Transaction Concepts

In BigchainDB, Transactions are used to register, issue, create or transfer things (e.g. assets).

Transactions are the most basic kind of record stored by BigchainDB. There are two kinds: CREATE transactions and TRANSFER transactions.

CREATE Transactions

A CREATE transaction can be used to register, issue, create or otherwise initiate the history of a single thing (or asset) in BigchainDB. For example, one might register an identity or a creative work. The things are often called “assets” but they might not be literal assets.

BigchainDB supports divisible assets as of BigchainDB Server v0.8.0. That means you can create/register an asset with an initial quantity, e.g. 700 oak trees. Divisible assets can be split apart or recombined by transfer transactions (described more below).

A CREATE transaction also establishes, in its outputs, the conditions that must be met to transfer the asset(s). The conditions may also be associated with a list of public keys that, depending on the condition, may have full or partial control over the asset(s). For example, there may be a condition that any transfer must be signed (cryptographically) by the private key associated with a given public key. More sophisticated conditions are possible. BigchainDB’s conditions are based on the crypto-conditions of the Interledger Protocol (ILP).

TRANSFER Transactions

A TRANSFER transaction can transfer an asset by providing inputs which fulfill the current output conditions on the asset. It must also specify new transfer conditions.

Example 1: Suppose a red car is owned and controlled by Joe. Suppose the current transfer condition on the car says that any valid transfer must be signed by Joe. Joe and a buyer named Rae could build a TRANSFER transaction containing an input with Joe’s signature (to fulfill the current output condition) plus a new output condition saying that any valid transfer must be signed by Rae.

Example 2: Someone might construct a TRANSFER transaction that fulfills the output conditions on four previously-untransferred assets of the same asset type e.g. paperclips. The amounts might be 20, 10, 45 and 25, say, for a total of 100 paperclips. The TRANSFER transaction would also set up new transfer conditions. For example, maybe a set of 60 paperclips can only be transferred if Gertrude signs, and a separate set of 40 paperclips can only be transferred if both Jack and Kelly sign. Note how the sum of the incoming paperclips must equal the sum of the outgoing paperclips (100).

Transaction Validity

When a node is asked to check if a transaction is valid, it checks several things. Some things it checks are:

  • Are all the fulfillments valid? (Do they correctly satisfy the conditions they claim to satisfy?)
  • If it’s a creation transaction, is the asset valid?
  • If it’s a transfer transaction:
    • Is it trying to fulfill a condition in a nonexistent transaction?
    • Is it trying to fulfill a condition that’s not in a valid transaction? (It’s okay if the condition is in a transaction in an invalid block; those transactions are ignored. Transactions in the backlog or undecided blocks are not ignored.)
    • Is it trying to fulfill a condition that has already been fulfilled, or that some other pending transaction (in the backlog or an undecided block) also aims to fulfill?
    • Is the asset ID in the transaction the same as the asset ID in all transactions whose conditions are being fulfilled?
    • Is the sum of the amounts in the fulfillments equal to the sum of the amounts in the new conditions?

If you’re curious about the details of transaction validation, the code is in the validate method of the Transaction class, in bigchaindb/ (at the time of writing).

Note: The check to see if the transaction ID is equal to the hash of the transaction body is actually done whenever the transaction is converted from a Python dict to a Transaction object, which must be done before the validate method can be called (since it’s called on a Transaction object).