In blockchain, using an account actually refers to using a
private key to sign transactions.
NEAR Accounts have the unique feature of holding multiple public/private key pairs, called Access Keys, each with their own set of permissions.
Access Keys are similar to OAuths, enabling you to grant limited access over your account to third-parties.
Benefits of Access Keys
Since the concept of Access Keys is unique to NEAR it is worth to first understand why and how they can be used.
Using An App Safely
Imagine that you want to play a web3 game consisting of a web-app and a smart contract. You can create a key that only allows to call specific methods in the game's contract.
You can safely give the key to the game, so it can sign game-related transactions for you without needing to interrupt the gameplay on each transaction.
If you think any of your keys could be compromised, you can simply remove them or swap them with a new one. Just as how you would change your password on any website.
Implementing Key Recovery
You could implement a key-recovery contract in your account, and create a "recovery key" for someone you trust. Such key could only be used to start the recovery.
When needed, that third-party component could trigger the recovery process, helping to create a new master for you.
NEAR implements two types of access keys:
FullAccess keys and
Full Access Keys
As the name suggests,
FullAccess keys have full control of an account, similar to having administrator privileges on your operating system.
Particularly, Full Access keys can be used to sign transactions doing any action in your account's behalf:
- Create immediate sub-accounts.
- Delete your account (but not sub-accounts, since they have their own keys).
- Add or remove Access Keys.
- Deploy a smart contract in the account.
- Call methods on any contract (yours or others).
- Transfer NEAR Ⓝ.
If you hand a
FullAccess to someone, they will have total control over the account.
You add the first Full Access Key of the account when the account is created.
Function Call Keys
FunctionCall keys only have permission to call non-payable methods on contracts, i.e. methods that do not require you to attach NEAR Ⓝ.
FunctionCall keys are defined by three attributes:
receiver_id: The contract which the key allows to call. No other contract can be called using this key.
method_names: The contract's methods the key allows to call (Optional). If omitted, all methods may be called.
allowance: The amount of Ⓝ allowed to spend on gas (Optional). If omitted, the key will only be allowed to call view methods (read-only).
Function Call keys main purpose is to be handed to apps, so they can make contract calls in your name.
NEAR simplifies creating and giving
FunctionCall keys to dApps by implementing a sign-in process. Briefly, dApps
can ask you to sign-in using the wallet, which automatically creates and gives a
FunctionCall key to the dApp.
FunctionCall key, the dApp will then be able to call specific methods in your account's behalf, with a default allowance of 0.25Ⓝ for gas.
If the dApps requests to transfer any amount of tokens with the
FunctionCall key, the user will be prompted once more by the wallet to authorize the transaction.
If you remove all keys from an account, then the account will become locked, meaning that no external actor can perform transactions in the account's name.
In practice, this means that only the account's smart contract can transfer assets, create sub-accounts, or update its own code.
Locking an account is very useful when one wants to deploy a contract, and let the community be assured that only the contract is in control of the account.