Filters and Events

Filters provide notifications of certain events taking place in the Ethereum network. There are three classes of filter supported in Ethereum:

  1. Block filters
  2. Pending transaction filters
  3. Topic filters

Block filters and pending transaction filters provide notification of the creation of new transactions or blocks on the network.

Topic filters are more flexible. These allow you to create a filter based on specific criteria that you provide.

Unfortunately, unless you are using a WebSocket connection to Geth, working with filters via the JSON-RPC API is a tedious process, where you need to poll the Ethereum client in order to find out if there are any updates to your filters due to the synchronous nature of HTTP and IPC requests. Additionally the block and transaction filters only provide the transaction or block hash, so a further request is required to obtain the actual transaction or block referred to by the hash.

web3j’s managed Filter implementation address these issues, so you have a fully asynchronous event based API for working with filters. It uses RxJava‘s Observables which provides a consistent API for working with events, which facilitates the chaining together of JSON-RPC calls via functional composition.

Note: filters are not supported on Infura.

Block and transaction filters

To receive all new blocks as they are added to the blockchain (the false parameter specifies that we only want the blocks, not the embedded transactions too):

Subscription subscription = web3j.blockObservable(false).subscribe(block -> {

To receive all new transactions as they are added to the blockchain:

Subscription subscription = web3j.transactionObservable().subscribe(tx -> {

To receive all pending transactions as they are submitted to the network (i.e. before they have been grouped into a block together):

Subscription subscription = web3j.pendingTransactionObservable().subscribe(tx -> {

Subscriptions should always be cancelled when no longer required via unsubscribe:


Other callbacks are also provided which provide simply the block or transaction hashes, for details of these refer to the Web3jRx interface.

Replay filters

web3j also provides filters for replaying block and transaction history.

To replay a range of blocks from the blockchain:

Subscription subscription = web3j.replayBlocksObservable(
        <startBlockNumber>, <endBlockNumber>, <fullTxObjects>)
        .subscribe(block -> {

To replay the individual transactions contained within a range of blocks:

Subscription subscription = web3j.replayTransactionsObservable(
        <startBlockNumber>, <endBlockNumber>)
        .subscribe(tx -> {

You can also get web3j to replay all blocks up to the most current, and provide notification (via the submitted Observable) once you’ve caught up:

Subscription subscription = web3j.catchUpToLatestBlockObservable(
        <startBlockNumber>, <fullTxObjects>, <onCompleteObservable>)
        .subscribe(block -> {

Or, if you’d rather replay all blocks to the most current, then be notified of new subsequent blocks being created:

Subscription subscription = web3j.catchUpToLatestAndSubscribeToNewBlocksObservable(
        <startBlockNumber>, <fullTxObjects>)
        .subscribe(block -> {

As above, but with transactions contained within blocks:

Subscription subscription = web3j.catchUpToLatestAndSubscribeToNewTransactionsObservable(
        .subscribe(tx -> {

All of the above filters are exported via the Web3jRx interface.

Topic filters and EVM events

Topic filters capture details of Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) events taking place in the network. These events are created by smart contracts and stored in the transaction log associated with a smart contract.

The Solidity documentation provides a good overview of EVM events.

You use the EthFilter type to specify the topics that you wish to apply to the filter. This can include the address of the smart contract you wish to apply the filter to. You can also provide specific topics to filter on. Where the individual topics represent indexed parameters on the smart contract:

EthFilter filter = new EthFilter(DefaultBlockParameterName.EARLIEST,
        DefaultBlockParameterName.LATEST, <contract-address>)
             [.addSingleTopic(...) | .addOptionalTopics(..., ...) | ...];

This filter can then be created using a similar syntax to the block and transaction filters above:

web3j.ethLogObservable(filter).subscribe(log -> {

The filter topics can only refer to the indexed Solidity event parameters. It is not possible to filter on the non-indexed event parameters. Additionally, for any indexed event parameters that are variable length array types such as string and bytes, the Keccak-256 hash of their value is stored on the EVM log. It is not possible to store or filter using their full value.

If you create a filter instance with no topics associated with it, all EVM events taking place in the network will be captured by the filter.

A note on functional composition

In addition to send() and sendAsync, all JSON-RPC method implementations in web3j support the observable() method to create an Observable to execute the request asynchronously. This makes it very straight forwards to compose JSON-RPC calls together into new functions.

For instance, the blockObservable is itself composed of a number of separate JSON-RPC calls:

public Observable<EthBlock> blockObservable(
        boolean fullTransactionObjects, long pollingInterval) {
    return this.ethBlockHashObservable(pollingInterval)
            .flatMap(blockHash ->
                    web3j.ethGetBlockByHash(blockHash, fullTransactionObjects).observable());

Here we first create an observable that provides notifications of the block hash of each newly created block. We then use flatMap to invoke a call to ethGetBlockByHash to obtain the full block details which is what is passed to the subscriber of the observable.

Further examples

Please refer to the integration test ObservableIT for further examples.

For a demonstration of using the manual filter API, you can take a look at the test EventFilterIT..