What is ERC-1155? The Ethereum Multi-Token Standard

Last Updated:
May 19, 2023
What is ERC-1155 - Feature Image

Today, we're going to explore a revolutionary Ethereum standard for tokens called ERC-1155. This innovative standard allows for the creation of both fungible and non-fungible tokens within the same smart contract.

Resource by: 
Metacommerce Editorial

Have you ever heard of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) or fungible tokens? If you are interested in the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain, you most likely have. But have you heard about semi-fungible tokens? Today, we're going to explore a revolutionary Ethereum standard for tokens called ERC-1155. This innovative standard allows for the creation of both fungible and non-fungible tokens within the same smart contract.

A Brief Recap: Fungible and Non-Fungible Tokens

Before we dive into ERC-1155, it's important to understand the difference between fungible and non-fungible tokens. Fungible tokens, like the Ethereum's ETH or Bitcoin's BTC, are interchangeable with each other. One ETH is the same as another ETH. They are analogous to traditional currencies like dollars or euros, where each individual unit holds the same value as another unit.

On the other hand, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique and not interchangeable. An example of NFTs on Ethereum would be CryptoKitties, where each digital cat is unique and holds different value. They are more like collector's items, where each piece has its own distinct value based on its characteristics.

What is ERC-1155?

ERC-1155, proposed by Enjin's Witek Radomski in June 2018, is a new type of token standard on the Ethereum blockchain that merges the benefits of ERC-20 (fungible tokens) and ERC-721 (non-fungible tokens) but with increased efficiency and less complexity. The "ERC" stands for Ethereum Request for Comments, and "1155" is the unique proposal ID number.

This token standard allows for the creation and management of both fungible tokens and non-fungible tokens in a single contract. In the older standards (ERC-20 and ERC-721), a new smart contract must be deployed for each new "class" of token - which could quickly get expensive in terms of gas costs, not to mention the time and effort required for development and testing.

ERC-1155 aims to solve these problems. A single ERC-1155 contract can govern an almost infinite number of tokens. These tokens can be of different types (fungible, non-fungible, or semi-fungible) and can be created and destroyed as needed.

Semi-Fungibility: The Best of Both Worlds

The concept of semi-fungibility is crucial to understanding ERC-1155. Semi-fungible tokens have characteristics of both fungible and non-fungible tokens. They are fungible with tokens of the same class but non-fungible with tokens of other classes. This could be used, for example, in a game where there are different classes of weapons, and each weapon within a class is identical (fungible), but weapons from different classes are unique (non-fungible).

Efficiency and Batch Transfers

One of the significant improvements of ERC-1155 over previous standards is its ability to handle batch transfers efficiently. In earlier token standards, if you wanted to transfer multiple tokens at once, you would need to execute multiple transactions, which meant paying gas fees for each transaction.

With ERC-1155, you can transfer multiple tokens of different types in a single transaction. This can significantly reduce gas costs, especially in use cases where many tokens need to be transferred simultaneously, such as in gaming or decentralized finance (DeFi) applications.

Real-World Applications of ERC-1155

ERC-1155 is particularly useful in the gaming industry, where it allows for the creation of a wide range of game items, each with unique properties, in a single contract. ERC-1155 has become the go-to standard for NFTs within blockchain games, with its unique "fungibility-agnostic" design, which means it supports both fungible and non-fungible tokens. This flexibility makes it highly suitable for games, where, for instance, an in-game coin would be fungible, while a plot of virtual land would be non-fungible​​.

One of the ways ERC-1155 is being used in the gaming industry is through the development of a wide range of game items, each with unique properties. For example, Enjin, the company behind the creation of ERC-1155, described a concept product in 2018 as "a gaming multiverse where developers shared a collection of items that players could take across games and platforms". This showcases the potential of ERC-1155 in creating an interoperable ecosystem of gaming assets that can be used across different platforms, enhancing the overall gaming experience​​.

Furthermore, ERC-1155 has been adopted by all the major NFT marketplaces, including OpenSea and Rarible. Enjin, the blockchain game development platform that proposed the ERC-1155 standard, has also partnered with Microsoft on several NFT projects, most notably Azure Heroes, Microsoft's blockchain-based digital badge rewards program​​.

An interesting case study of ERC-1155 in action is the Adidas NFT promotion. Adidas used ERC-1155 for the first three phases of their promotion due to the fungible nature of the rewards in these phases. The fourth phase used ERC-721, indicating the rewards in this phase were non-fungible. This clever use of the ERC-1155 standard highlights its versatility in managing different types of tokens within a single promotional campaign​​.

As we look towards the future, the potential applications of ERC-1155 extend beyond the gaming industry. It opens up a world of opportunities for new gameplay concepts and gamified business strategies. By tapping into this technology, businesses can leverage a growing network of marketplaces, wallets, explorers, games, and blockchains, thereby providing opportunities to attract new users in one of the most powerful networks in the world​​.

