layers, starting from the Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) down to the specifics of Ethereum Request for Comments (ERC), with a special focus on the ERC20 token standard.


EIPs – The Building Blocks of Ethereum's Evolution

What are EIPs?

Ethereum Improvement Proposals, or EIPs, represent the pinnacle of collaborative advancement within the Ethereum blockchain. They are technical write-ups or proposals that describe suggested changes or enhancements to the Ethereum network. 

These documents are meticulously crafted, presenting new features, processes, or environments that require community scrutiny before any form of adoption or implementation.

Historical Context: The Predecessor BIPs

It's pivotal to recognize that the concept of improvement proposals isn't new and certainly didn't start with Ethereum. 

Before EIPs, there were Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) which served a similar purpose within the Bitcoin community. BIPs were the original standard for proposing changes to the Bitcoin protocol and set the precedent for community involvement in shaping a blockchain's development. They symbolize the democratic and decentralized ethos that's inherent in these blockchain communities.

The idea of EIPs was inspired by the earlier BIPs, adopting the concept to fit the specific needs and challenges of the Ethereum blockchain. This lineage underscores the collaborative spirit of the cryptocurrency community, with foundational ideas being carried over and adapted between different blockchain ecosystems.

Want to learn more about the history of Bitcoin? Right this way: Bitcoin's History & Evolution.

The Importance of EIPs

EIPs are fundamental to Ethereum’s evolution and resilience. They empower individuals or entities within the community to voice innovative ideas, ensuring Ethereum doesn't just survive but thrives in the competitive blockchain ecosystem. 

By fostering a democratic approach to innovation, EIPs facilitate the introduction of standards that form the foundational infrastructure, enabling interoperability between new projects and services.

The Process: From Proposal to Implementation

The journey of an EIP from conception to implementation is rigorous, ensuring only the most thoroughly vetted changes integrate with the existing Ethereum structure. 

Initially, a proposal enters as a draft, subject to intense scrutiny, discussions, and revisions within the community. Positive reception progresses the EIP to the 'Last Call' status, indicating community consensus. 

After a final review period, the successful EIP gets locked for implementation and is marked as 'Final.' 

This meticulous process underscores the community’s commitment to quality and resilience against potential network vulnerabilities.

Enter ERC – The Standardization Protocols within Ethereum

Deciphering ERC: Ethereum Request for Comments

Ethereum Request for Comments, known as ERCs, are technical documents employed in the Ethereum ecosystem. They are a subset of EIPs but serve a unique purpose – they define the standards for the Ethereum platform, including core protocol specifications, client APIs, and contract standards. 

The "request for comments" reflects the community-driven nature of these standards, inviting developers and stakeholders to engage in vigorous discussions before any standardization.

The Birth and Significance of ERC Standards

ERC standards were born out of the necessity for consistency within the Ethereum ecosystem. They provide an essential framework that facilitates interoperability, helping developers build applications and tokens that can easily interact within the larger Ethereum network. 

These standards reduce complexity and potential error margins, given that developers can rely on a consistent, predictable baseline for how new tokens or contracts will behave.

Spotlight on ERC20 – The Token Standard That Propelled an Ecosystem

Unveiling ERC20

Among the numerous ERC standards, ERC20 is arguably the most influential. It outlines a specific set of rules that Ethereum-based tokens must follow, ensuring seamless interaction across various platforms and applications within the Ethereum blockchain. 

This standard involves functions and events, dictating the methodology of token transfers, how users can access data about a token, and other crucial aspects of token behavior.

Functions of ERC20 Tokens

The magic behind ERC20's broad adoption is its simplicity and the ability to integrate easily with other contracts and decentralized applications on Ethereum. Key functions standard to ERC20 tokens include:

  • Transfer: Allows the transfer of tokens from one account to another.
  • BalanceOf: Enables others to retrieve the balance of an address.
  • Approve: Provides permission for withdrawal from another account.
  • TransferFrom: Facilitates the transfer process after approval.
  • Allowance: Checks the amount of tokens approved by an owner to a spender.

These functions ensure uniformity across various tokens, making new ERC20 tokens predictable and comfortable for platforms to accommodate.

The Impact of ERC20 on the Crypto-Asset Landscape

The introduction of the ERC20 standard marked a paradigm shift in the crypto-asset world. It simplified the process of creating new tokens, opening the floodgates for the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) era, allowing projects to raise capital through token sales, and nurturing a new wave of blockchain innovation. 

This ease of development, coupled with interoperability across exchanges and wallet support, propelled the utility of Ethereum beyond a mere transactional cryptocurrency.

ERC20's Broader Implications

The reach of ERC20 extends beyond just fungible tokens; it created a foundational layer upon which further standards (like ERC721 and ERC1155, governing non-fungible tokens) were built. This layered evolution of standards illustrates the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of the Ethereum blockchain.

