Serialization

NumberCategoryStatusAuthorOrganizationCreated
0008Standards TrackProposalBoyu YangNervos Foundation2018-12-17

Serialization

CKB uses two major serialization formats, Molecule and JSON.

Molecule is a canonicalization and zero-copy serialization format. Molecule is in the experimental stage, and we may make a few minor changes.

JSON is used in node RPC service via JSON-RPC.

Molecule

Summary

Fixed Size or Dynamic Size

Typebytearraystructvectortableoptionunion
SizeFixedFixedFixedDynamicDynamicDynamicDynamic

Memory Layout

| Type | Header | Body |
|--------+--------------------------------------------------+-----------------------------------|
| array | | item-0 | item-1 | ... | item-N |
| struct | | field-0 | field-1 | ... | field-N |
| fixvec | items-count | item-0 | item-1 | ... | item-N |
| dynvec | full-size | offset-0 | offset-1 | ... | offset-N | item-0 | item-1 | ... | item-N |
| table | full-size | offset-0 | offset-1 | ... | offset-N | filed-0 | field-1 | ... | field-N |
| option | | item or none (zero bytes) |
| union | item-type-id | item |
  • All items in Header are 32 bit unsigned integers in little-endian.

Primitive Type

byte

The byte is a byte.

Examples

00 is a byte.

Composite Types

array

The array is a fixed-size type: it has a fixed-size inner type and a fixed length. The size of an array is the size of inner type times the length.

Serializing an array only need to serialize all items in it.

There's no overhead to serialize an array, which stores all items consecutively, without extra space between two adjacent items.

Examples

If we define array Byte3 [byte; 3];, and we want to store three bytes: first is 01, the second is 02 and the last is 03, then the serialized bytes will be 01 02 03.

If we define array Uint32 [byte; 4]; , and we want to store a 32 bit unsigned integer 0x01020304 into it in little-endian, then the serialized bytes will be 04 03 02 01.

If we define array TwoUint32 [Uint32; 2];, and we want to store two 32 bit unsigned integers in little-endian: first is 0x01020304 and second is 0xabcde, then the serialized bytes will be 04 03 02 01 de bc 0a 00.

struct

The struct is a fixed-size type: all fields in struct are fixed-size and it has a fixed quantity of fields. The size of a struct is the sum of all fields' size.

Serializing a struct only need to serialize all fields in it. Fields in a struct are stored in the order they are declared.

There's no overhead to serialize a struct, which stores all fields consecutively, without extra space between two adjacent items.

Examples

If we define struct OnlyAByte { f1: byte }, and we want to store a byte ab, then the serialized bytes will be ab.

If we define struct ByteAndUint32 { f1: byte, f2: Uint32 }, and we want to store a byte ab and a 32 bit unsigned integer 0x010203 in little-endian, then the serialized bytes will be ab 03 02 01 00.

vectors

There two kinds of vectors: fixed vector fixvec and dynamic vector dynvec.

Whether a vector is fixed or dynamic depends on the type of its inner item: if the inner item is fixed-size, then it's a fixvec; otherwise, it's a dynvec.

Both of fixvec and dynvec are dynamic-size types.

fixvec - fixed vector

There are two steps of serializing a fixvec: 1. Serialize the length as a 32 bit unsigned integer in little-endian. 2. Serialize all items in it.

Examples

If we define vector Bytes <byte>;:

  • the serialized bytes of an empty bytes is 00 00 00 00(the length of any empty fixed vector is 0).
  • the serialized bytes of 0x12 is 01 00 00 00, 12.
  • the serialized bytes of 0x1234567890abcdef is 08 00 00 00, 12 34 56 78 90 ab cd ef.

If we define vector Uint32Vec <Uint32>;:

  • the serialized bytes of an empty Uint32Vec is 00 00 00 00.
  • the serialized bytes of 0x123 is 01 00 00 00, 23 01 00 00.
  • the serialized bytes of [0x123, 0x456, 0x7890, 0xa, 0xbc, 0xdef] is
    # there are 6 items
    06 00 00 00
    # six items
    23 01 00 00, 56 04 00 00, 90 78 00 00, 0a 00 00 00, bc 00 00 00, ef 0d 00 00
dynvec - dynamic vector

There are three steps of serializing a dynvec: 1. Serialize the full size in bytes as a 32 bit unsigned integer in little-endian. 2. Serialize all offset of items as 32 bit unsigned integer in little-endian. 3. Serialize all items in it.

