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Concepts: Dna and Zomes

TLDR: each DNA creates its own DHT network, whose ID is the hash of its source code.


DNAs are one of the most important building blocks in Holochain. Simply put, a DNA is the source-code for the game you are playing with your peers in Holochain.

And here is the twist: in Holochain, every DNA creates its own peer-to-peer DHT network. This makes it so that you are agreeing to the rules of the game before actually joining the network and beginning to play with peers. This is going to be key for validation rules.

One of the most important characteristics of a DNA is that it's identified by the hash of the source-code. It follows that if you change something from that code and install that DNA again, you are literally creating a new network.

Try it!

  1. Edit the current DNA by clicking Edit in the DNA Code block.
  2. Change something: it can be as simple as renaming a function, or removing a block.
  3. Click Compile!
    • By this small change, you have changed the source code for the DNA.
    • This in turn changes the hash of that DNA, so it's a new DNA.
    • By installing it in your node, you are creating a new Holochain DHT network.
    • But! You are the only one playing that game, so you are in a network of only one node.
  4. Try to start playing with other people: select the initial DNA in the Select Active DNA block.
  5. Select another agent.
  6. Edit the DNA, with only the exact same modifications that you did in step 2.
  7. Click Compile!
    • You should now see a network of 2 nodes!
    • What has happened is that you both made the same modifications to the code, and as the ID of the DNA is the hash of the source code, that means that you are playing the same game, and hence you are in the same network.

You can also create some entries in one DNA and switch back and forth DNAs to realise that when you create a new network, none of the data is ported.


DNAs in Holochain are composed out of multiple zomes. Zomes are like modules: you can compose them together to aggregate its functionality.

These are examples for different zomes:

  • Roles zome
  • Blogging zome
  • File storage zome
  • Currency zome
  • Calendar zome
  • Content management zome
  • Index/filtering zome

And from this list we could group different zomes together to make different happs:

  • Meetup clone:
    • Calendar zome
    • Communities zome
    • Currency zome
    • Roles zome
  • Wikipedia clone:
    • Roles zome
    • Content management zome
    • Index/filtering zome
  • Twitter clone:
    • Blogging zome
    • File storage zome

You can start to see how zomes can add a lot of composability to Holochain's functionalities.


Each zome has to declare:

  • Zome functions: these are the functions that can be executed from outside Holochain (the UI of a web app, for example).
  • Entry types: the kinds of entries that this zome is going to create in its zome functions.
  • Validation rules: the rules by which the entry types of this zome are valid or not.


These are the constraints by which zomes are to play with each other:

  • Each zome can see the entries committed by any other zome, both in the DHT and in the source chain.
  • Each zome is responsible for validating the entries and links it creates.
  • Zomes can call functions from one another.
  • A zome can attach links to entries created from other zomes.