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Shared State

This page covers an advanced type of state called shared state, which is public state that can also be read in private (and hence shared by both domains). It is highly recommended that you're familiar with both private and public state before reading this page.

Overview and Motivation

A typical example of shared state is some kind of system configuration, such as a protocol fee or access control permissions. These values are public (known by everyone) and mutable. Reading them in private however is tricky: private execution is always asynchronous and performed over historical state, and hence one cannot easily prove that a given public value is current.

A naive way to solve this is to enqueue a public call that will assert the current public value, but this leaks which public value is being read, severely reducing privacy. Even if the value itself is already public, the fact that we're using it because we're interacting with some related contract is not. For example, we may leak that we're interacting with a certain DeFi protocol by reading its fee.

An alternative approach is to create notes in public that are then nullified in private, but this introduces contention: only a single user may use the note and therefore read the state, since nullifying it will prevent all others from doing the same. In some schemes there's only one account that will read the state anyway (such as when shielding token balances), but this is not the general case.

Shared state works around this by introducing delays: while public values are mutable, they cannot change immediately. Instead, a value change must be scheduled ahead of time, and some minimum amount of time must pass between the scheduling and the new value taking effect. This means that we can privately prove that a historical public value cannot possibly change before some point in the future (due to the minimum delay), and therefore that our transaction will be valid as long as it gets included before this future time.

This results in the following key properties of shared state:

  • shared values can only be changed after a certain delay has passed, never immediately
  • the scheduling of value changes is itself public, including both the new value and the time at which the change will take effect
  • transactions that read shared state become invalid after some time if not included in a block

Privacy Considerations

While shared state variables are much less leaky than the assertion in public approach, they do reveal some information to external observers by setting the max_block_number property of the transaction request. The impact of this can be mitigated with proper selection of the delay value and schedule times.

Choosing Delays

The max_block_number transaction property will be set to a value close to the current block number plus the duration of the delay in blocks. The exact value depends on the historical block over which the private proof is constructed. For example, if the current block number is 100 and a shared state variable has a delay of 20 blocks, then transactions that read this value privately will set max_block_number to a value close to 120 (clients building proofs on older state will select a lower max_block_number). This implicitly leaks the duration of the delay.

Applications using similar delays will therefore be part of the same privacy set. It is expected for social coordination to result in small set of predetermined delays that developers choose from depending on their needs, as an example a viable set might be: 12 hours (for time-sensitive operations, such as emergency mechanisms), 5 days (for middle-of-the-road operations) and 2 weeks (for operations that require lengthy public scrutiny). These delays can be changed during the contract lifetime as the application's needs evolve.

Additionally, users might choose to coordinate and constrain their transactions to set max_block_number to a value lower than would be strictly needed by the applications they interact with (if any!) using some common delay, and by doing so prevent privacy leakage.

Choosing Epochs

If a value change is scheduled in the near future, then transactions that access this shared state will be forced to set a lower max_block_number right before the value change. For example, if the current block number is 100 and a shared state variable with a delay of 20 blocks has a value change scheduled for block 105, then transactions that read this value privately will set max_block_number to 104. Since the blocks at which shared state values change are public, it might be deduced that transactions with a max_block_number value close to the current block number are reading some state variable with a changed scheduled at max_block_number + 1.

Applications that schedule value changes at the same time will therefore be part of the same privacy set. It is expected for social coordination to result in ways to achieve this, e.g. by scheduling value changes so that they land on blocks that are multiples of some value - we call these epochs.

There is a tradeoff between frequent and infrequent epochs: frequent epochs means more of them, and therefore fewer updates on each, shrinking the privacy set. But infrequent epochs result in the effective delay of value changes being potentially larger than desired - though an application can always choose to do an out-of-epoch update if needed.

note

Shared state variables do not allow selection of the value change block number, but there are plans to make this configurable.

Note that wallets can also warn users that a value change will soon take place and that sending a transaction at that time might result in reduced privacy, allowing them to choose to wait until after the epoch.

Network Cooperation

Even though only transactions that interact with shared state need to set the max_block_number property, there is no reason why transactions that do not wouldn't also set this value. If indeed most applications converge on a small set of delays, then wallets could opt to select any of those to populate the max_block_number field, as if they were interacting with a shared state variable with that delay.

This prevents the network-wide privacy set from being split between transactions that read shared state and those that don't, which is beneficial to everyone.

SharedMutable

SharedMutable is a shared state variable for mutable state. It provides capabilities to read the same state both in private and public, and to schedule value changes after a delay. You can view the implementation here.

