Non-constant functions are limited in computational complexity by the block gas limit. I assume, but am not sure, that this does not apply to constant functions. Are constant functions in any way limited in computational complexity other than the fact that I'd have to wait for quite a while until e.g. a long loop is executed?

  • 2
    The constant keyword isn't actually a part of the protocol specification, so its behavior in edge cases is largely up to the client. The only relevant specification is the JSON-RPC method eth_call . In practice, most clients respect the gas limit for the block that they are simulating the transaction in, but you shouldn't rely on that being the case across all clients. Nov 5 '16 at 17:18

Constant functions are limited by the gas provided to it. They still "use" gas, even though the sender (from account) doesn't get "charged" for the gas.

view, pure, constant are Solidity keywords but currently only an indicator for Javascript web3.js to use JSON-RPC eth_call instead of eth_sendTransaction.


// Automatically determines the use of call or sendTransaction based on the method type (constant keyword exists or not?)
myContractInstance.myMethod(param1 [, param2, ...] [, transactionObject] [, defaultBlock] [, callback]);

// Explicitly calling this method
myContractInstance.myMethod.call(param1 [, param2, ...] [, transactionObject] [, defaultBlock] [, callback]);

// Explicitly sending a transaction to this method
myContractInstance.myMethod.sendTransaction(param1 [, param2, ...] [, transactionObject] [, callback]);

call and sendTransaction are very similar (under the hood), with the main difference being the former is a simulation. But the simulation still "uses" gas, and understandably can cause confusion. To perform a complex computation in a constant function, you may need to explicitly specify plenty of gas like: myContractInstance.myMethod.call(param1, {gas:990000000})

For example, Geth "only" provides 50 million gas:

if msg.gas == nil {
    msg.gas = big.NewInt(50000000)

As @Tjaden commented, there are basically no specs about eth_call, so other clients and browser-solidity may behave differently from Geth.

  • Thanks, one thing I'd add in case people get overboard when specifying the gas is to put the gas value in quotes if it exceeds the largest number that Javascript allows.
    – eth
    Dec 24 '16 at 6:31
  • What would the gas limit be when using MetaMask? Do they use Geth? Dec 27 '17 at 23:25
  • @EliezerSteinbock I think 2 things: asking separation quesiton is better, and MetaMask won't pop up with eth_call.
    – eth
    Dec 30 '17 at 14:26

The computational work needed by a constant or non-constant function is the same when you create your contract or if you execute the function. The initial cost is depending on the operations excuted in the EVM, each opcode has its own price you could check the list (maybe outdated). However, "constant" keyword indicates that the function is not supposed to modifiy the states, and no gas will be used because it allows to the function to be excuted locally/off blockchain in your node.


enter image description here

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Edit : let's try to excute a loop within a constant function to get an idea computational work :

pragma solidity ^0.4.0;

contract test_compexity{

 function f(uint256 n) constant  returns (uint256)  {
    uint256 j=0;

 return j;

if we run this constant function with the input 1001 we get the result 0X

enter image description here if we run the same function whithout the constant type and with the same input we get the error : Gas required exceeds limit

enter image description here so even if we are using constant function we are still under gaslimit limitation. Think of it as if you are using the constant function you are just paying yourself withing a gaslimit.

  • It makes sense to me that the computational effort to me is the same, but I do not see this answering my question if there are limitations to the computational complexity of constant functions.
    – SCBuergel
    Nov 5 '16 at 13:14
  • check the edit in the answer
    – Badr Bellaj
    Nov 5 '16 at 15:37
  • Ok, so even constant functions seem to be subject to the default gas limit and probably also to the block gas limit, I just confirmed in Ethereum Studio. This does not make sense to me, see also: github.com/ethereum/go-ethereum/issues/3237
    – SCBuergel
    Nov 5 '16 at 18:15
  • @Sebastian: Yes they're subject to the gas provided and since you're using Geth, I think you only get 50M gas for eth_call so try specifying more.
    – eth
    Nov 7 '16 at 12:35
  • The answer is a little messy because the loop modifies state and should not be declared constant/view. Declaring j inside the function should allow for arbitrarily large gas specifications. To clarify, Remix enforces view won't modify state, but solc compiler doesn't yet, so this would not work with testing on your station.
    – GViz
    Nov 28 '18 at 19:23

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