[swift-evolution] [Proposal] Random Unification

Kyle Murray kyle_murray at apple.com
Sat Dec 2 21:12:05 CST 2017

> On Dec 2, 2017, at 6:02 PM, Xiaodi Wu via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> Instead, we ought to make clear to users both the features and the limitations of this API, to encourage use where suitable and to discourage use where unsuitable.

I like that you're considering the balance here. I've been lightly following this thread and want to add my thoughts on keeping crypto and pseudorandomness out of the name of at least one random API intended for general use.

For someone who doesn't know or care about the subtleties of insecure or pseudorandom numbers, I'm not sure that the name insecureRandom is effectively much different than badRandom, at least in terms of the information it conveys to non-experts. To Greg's point, that's the opposite of the signal that the API name should suggest because it's what most people should use most of the time. As you say, this API is being designed for general use.

There's a cost to adding extra complexity to names, too. I don't think it's far-fetched to suspect that people who find insecureRandom in an autocomplete listing or search will think "Where's the plain random function?"... and then go looking for a community extension that will inevitably provide a trivial alias: func random() { return insecureRandom() }. That's the sort of adoption I'd expect from something for new programmers, like Swift Playgrounds. Someone's introduction to randomness in programming should probably involve no more than a straightforward mapping from the elementary definition, rather than forcing a teaching moment from more advanced math.

I think there are better places for caveat information than in the API names themselves; documentation being one clear destination. This is in contrast with Unsafe*Pointer, where the safety element is critical enough to be elevated to be more than caveat-level information. You can go really far and create really cool things before these caveats start to apply. Using randomness as a black box in an intro programming environment seems like a much more common scenario than someone attempting to roll their first crypto by only reading API names and hoping for the best.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/attachments/20171202/8c8ef4d0/attachment.html>

More information about the swift-evolution mailing list