[swift-evolution] Constrained Protocol Aliases

Adrian Zubarev adrian.zubarev at devandartist.com
Mon Aug 21 06:36:27 CDT 2017

It’s part of Generalized Existentials, but does not make it complete. I think it would be worth adding more and more functionality to existentials every year. We started first with reshaping the syntax. This year we added support for classes. I think next year would be good to have where clause support for typealiases.

I understand the complexity of that particular feature, and it’s a no-go for me to help on the implementation, but I’m willing to drive the discussion and the proposal forward with other co-authors. :)

Hasn’t it been said that the implementation must be at least a *proof-of-concept* if the complexity is very high?

And my second question is: Wouldn’t the existence of this feature reshape some parts of the standard library, isn’t that affecting some major goals of Swift 5?

It would be nice if someone from the core team can clarify if the where clause is out of scope for Swift 5 or not.

Am 21. August 2017 um 12:51:48, David Hart (david at hartbit.com) schrieb:

On 21 Aug 2017, at 11:41, Adrian Zubarev <adrian.zubarev at devandartist.com> wrote:

Yes, `where` clause is welcome to typealises (including generic ones) and existentials in general. I would love to help on such proposal. I think David Hart is also interested in this one. (cc)

Yes, this basically seems like Generalized Existentials to me and is mentioned in the Generics Manifesto. It’s a feature I hold very dear but:

It’s a very difficult feature to implement and I think Doug Gregor is the only/best person to do it
I think its pretty much out of scope for Swift 5 (it’s not required for ABI Stability)

As a result, I’d be very surprised if this topic got any discussion or implementation time during the Swift 5 timeframe.
Am 21. August 2017 um 11:38:14, Gor Gyolchanyan via swift-evolution (swift-evolution at swift.org) schrieb:

Hello, Swift community!

I'd like to start a discussion about a possibility of constrained protocol aliases. The declaration would look like this:

typealias BinaryProtocol = RandomAccessCollection & MutablCollection & RangeReplaceableCollection where Binary.Index == Int, Binary.Element == Bool

The syntax and semantics of this declaration are exactly the same as an analogous associatedtype declaration inside a protocol.
In the example above, the type BinaryProtocol represents a logical array of bits and is a generic-only protocol that is usable in any context where an integer-indexed mutable range-replaceable random-access collection is expected.
Now, it can be used in a very concise and elegant way:

public protocol BinaryInitializable {
init<Binary>(binary: Binary) where Binary: BinaryProtocol

which would otherwise look very verbose and inelegant:

public protocol BinaryInitializable {
init<Binary>(binary: Binary) where Binary: RandomAccessCollection & MutablCollection & RangeReplaceableCollection, Binary.Index == Int, Binary.Element == Bool

Considering that smaller sets of constraints could be aliased to their own protocol and then composited into more complex aliases, this feature would dramatically improve readability and maintainability of code that uses complex constraints, that currently leads to arcane mess:

struct Mirror {
/// ...
init<Subject, C where C : Collection, C.Indices : Collection, C.SubSequence : Collection, C.Indices.Index == C.Index, C.Indices.SubSequence == C.Indices, C.Iterator.Element == Mirror.Child, C.SubSequence.Index == C.Index, C.SubSequence.Indices : Collection, C.SubSequence.SubSequence == C.SubSequence, C.Indices.Iterator.Element == C.Index, C.SubSequence.Indices.Index == C.Index, C.SubSequence.Indices.SubSequence == C.SubSequence.Indices, C.SubSequence.Iterator.Element == Mirror.Child, C.SubSequence.Indices.Iterator.Element == C.Index>(_ subject: Subject, children: C, displayStyle: Mirror.DisplayStyle? = default, ancestorRepresentation: Mirror.AncestorRepresentation = default)
/// ...

/// A collection that is its own sub-sequence
typealias RecursivelySliceableCollection = Collection where
RecursivelySliceableCollection.SubSequence: Collection,
RecursivelySliceableCollection.SubSequence.Element == RecursivelySliceableCollection.Element
RecursivelySliceableCollection.SubSequence.Indices == RecursivelySliceableCollection.Indices,
RecursivelySliceableCollection.SubSequence.SubSequence == RecursivelySliceableCollection.SubSequence

/// A collection that is its own index collection
typealias RecursivelyIndexableCollection = Collection where
RecursivelyIndexableCollection.Indices == RecursivelySliceableCollection,
RecursivelyIndexableCollection.Indices.Index == RecursivelyIndexableCollection.Index,

struct Mirror {
/// ...
init<Subject, C: RecursivelySliceableCollection & RecursivelyIndexableCollection, where  C.Element == Mirror.Child>(_ subject: Subject, children: C, displayStyle: Mirror.DisplayStyle? = default, ancestorRepresentation: Mirror.AncestorRepresentation = default)
/// ...

Even considering that the proposal SE-0157 (https://github.com/apple/swift-evolution/blob/master/proposals/0157-recursive-protocol-constraints.md) is going to make this specific use case a non-issue, the principle applies to all cases where there are commonly used complex constraints that don't necessarily involve recursive constraints.

Specializing Generic-Only Protocols For Non-Generic Use

An additional feature that would prove to be very useful would be to make a constrained protocol alias be a non-generic-only protocol if the constraints of the alias declaration specify a same-type requirement for all its associated types, while defaulted associated types would also count.

protocol Consumer {
associatedtype Consumable
mutating func consume(_ consumable: Consumable) throws

var consumer0: Consumer // error: Consumer is only usable in a generic context

typealias CharacterConsumer = Consumer where  CharacterConsumer.Consumable == Character

var consumer1: CharacterConsumer // OK

The current workaround would be to declare a new protocol with protocol inheritance clauses and a where clause, but the major downside is that it introduces a completely new protocol that is not compatible with any context that expects the underlying protocols and their constraints.

Gor Gyolchanyan.

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