Chapter 3 - Immutable Objects

In chapters 1 and 2, we learned how to create and use objects owned by an address. In this chapter, we will demonstrate how to create and use immutable objects.

Objects in Sui can have different types of ownership, with two broad categories: immutable objects and mutable objects. An immutable object is an object that can never be mutated, transferred or deleted. Because of this immutability, the object is not owned by anyone, and hence it can be used by anyone.

Create immutable object

Regardless of whether an object was just created or already owned by an address, to turn this object into an immutable object, we need to call the following API in the transfer module:

public native fun freeze_object<T: key>(obj: T);

After this call, the specified object will become permanently immutable. This is a non-reversible operation; hence, freeze an object only when you are certain that it will never need to be mutated.

Let's add an entry function to the color_object module to turn an existing (owned) ColorObject into an immutable object:

public entry fun freeze_object(object: ColorObject) {

In the above function, one must already own a ColorObject to be able to pass it in. At the end of this call, this object is frozen and can never be mutated. It is also no longer owned by anyone.

💡Note the transfer::freeze_object API requires passing the object by value. Had we allowed passing the object by a mutable reference, we would then still be able to mutate the object after the freeze_object call; this contradicts the fact that it should have become immutable.

Alternatively, you can also provide an API that creates an immutable object at birth:

public entry fun create_immutable(red: u8, green: u8, blue: u8, ctx: &mut TxContext) {
    let color_object = new(red, green, blue, ctx);

In this function, a fresh new ColorObject is created and immediately turned into an immutable object before being owned by anyone.

Use immutable object

Once an object becomes immutable, the rules of who could use this object in Move calls change:

  1. An immutable object can be passed only as a read-only, immutable reference to Move entry functions as &T.
  2. Anyone can use immutable objects.

Recall that we defined a function that copies the value of one object to another:

public entry fun copy_into(from_object: &ColorObject, into_object: &mut ColorObject);

In this function, anyone can pass an immutable object as the first argument from_object, but not the second argument.

Since immutable objects can never be mutated, there will never be a data race even when multiple transactions are using the same immutable object at the same time. Hence, the existence of immutable objects does not pose any requirement on consensus.

Test immutable object

Let's take a look at how we interact with immutable objects in unit tests.

Previously, we used the test_scenario::take_from_sender<T> API to take an object from the global storage that's owned by the sender of the transaction in a unit test. And take_from_sender returns an object by value, which allows you to mutate, delete or transfer it.

To take an immutable object, we will need to use a new API: test_scenario::take_immutable<T>. This is required because immutable objects can be accessed only through read-only references. The test_scenario runtime will keep track of the usage of this immutable object. If the object is not returned via test_scenario::return_immutable before the start of the next transaction, the test will abort.

Let's see it work in action (ColorObjectTests::test_immutable):

let sender1 = @0x1;
let scenario_val = test_scenario::begin(sender1);
let scenario = &mut scenario_val;
    let ctx = test_scenario::ctx(scenario);
    color_object::create_immutable(255, 0, 255, ctx);
test_scenario::next_tx(scenario, sender1);
    // take_owned does not work for immutable objects.
    assert!(!test_scenario::has_most_recent_for_sender<ColorObject>(scenario), 0);

In this test, we submit a transaction as sender1, which would create an immutable object. As we can see above, can_take_owned<ColorObject> will no longer return true, because the object is no longer owned. To take this object, we need to:

// Any sender can work.
let sender2 = @0x2;
test_scenario::next_tx(scenario, sender2);
    let object = test_scenario::take_immutable<ColorObject>(scenario);
    let (red, green, blue) = color_object::get_color(object);
    assert!(red == 255 && green == 0 && blue == 255, 0);

To show that this object is indeed not owned by anyone, we start the next transaction with sender2. As explained earlier, we used take_immutable, and it succeeded! This means that any sender will be able to take an immutable object. In the end, to return the object, we also need to call a new API: return_immutable.

In order to examine if this object is indeed immutable, let's introduce a function that would mutate a ColorObject (we will use this function when describing on-chain interactions):

public entry fun update(
    object: &mut ColorObject,
    red: u8, green: u8, blue: u8,
) { = red; = green; = blue;

To summarize, we introduced two new API functions to interact with immutable objects in unit tests:

  • test_scenario::take_immutable<T> to take an immutable object wrapper from global storage.
  • test_scenario::return_immutable to return the wrapper back to the global storage.

On-chain interactions

First of all, take a look at the current list of objects you own:

$ export ADDR=`sui client active-address`
$ sui client objects $ADDR

Let's publish the ColorObject code on-chain using the Sui CLI client:

$ sui client publish $ROOT/sui_programmability/examples/objects_tutorial --gas-budget 10000

Set the package object ID to the $PACKAGE environment variable as we did in previous chapters.

Then create a new ColorObject:

$ sui client call --gas-budget 1000 --package $PACKAGE --module "color_object" --function "create" --args 0 255 0

Set the newly created object ID to $OBJECT. If we look at the list of objects in the current active address:

$ sui client objects $ADDR

There should be one more, with ID $OBJECT. Let's turn it into an immutable object:

$ sui client call --gas-budget 1000 --package $PACKAGE --module "color_object" --function "freeze_object" --args \"$OBJECT\"

Now let's look at the list of objects we own again:

$ sui client objects $ADDR

$OBJECT is no longer there. It's no longer owned by anyone. You can see that it's now immutable by querying the object information:

$ sui client object $OBJECT
Owner: Immutable

If we try to mutate it:

$ sui client call --gas-budget 1000 --package $PACKAGE --module "color_object" --function "update" --args \"$OBJECT\" 0 0 0

It will complain that an immutable object cannot be passed to a mutable argument.

Last update 1/3/2023, 4:41:09 PM