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Blockchain transactions involve the transfer of digital assets or information across a decentralized network of computers, known as nodes. Each transaction is securely recorded in a chronological and immutable manner within a block, which is then linked to previous blocks, forming a chain. These transactions are verified by network participants through cryptographic algorithms, ensuring authenticity and preventing tampering. Once verified, transactions are added to the blockchain and become irreversible, providing transparency and trust without the need for intermediaries. This decentralized and transparent nature of blockchain transactions offers numerous benefits, including enhanced security, reduced costs, and increased efficiency across various industries.

The anatomy of a transaction

Let's begin by looking at how a transaction is defined in Protobuf. We can see that a transaction consists of two different messages, the transaction and the transaction header.

message transaction_header {
   bytes chain_id = 1;
   uint64 rc_limit = 2 [jstype = JS_STRING];
   bytes nonce = 3;
   bytes operation_merkle_root = 4;
   bytes payer = 5 [(btype) = ADDRESS];
   bytes payee = 6 [(btype) = ADDRESS];

message transaction {
   bytes id = 1 [(btype) = TRANSACTION_ID];
   transaction_header header = 2;
   repeated operation operations = 3;
   repeated bytes signatures = 4;

The transaction header

The transaction header is used to derive the ID of the transaction. It is a separate message so that Protobuf libraries can easily serialize it and the cryptography tools can generate the ID of the transaction. Let's have a look at the different fields making up the header.

Table 1. A table defining each field within a transaction header.

Field Description
Chain ID This is the identifier for the chain you are targeting. This will be different for Koinos mainnet and any other Koinos testnet.
RC Limit RC standards for resource credit, it just an internal name for Mana. This is the maximum amount of Mana you would like to consume when processing the transaction.
Nonce The nonce is used to both order and uniquely identify a transaction from a particular account. It is incremented by 1 with each subsequent transaction.
Operation Merkle Root This is self explanatory, but it is the merkle root of the operations on the transaction itself.
Payer The payer is the account that paying the cost in Mana. See Payer semantics for more information.
Payee The payee field is optional. This account will have its nonce incremented in the case it is used. See Payer semantics for more information.

As stated previously, the transaction header is used to derive the transaction ID. To do this, you must serialize the transaction header into bytes, then use a cryptography library to derive the SHA2-256 hash of said bytes. This is your transaction ID.

The transaction body

The transaction body, or the transaction itself, contains all the information required for submission to the blockchain. It not only contains the transaction header, but also the operations in which the account wishes to perform. We will explain each field that make up the transaction.

Table 2. A table defining each field within a transaction.

Field Description
ID The transaction ID, this is derived from the SHA2-256 hash of the serialized transaction header.
Header This is the transaction header reviewed in the previous section.
Operations This is one or more blockchain operations the user wishes to perform on the blockchain.
Signatures This is zero or more signatures used to authorize the transaction. See Authority to understand more.

Creating and submitting a transaction

Now that we understand each field of a transaction, let's perform a step-by-step guide on how to construct a transaction.

  1. Grab the chain ID of the blockchain you wish to transact on. Use it for the chain_id in the transaction header.
  2. Create an array of operations you would like to perform. Serialize each operation and derive the merkle root. Place it in the operation_merkle_root of the transaction header. Place the array of operations in the operations field of the transaction.
  3. Retrieve or create the next nonce for the account. This is either the payee if it exists or the payer if the payee does not exist. Place the serialized nonce into the nonce field.
  4. Fill in the payer and optionally the payee field with the appropriate accounts.
  5. Serialize the transaction header and derive the SHA2-256 of the bytes. This is our transaction ID, place it in the id field of the transaction.
  6. Place the entire transaction header into the transaction's header field.
  7. Authorize the transaction by either signing the transaction ID or by other means (e.g. a smart contract wallet).

Now, you can leverage an API node's submit_transaction RPC call to execute the transaction on the blockchain.

What happens next?

The blockchain will check the transaction for validity and then execute it as if it were placed on the head block without placing in a block. If the transaction succeeds, it will find itself in the mempool and it broadcasts through the network. Once a block producer includes it into a block, it will find itself on the blockchain. Read more about Finality to understand when a transaction can be considered irreversible.