Examples

If we define vector BytesVec <Bytes>;:

  • the serialized bytes of an empty BytesVec is 04 00 00 00(the full size of an empty dynamic vector is 4 bytes).
  • the serialized bytes of [0x1234] is
    # the full size is 14 bytes
    0e 00 00 00
    # one offset
    08 00 00 00
    # one item
    02 00 00 00 12 34
  • the serialized bytes of [0x1234, 0x, 0x567, 0x89, 0xabcdef] is
    # the full size is 52 (0x34) bytes
    34 00 00 00
    # five offsets (20 bytes in total)
    18 00 00 00, 1e 00 00 00, 22 00 00 00, 28 00 00 00, 2d 00 00 00
    # five items (28 bytes in total)
    02 00 00 00, 12 34
    00 00 00 00,
    02 00 00 00, 05 67
    01 00 00 00, 89
    03 00 00 00, ab cd ef

table

The table is a dynamic-size type. It can be considered as a dynvec but the length is fixed.

The serializing steps are same as dynvec: 1. Serialize the full size in bytes as a 32 bit unsigned integer in little-endian. 2. Serialize all offset of fields as 32 bit unsigned integer in little-endian. 3. Serialize all fields in it in the order they are declared.

Examples

If we define table MixedType { f1: Bytes, f2: byte, f3: Uint32, f4: Byte3, f5: Bytes }

  • the serialized bytes of a MixedType { f1: 0x, f2: 0xab, f3: 0x123, f4: 0x456789, f5: 0xabcdef } is
    # the full size is 43 (0x2b) bytes
    2b 00 00 00
    # five offsets (20 bytes in total)
    18 00 00 00, 1c 00 00 00, 1d 00 00 00, 21 00 00 00, 24 00 00 00
    # five items (19 bytes in total)
    00 00 00 00
    ab
    23 01 00 00
    45 67 89
    03 00 00 00, ab cd ef

option

The option is a dynamic-size type.

Serializing an option depends on whether it is empty or not:

  • if it's empty, there is zero bytes (the size is 0).
  • if it's not empty, just serialize the inner item (the size is same as the inner item's size).
Examples

If we define option BytesVecOpt (BytesVec);

  • the serialized bytes of Option is (empty).
  • the serialized bytes of Some([]) is 04 00 00 00.
  • the serialized bytes of Some([0x]) is
    # the full size of BytesVec is 12 bytes
    0c 00 00 00
    # the offset of Bytes
    08 00 00 00
    # the length of Bytes
    00 00 00 00

union

The union is a dynamic-size type.

Serializing a union has two steps:

  • Serialize a item type id in bytes as a 32 bit unsigned integer in little-endian. The item type id is the index of the inner items, and it's starting at 0.
  • Serialize the inner item.

Examples

If we define union HybridBytes { Byte3, Bytes, BytesVec, BytesVecOpt }

  • the serialized bytes of Byte3 (0x123456) is 00 00 00 00, 12 34 56
  • the serialized bytes of Bytes (0x) is 01 00 00 00, 00 00 00 00
  • the serialized bytes of Bytes (0x123) is 01 00 00 00, 02 00 00 00, 01 23
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVec ([]) is 02 00 00 00, 04 00 00 00
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVec ([0x]) is 02 00 00 00, 0c 00 00 00, 08 00 00 00, 00 00 00 00
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVec ([0x123]) is 02 00 00 00, 0e 00 00 00, 08 00 00 00, 02 00 00 00, 01 23
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVec ([0x123, 0x456]) is
    # Item Type Id
    02 00 00 00
    # the full size of BytesVec is 24 bytes
    18 00 00 00
    # two offsets of BytesVec (8 bytes in total)
    0c 00 00 00, 12 00 00 00,
    # two Bytes (12 bytes in total)
    02 00 00 00, 01 23
    02 00 00 00, 04 56
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVecOpt (None) is 03 00 00 00
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVecOpt (Some(([]))) is 03 00 00 00, 04 00 00 00
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVecOpt (Some(([0x]))) is 03 00 00 00, 0c 00 00 00, 08 00 00 00, 00 00 00 00
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVecOpt (Some(([0x123]))) is 03 00 00 00, 0e 00 00 00, 08 00 00 00, 02 00 00 00, 01 23
  • the serialized bytes of BytesVecOpt (Some(([0x123, 0x456]))) is
    # Item Type Id
    03 00 00 00
    # the full size of BytesVec is 24 bytes
    18 00 00 00
    # two offsets of BytesVec (8 bytes in total)
    0c 00 00 00, 12 00 00 00,
    # two Bytes (12 bytes in total)
    02 00 00 00, 01 23
    02 00 00 00, 04 56