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Upcoming paper: An analysis of Bitcoin OP_RETURN metadata

posted Mar 24, 2017, 1:44 PM by Massimo Bartoletti
Upcoming paper (to be presented at BITCOIN 2017)
Massimo Bartoletti and Livio Pompianu

The Bitcoin protocol allows to save arbitrary data on the blockchain through a special instruction of the scripting language, called OP_RETURN. A growing number of protocols exploit this feature to extend the range of applications of the Bitcoin blockchain beyond transfer of currency. A point of debate in the Bitcoin community is whether loading data through OP_RETURN can negatively affect the performance of the Bitcoin network with respect to its primary goal. This paper is an empirical study of the usage of OP_RETURN over the years. We identify several protocols based on OP_RETURN, which we classify by their application domain. We measure the evolution in time of the usage of each protocol, the distribution of OP_RETURN transactions by application domain, and their space consumption.