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ADR 024: Coin Metadata

Changelog

  • 05/19/2020: Initial draft

Status

Proposed

Context

Assets in the Cosmos SDK are represented via a Coins type that consists of an amount and a denom, where the amount can be any arbitrarily large or small value. In addition, the Cosmos SDK uses an account-based model where there are two types of primary accounts -- basic accounts and module accounts. All account types have a set of balances that are composed of Coins. The x/bank module keeps track of all balances for all accounts and also keeps track of the total supply of balances in an application.

With regards to a balance amount, the Cosmos SDK assumes a static and fixed unit of denomination, regardless of the denomination itself. In other words, clients and apps built atop a Cosmos-SDK-based chain may choose to define and use arbitrary units of denomination to provide a richer UX, however, by the time a tx or operation reaches the Cosmos SDK state machine, the amount is treated as a single unit. For example, for the Cosmos Hub (Gaia), clients assume 1 ATOM = 10^6 uatom, and so all txs and operations in the Cosmos SDK work off of units of 10^6.

This clearly provides a poor and limited UX especially as interoperability of networks increases and as a result the total amount of asset types increases. We propose to have x/bank additionally keep track of metadata per denom in order to help clients, wallet providers, and explorers improve their UX and remove the requirement for making any assumptions on the unit of denomination.

Decision

The x/bank module will be updated to store and index metadata by denom, specifically the "base" or smallest unit -- the unit the Cosmos SDK state-machine works with.

Metadata may also include a non-zero length list of denominations. Each entry contains the name of the denomination denom, the exponent to the base and a list of aliases. An entry is to be interpreted as 1 denom = 10^exponent base_denom (e.g. 1 ETH = 10^18 wei and 1 uatom = 10^0 uatom).

There are two denominations that are of high importance for clients: the base, which is the smallest possible unit and the display, which is the unit that is commonly referred to in human communication and on exchanges. The values in those fields link to an entry in the list of denominations.

The list in denom_units and the display entry may be changed via governance.

As a result, we can define the type as follows:

message DenomUnit {
string denom = 1;
uint32 exponent = 2;
repeated string aliases = 3;
}

message Metadata {
string description = 1;
repeated DenomUnit denom_units = 2;
string base = 3;
string display = 4;
}

As an example, the ATOM's metadata can be defined as follows:

{
"description": "The native staking token of the Cosmos Hub.",
"denom_units": [
{
"denom": "uatom",
"exponent": 0,
"aliases": [
"microatom"
],
},
{
"denom": "matom",
"exponent": 3,
"aliases": [
"milliatom"
]
},
{
"denom": "atom",
"exponent": 6,
}
],
"base": "uatom",
"display": "atom",
}

Given the above metadata, a client may infer the following things:

  • 4.3atom = 4.3 * (10^6) = 4,300,000uatom
  • The string "atom" can be used as a display name in a list of tokens.
  • The balance 4300000 can be displayed as 4,300,000uatom or 4,300matom or 4.3atom. The display denomination 4.3atom is a good default if the authors of the client don't make an explicit decision to choose a different representation.

A client should be able to query for metadata by denom both via the CLI and REST interfaces. In addition, we will add handlers to these interfaces to convert from any unit to another given unit, as the base framework for this already exists in the Cosmos SDK.

Finally, we need to ensure metadata exists in the GenesisState of the x/bank module which is also indexed by the base denom.

type GenesisState struct {
SendEnabled bool `json:"send_enabled" yaml:"send_enabled"`
Balances []Balance `json:"balances" yaml:"balances"`
Supply sdk.Coins `json:"supply" yaml:"supply"`
DenomMetadata []Metadata `json:"denom_metadata" yaml:"denom_metadata"`
}

Future Work

In order for clients to avoid having to convert assets to the base denomination -- either manually or via an endpoint, we may consider supporting automatic conversion of a given unit input.

Consequences

Positive

  • Provides clients, wallet providers and block explorers with additional data on asset denomination to improve UX and remove any need to make assumptions on denomination units.

Negative

  • A small amount of required additional storage in the x/bank module. The amount of additional storage should be minimal as the amount of total assets should not be large.

Neutral

References