Unlike other state variables, SharedMutable receives not only a type parameter for the underlying datatype, but also a DELAY type parameter with the value change delay as a number of blocks.

shared_mutable_storage
authorized: SharedMutable<AztecAddress, CHANGE_AUTHORIZED_DELAY_BLOCKS>,
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/auth_contract/src/main.nr#L14-L16
note

SharedMutable requires that the underlying type T implements both the ToField and FromField traits, meaning it must fit in a single Field value. There are plans to extend support by requiring instead an implementation of the Serialize and Deserialize traits, therefore allowing for multi-field variables, such as complex structs.

Since SharedMutable lives in public storage, by default its contents are zeroed-out. Intialization is performed by calling schedule_value_change, resulting in initialization itself being delayed.

schedule_value_change

This is the means by which a SharedMutable variable mutates its contents. It schedules a value change for the variable at a future block after the DELAY has elapsed from the current block, at which point the scheduled value becomes the current value automatically and without any further action, both in public and in private. If a pending value change was scheduled but not yet effective (because insufficient blocks had elapsed), then the previous schedule value change is replaced with the new one and eliminated. There can only be one pending value change at a time.

This function can only be called in public, typically after some access control check:

shared_mutable_schedule
#[aztec(public)]
fn set_authorized(authorized: AztecAddress) {
assert_eq(storage.admin.read(), context.msg_sender(), "caller is not admin");
storage.authorized.schedule_value_change(authorized);
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/auth_contract/src/main.nr#L26-L31

If one wishes to schedule a value change from private, simply enqueue a public call to a public internal contract function. Recall that all scheduled value changes, including the new value and scheduled block are public.

warning

A SharedMutable's storage must only be mutated via schedule_value_change. Attempting to override this by manually accessing the underlying storage slots breaks all properties of the data structure, rendering it useless.

get_current_value_in_public

Returns the current value in a public execution context. Once a value change is scheduled via schedule_value_change and a number of blocks equal to the delay passes, this automatically returns the new value.

shared_mutable_get_current_public
storage.authorized.get_current_value_in_public()
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/auth_contract/src/main.nr#L38-L40

get_current_value_in_private

Returns the current value in a private execution context. Once a value change is scheduled via schedule_value_change and a number of blocks equal to the delay passes, this automatically returns the new value.

Calling this function will set the max_block_number property of the transaction request, introducing a new validity condition to the entire transaction: it cannot be included in any block with a block number larger than max_block_number. This could potentially leak some privacy.

shared_mutable_get_current_private
let authorized = storage.authorized.get_current_value_in_private();
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/auth_contract/src/main.nr#L69-L71

get_scheduled_value_in_public

Returns the last scheduled value change, along with the block number at which the scheduled value becomes the current value. This may either be a pending change, if the block number is in the future, or the last executed scheduled change if the block number is in the past (in which case there are no pending changes).

shared_mutable_get_scheduled_public
let (scheduled_value, _block_of_change): (AztecAddress, u32) = storage.authorized.get_scheduled_value_in_public();
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/auth_contract/src/main.nr#L47-L49

It is not possible to call this function in private: doing so would not be very useful at it cannot be asserted that a scheduled value change will not be immediately replaced if shcedule_value_change where to be called.

SharedImmutable

SharedImmutable (formerly known as StablePublicState) is a simplification of the SharedMutable case, where the value can only be set once during initialization. Because there's no further mutation, there's no need for delays. These state variables are useful for stuff that you would usually have in immutable values in Solidity, e.g. this can be the name of a token or its number of decimals.

Like most state variables, SharedImmutable is generic over the variable type T. This type MUST implement the Serialize and Deserialize traits.

storage-shared-immutable-declaration
shared_immutable: SharedImmutable<Leader>,
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/docs_example_contract/src/main.nr#L43-L45

You can find the details of SharedImmutable in the implementation here.

initialize

This function sets the immutable value. It must only be called once during contract construction.

initialize_decimals
storage.decimals.initialize(decimals);
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/token_contract/src/main.nr#L63-L65
warning

A SharedImmutable's storage must only be set once via initialize. Attempting to override this by manually accessing the underlying storage slots breaks all properties of the data structure, rendering it useless.

read_public

Returns the stored immutable value in a public execution context.

read_decimals_public
storage.decimals.read_public()
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/token_contract/src/main.nr#L106-L108

read_private

Returns the stored immutable value in a private execution context.

read_decimals_private
storage.decimals.read_private()
Source code: noir-projects/noir-contracts/contracts/token_contract/src/main.nr#L114-L116