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Calling a Smart Contract

Entry Points

Like any other computer program, a smart contract will lie dormant until someone or something instructs it to activate. In the case of smart contracts, the most common way to activate them is to call one of their entry points. It is the same as calling a program's function. It will take a set of instructions of the smart contract and execute it over the current chain's state. View entry points can only read the state, while full entry points can read and write to it.

To invoke a smart contract from outside the chain, the sender (some entity that needs to be identified by a private/public key pair) has to wrap the call to the entry point into a request. The request has to be cryptographically signed and submitted to the consensus procedure to let the chain's committee evaluate it and engrave the outcome of its execution into a new state update.

Upon receiving a request, the committee will execute the wrapped call fully or reject the request with all its potential changes, never modifying the state halfway. This means that every single request is an atomic operation.

Synchronous Composability

After being invoked by a request, the smart contract code is allowed to invoke entry points of other smart contracts on the same chain. This means it can call other smart contracts.

Smart contract calls are deterministic and synchronous, meaning they always produce the same result and execute all instructions immediately after another. If a smart contract calls another smart contract, the resulting set of instructions is also deterministic and synchronous. This means that for a request, it makes no difference if a smart contract's entry point contains the whole set of instructions or if it is composed by multiple calls to different smart contracts of the chain.

Being able to combine smart contracts in this way is called synchronous composability.


Requests

A request contains a call to a smart contract and a signature of the sender. The sender also owns the assets and funds processed within the request. Unlike calls between smart contracts, requests are not executed immediately. Instead, they must wait until the chain's validator nodes include them in a request batch. This means that requests have a delay and are executed in an unpredictable order.

Asynchronous Composability

Requests are not sent by humans exclusively. Smart contracts can also create requests. For example, a user can send a request to a smart contract that, in turn, sends a request to a decentralized third-party exchange which would will the user's funds from one currency to another and send them back through another request.

This is called asynchronous composability.

On-Ledger Requests

An on-ledger request is a Layer 1 transaction that validator nodes retrieve from the Tangle. The Tangle acts as an arbiter between users and chains and guarantees that the transaction is valid, making it the only way to transfer assets to a chain or between chains. However, it is the slowest way to invoke a smart contract.

Off-Ledger Requests

If all necessary assets are in the chain already, it is possible to send a request directly to that chain's validator nodes. This way, you don’t have to wait for the Tangle to process the message, significantly reducing the overall confirmation time. Due to the shorter delay, off-ledger requests are preferred over on-ledger requests unless you need to move assets between chains or Layer 1 accounts.


Gas

Gas expresses the "cost" of running a request in a chain. Each operation (arithmetics, write to disk, dispatch events, etc.) has an associated gas cost.

For users to specify how much they're willing to pay for a request, they need to specify a GasBudget in the request. This gas budget is the "maximum operations that this request can execute" and will be charged as a fee based on the chain's current fee policy.

The funds to cover the gas used will be charged directly from the user's on-chain account.


Allowance

Any funds sent to the chain via on-ledger requests are credited to the sender's account.

For contracts to use funds owned by the caller, the caller must specify an Allowance in the request. Contracts can then claim any of the allowed funds using the sandbox TransferAllowedFunds function.

The Allowance properly looks like the following:

{
FungibleTokens: {
BaseToken: uint64
NativeTokens: [{TokenID, uint256}, ...]
}
NFTs: [NFTID,...]
}