Let's suppose I have a simple delegatecall based relay contract. It looks up the contract implementation from a registry and passes the call to the upgradeable implementation:

contract Relay {

    address public registrarAddr;
    string public name;

    function Relay(address _registrarAddr, string _name) {
        registrarAddr = _registrarAddr;
        name = _name;

    function getImplAddr() constant returns (address) {
        Registrar registrar = Registrar(registrarAddr);
        return registrar.addr(name);

    function() {
        address currentVersion = this.getImplAddr();
        if(!currentVersion.delegatecall(msg.data)) throw;

As you see the current function() {} has a special check for delegatecall return values, as this is based on an example code.

The question is, how delegatecall handle return values? Can I modify this delegatecall hook to perform normal web3 contract.call().balanceOf(addr) style functions for reading public values from the implementation contract? Or if I set up a relay contract do I need to have special logic in place to read the data from the contract what I would normally do with call()? Are there any examples of such arrangements?


1 Answer 1


delegatecall is not supposed to handle return values as it cannot be aware of the length of the other side (unless there would be a dedicated parameter passed to it). Currently, the delegatecall Solidity built-in method does not support supplying the return value size, nor getting the return value out after the call.

According to the documentation it should always return a boolean signaling the execution outcome. It seems the compiler may currently have a problem, see https://github.com/ethereum/solidity/issues/2678.

To get the result out, you will need to know the return value size and use inline assembly:

assembly {
    let returnSize = 32
    calldatacopy(0xff, 0, calldatasize)
    let _retVal = delegatecall(gas, currentVersion, 0xff, calldatasize, 0, returnSize)
    switch _retval case 0 { revert(0,0) } default { return(0, returnSize) }
  • Using this syntax (not inline assembly) is there a way to pass return length to delegate call? I know how to do a delegate call with a return value in assembly, but I'm trying really hard to avoid dropping down into inline assembly because it quickly becomes very difficult to read. Aug 1, 2017 at 14:40
  • There is no such way currently.
    – axic
    Aug 1, 2017 at 14:41
  • How do you determine returnSize? What is significance of 32. Is it possible to predict return size (or look it up) per function? May 4, 2018 at 18:27

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