This is part of the ongoing work on improving the transaction life cycle management. In 5.7.2 we split the transaction list into two. The read-only transaction list and the read-write transaction list. There was another “virtual” list, the auto-commit non-locking read-only (AC-NL-RO) transaction list. The change in 5.7.2 was that by default a transaction was treated as read only and added to the read-only transaction list. Only when it was determined that the transaction was going to do an update we removed the transaction from the read-only list and moved it to the read-write transaction list. This initial add to the the read-only list forced the acquisition of the trx_sys_t::mutex. Acquiring the mutex during transaction start/begin has a cost. Promoting a transaction from read-only to read-write we had to acquire the trx_sys_t::mutex to add to the read-write transaction list and so that is not too expensive and is unavoidable. There is another transaction list for caching user transactions that we will ignore in this discussion (the mysql-trx-list) it is per connection. All user transactions both AC-NL-RO, plain read-only and read-write user transactions are on this list.
The optimization in 5.7.3 is to eliminate the explicit read-only transaction list altogether. By default transactions are not put on any list unless they are explicitly tagged as read-write then they are added to the read-write transaction list. This makes the transaction begin mutex free. Additionally if the transaction commits as a read-only transaction then we don’t need to acquire the trx_sys_t::mutex at commit time to remove from the read-only list either. This improves performance for read-only transactions, making them more or less equivalent to AC-NL-RO transactions. They will however incur some cost compared to AC-NL-RO transactions if they acquire shared locks.
Additionally, the MVCC view open/close handling of read-only transactions is now equivalent to that of AC-NL-RO transactions, very low life cycle overhead. This will also help in improving performance significantly.
There is of course the positive performance impact but there is also a change in visibility semantics. With the elimination of the read-only list the read-only transactions are now no longer visible via SHOW ENGINE INNODB STATUS; they are however visible via the INFORMATION SCHEMA.