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Anatomy of a Smart Contract

Smart contracts are programs which are immutably stored in the chain.

The logical structure of IOTA Smart Contracts is independent of the VM type you use, be it a Wasm smart contract or any other VM type.

Smart Contract Structure

Identifying a Smart Contract

Each smart contract on the chain is identified by its name hashed into 4 bytes and interpreted as uint32 value: the hname.

For example, the hname of the root contract is 0xcebf5908, the unique identifier of the root contract in every chain. The exception is the _default contract which always has hname 0x00000000.

Each smart contract instance has a program with a collection of entry points and a state. An entry point is a function of the program through which the program can be invoked.

Depending on the type of the entry point there are several ways to invoke an entry point: a request, a call and a view call

The smart contract program can access its state and account through an interface layer called the Sandbox.


The smart contract state is its data, with each update stored on the chain. The state can only be modified by the smart contract program itself. There are two parts of the state:

  • A collection of key/value pairs called the data state. Each key and value are byte arrays of arbitrary size (there are practical limits set by the database, of course). The value of the key/value pair is always retrieved by its key.
  • A collection of color: balance pairs called the account. The account represents the balances of tokens of specific colors controlled by the smart contract. Receiving and spending tokens into/from the account means changing the account's balances.

Only the smart contract program can change its data state and spend from its account. Tokens can be sent to the smart contract account by any other agent on the ledger, be it a wallet with an address or another smart contract.

See Accounts for more info on sending and receiving tokens.

Entry Points

There are two types of entry points:

  • Full entry points(or just entry points): These functions can modify (mutate) the smart contract's state.
  • View entry points(or views): These are read-only functions. They are only used to retrieve the information from the smart contract state. They cannot modify the state, i.e. are read-only calls.

Execution Results

After a request to a Smart Contract is executed (a call to a "full entry point"), a receipt will be added to the BlockLog detailing the execution results of said request: whether it was successful, the block it was included in, and other information. Any events dispatched by the Smart Contract in context of this execution will also be added to the BlockLog.

Error Handling

When a smart contract execution is interrupted for some reason (exception), or it produces an error (missing parameter, or other inconsistency), the funds will be refunded to the caller, except the fees. Any error that resulted from the SC execution can be viewed on the contract receipt (present in the BlockLog).