What is a recursive inscription?
Recursive inscriptions allow independent inscriptions to reference each other, creating a new, smaller sized inscription with more detail.
In other words, recursive inscriptions reference code from other inscriptions, which used to be independent of each other. Content from one inscription can be used by many other inscriptions to produce a final image that references several inscriptions at a time.
This new composability means that creators can now produce more detailed work with much higher quality and resolution, without having to cover the high cost initially faced due to limited block space. A Bitcoin block is 4MB, and an inscription of this size is not achievable unless you have access to a bitcoin miner like Bitcoin Magazine did for their 4MB inscription, or DeGods did to inscribe all their Bitcoin DeGods on a single block. Although it is possible, this is also extremely expensive.
In summary, a more “sophisticated” digital artifact that would have initially needed a large amount of code or space can be constructed using several inscriptions, with the main inscription referencing other "side" inscriptions to produce the final result.
How can recursive inscriptions be used?
There are many different ways recursive inscriptions can be leveraged to create collections while reducing costs and achieving greater detail and quality. Let’s look at a few examples.
Metablocks is a recursive piece by Billy Restey. The final 16,000 x 16,000 pixel artwork references 400 other inscriptions. The final image was inscribed recursively by being cut up into pieces, and then built back together. The 400 inscriptions are essentially puzzle pieces that come together to form the final image.
OnChainMonkeys inscribed p5.js and 3js libraries which they then referenced in order to create the highly successful OCM Dimensions mint, rendering a complex 3D model on chain. More code libraries will be inscribed directly on the blockchain over time. With recursion, others can reference these inscriptions for use, similar to open-source software development.
Counterfeit Cvlt used recursion to essentially create an editions Ordinals collection. This was done by inscribing the “master” file, and then referring to that file to create more copies, a little like a photocopying machine references the original each time it prints a new copy.
Cirque Le Noir inscribed the traits for the collection, then created 10,000 more inscriptions which each use a small amount of code to request traits and programmatically render the image. Inscribing 10,000 JPEG files for a PFP collection would have been a lot more expensive and less efficient. Here, each layer is stored on-chain, and each piece mixes and matches them to reach a final piece.
What are the benefits of recursive inscriptions?
Since repetitive code can be inscribed separately, less data is needed for each inscription. As a result, the cost of inscription reduces significantly, the final Ordinal can be a lot more detailed and its quality and resolution can be a lot higher. Recursion can also allow for on-chain reveal processes and raffles for new mints, as well as Dynamic Ordinals. All in all, Recursive inscriptions are a gigantic win for creators and collectors alike.