Moreover, ERC20 has significant implications for decentralized finance (DeFi), a blockchain-driven revolution in financial services. It provided a standardized protocol upon which an array of financial instruments could be built, significantly contributing to Ethereum's position as the backbone of the DeFi movement.

ERC721: Ushering in the Era of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Understanding ERC721

ERC721 is a free, open standard that describes how to build non-fungible or unique tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. While the ERC20 standard governs tokens that are identical and can be replaced by another, known as 'fungible' tokens, ERC721 allows the creation of 'non-fungible tokens' (NFTs), each with unique information or attributes.

Unique Characteristics and Ownership

What distinguishes ERC721 is the ability for each token to contain unique information or attributes, making them irreplaceable or distinct from each other. This uniqueness and irreplaceability make NFTs particularly useful for proving authenticity and ownership of digital items, especially digital art, collectibles, and virtual real estate.

Implications in the Digital World

The advent of ERC721 ushered in profound new ways to represent ownership and property in the digital realm. It has opened up opportunities for artists, game developers, and content creators to tokenize their works, making them uniquely ownable and exchangeable on the Ethereum blockchain. 

The standard has given birth to popular NFT platforms and marketplaces where these digital assets are showcased, sold, or auctioned, thus creating a new economic ecosystem.

ERC1155: A Multiverse of Tokens

The Genesis of ERC1155

Recognizing the limitations in the ERC721 standard, particularly when it comes to batch operations and the growing demand for multi-token contracts, ERC1155 emerged as a novel standard. ERC1155 enables a single contract to govern an unlimited number of token types: fungible, non-fungible, or a mixture of both.

Efficiency and Flexibility in Asset Management

ERC1155 is designed for efficiency. By allowing multiple token types within a contract, it reduces the heavy costs of deploying a new contract for each new token type (as seen with ERC20 and ERC721). 

This innovation means that new tokens are cheaper and faster to create, significantly reducing the gas fees associated with creating and managing tokens.

Real-World Applications

ERC1155 tokens are especially beneficial in gaming platforms and projects requiring a diverse array of items with different attributes. 

For instance, a single ERC1155 contract can issue both the currency tokens (fungible) and unique game items or assets (non-fungible) for a game built on the Ethereum blockchain.

This multi-token approach under one contract umbrella has broadened the utility scope of Ethereum, making it more appealing for diverse application cases.

Comparative Impact and The Future Ahead

Comparing ERC721's uniqueness and ERC1155's efficiency, it's evident that both standards have significantly enriched the Ethereum ecosystem beyond the capabilities of ERC20. They have paved the way for innovations in art, gaming, and numerous other digital asset applications, expanding the understanding of what blockchain technology is capable of.

The future of Ethereum tokens looks promising, with these standards laying a robust foundation for the next wave of innovations. 

As the world continues to embrace digital ownership and the metaverse, standards like ERC721 and ERC1155 are setting the stage for how we own, exchange, and conceptualize digital assets. 

The Evolving Landscape of Ethereum Standards

In retrospect, the journey of Ethereum's evolution is a testament to its vibrant community and relentless pursuit of innovation. 

From the fundamental EIPs that drive transformational changes to the blockchain to the token standards that redefine digital ownership, Ethereum has set an unparalleled trajectory in the blockchain space.

ERC20 laid the groundwork for a thriving ecosystem, enabling fungible tokens to become the primary driver of innovation. The subsequent introduction of ERC721 and ERC1155 standards marked the genesis of NFTs and a versatile token economy, highlighting the adaptability and forward-thinking approach of the Ethereum community.

However, the innovation doesn't stop there. 

The Ethereum ecosystem, ever-growing in its diversity and complexity, has seen the emergence of new standards catering to a broader range of digital assets. Among these are security tokens, which represent legally-binding investments with certain rights, such as profit-sharing, voting, or access to dividends. 

Recognizing the need for regulatory compliance and interoperability in this space, the community developed the ERC1400 standard, aiming to harmonize the needs of traditional finance with the technological advantages of the blockchain. 

This standard offers a framework for issuing security tokens, ensuring they comply with regulations and legal requirements, thereby bridging the gap between blockchain innovation and regulatory frameworks.

Furthermore, the Ethereum community acknowledges the various needs across different sectors and continues to innovate with more specialized standards. 

For instance, ERC998 allows for composable non-fungible tokens, a way to attach and efficiently transfer multiple ERC721 tokens and other assets in a single transaction. 

Additionally, standards like ERC777, seen as an evolution of ERC20, introduce features like offering users more control over their tokens and providing enhanced security, demonstrating the community's commitment to evolving alongside user needs and technological advancements.


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About the author

Peter is deeply engaged with the revolutionary world of decentralized, unconfiscatable blockchain technology. His expertise in on-chain analysis and data engineering empowers him to provide in-depth, data-informed insights into the dynamic realm of cryptocurrency.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general information purposes only. The information was completed to the best of our knowledge and does not claim either correctness or accuracy. For detailed information on crypto regulations, we recommend contacting a certified legal advisor in the respective country.