How to create an ERC-1155 NFT smart contract

Creating an ERC-1155 NFT smart contract involves writing code in Solidity, the programming language used for Ethereum smart contracts, and deploying it on the Ethereum blockchain. 

If you don’t want to waste time writing code you can easily deploy an ERC-1155 Smart contract with Metacommerce. Simply go to the Metacommerce platform and:

  • Create an account or connect with your wallet
  • Navigate to the NFT studio > click create project > select editions
  • Upload your media and prepare your metadata
  • Proceed to “Launch”
  • Click “create contract” > enter in relevant details.
  • Review and deploy!
  • Your ERC-1155 smart contract is ready for minting or airdrops.

Prefer to do it yourself?

Here's a basic example of how to create an ERC-1155 smart contract:

Step 1: Install the Necessary Tools

To start, you'll need to install Node.js and npm, which are required for running the development environment. After installing these, install Truffle, a development environment for Ethereum, and Ganache, a personal blockchain for Ethereum development, using npm.

Step 2: Set Up the Project

Create a new directory for your project and navigate into it:

Then, initialize a new Truffle project:

Step 3: Install the OpenZeppelin Contracts Library

OpenZeppelin Contracts is a library for secure smart contract development. It provides implementations of standards like ERC20, ERC721, and of course, ERC1155. Install it using npm:

Step 4: Write the Smart Contract

Create a new file in the contracts directory, say MyERC1155.sol, and add the following code:

This smart contract imports the ERC1155 contract from OpenZeppelin and extends it to create your own MyERC1155 contract. The ERC1155 constructor is called with a URL that serves the token metadata. Two types of tokens (IDs 0 and 1) are minted and assigned to the message sender in the constructor.

Step 5: Compile and Deploy the Smart Contract

First, start Ganache:

Then, in a new terminal window, compile the smart contract:

And finally, deploy the smart contract:

This is a very basic example and the real process can be much more complex. Always make sure to test your smart contracts thoroughly before deploying them on the mainnet.

Also, note that this example assumes that you're familiar with Ethereum development tools and the Solidity programming language. If you're not, you might want to start with some introductory tutorials or courses.

Remember, creating and deploying smart contracts involves risks. Smart contracts are immutable once deployed and bugs can lead to loss of funds or other issues. Always make sure you're fully aware of these risks and consider getting your contract audited by professionals if you're working on a serious project.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why use ERC-1155 vs. ERC-721 or ERC-20?

ERC-1155 offers flexibility, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, making it a preferred choice in certain scenarios over ERC-721 or ERC-20. It's "fungibility-agnostic," meaning it can represent both fungible and non-fungible tokens, unlike ERC-721 and ERC-20 which are specific to non-fungible and fungible tokens respectively. ERC-1155 also supports batch transfers, allowing for efficient handling of multiple tokens simultaneously, which is beneficial for large-scale blockchain games and apps. Lastly, ERC-1155 can potentially lower gas fees for users when dealing with multiple tokens, a feature that has seen it adopted by major NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible.

What are some examples of projects using ERC-1155?

Examples include Enjin's gaming platform, Microsoft's Azure Heroes rewards program, and the Adidas Originals Into The Metaverse NFT promotion.

What makes ERC-1155 suitable for games and the metaverse?

The flexibility to represent both unique and identical items (non-fungible and fungible tokens), advanced usability features like batch transfers, and potential for lower gas fees make ERC-1155 suitable for games and metaverse applications

Can ERC-1155 be used to create NFTs?

Yes, ERC-1155 can be used to create non-fungible tokens (NFTs). However, it can also create fungible tokens, and is therefore not exclusively for NFT.

How is ERC-1155 different from other token standards?

Unlike ERC-20 (fungible tokens) and ERC-721 (non-fungible tokens), ERC-1155 can represent both fungible and non-fungible tokens. It also supports batch transfers and can potentially offer lower gas fees, making it more efficient and cost-effective in certain scenarios.

Conclusion

ERC-1155 represents a significant step forward in the world of blockchain and tokens. It combines the best features of fungible and non-fungible tokens, introducing the concept of semi-fungibility and enabling efficient batch transfers. Its flexibility and efficiency make it particularly suitable for use cases that involve multiple types of tokens, such as gaming.

As more developers, businesses, and consumers start to understand and appreciate the benefits of ERC-1155, we can expect to see it adopted in a wider range of applications, not just in gaming but in any digital environment where unique or semi-unique assets are needed. The possibilities are endless, and the future of ERC-1155 is bright.

Whether you're a developer looking to build the next big game, a business looking to leverage the power of tokens, or a consumer interested in the future of digital assets, it's worth taking the time to understand ERC-1155. It's not just a new token standard - it's a revolutionary step forward in the world of blockchain technology.