Custom dyn impls

As described in dyn traits, dyn Trait types cannot include the types of each future without defeating their purpose; but outside of a dyn context, we want those associated types to have unique values for each impl. Threading this needle requires extending Rust so that the value of an associated type can be different for a dyn Trait and for the underlying impl.

How it works today

Conceptually, today, there is a kind of "generated impl" for each trait. This impl implements each method by indirecting through the vtable, and it takes the value of associated types from the dyn type:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
trait Foo {
    type Bar;

    fn method(&self);
}

impl<B> Foo for dyn Foo<Bar = B> {
    type Bar = B;

    fn method(&self) {
        let f: fn(&Self) = get_method_from_vtable(self)
        f(self)
    }
}
}

Meanwhile, at the point where a type (say u32) is coerced to a dyn Foo, we generate a vtable based on the impl:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
// Given
impl Foo for u32 {
    fn method(self: &u32) { XXX }
}

// we could a compile for `method`:
// fn `<u32 as Foo>::method`(self: &u32) { XXX }

fn eg() {
    let x: u32 = 22;
    &x as &dyn Foo // <-- this case
}

// generates a vtable with a pointer to that method:
//
// Vtable_Foo = [ ..., `<u32 as Foo>::method` ]
}

Note that there are some known problems here, such as soundness holes in the coherence check.

Rough proposal

What we would like is the ability for this "dyn" impl to diverge more from the underlying impl. For example, given a trait Foo with an async fn method:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
trait Foo {
    async fn method(&self);
}
}

The compiler might generate an impl like the following:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
impl<B> Foo for dyn Foo {
    //          ^^^^^^^ note that this type doesn't include Bar = ...

    type Bar = Box<dyn Future<Output = ()>>;
    //         ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ because the result is hardcoded

    fn method(&self) -> Box<dyn Future<Output = ()>> {
        let f: fn(&Self) = get_method_from_vtable(self)
        f(self) 
    }
}
}

The vtable, meanwhile, resembles what we had before, except that it doesn't point directly to <u32 as Foo>::method, but rather to a wrapper function (let's call it methodX) that has the job of coercing from the concrete type into a Box<dyn Future>:

// Vtable_Foo = [ ..., `<u32 as Foo>::methodX`]
// fn `<u32 as Foo>::method`(self: &u32) { XXX  }
// fn `<u32 as Foo>::methodX`(self: &u32) -> Box<dyn> { Box::new(TheFuture)  }

Auto traits

To handle "auto traits", we need multiple impls. For example, assuming we adopted trait multiplication, we would have multiple impls, one for dyn Foo and one for dyn Foo * Send:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
trait Foo {
    async fn method(&self);
}

impl<B> Foo for dyn Foo {
    type Bar = Box<dyn Future<Output = ()>>;

    fn method(&self) -> Box<dyn Future<Output = ()>> {
            
    }
}

impl<B> Foo for dyn Foo * Send {
    //          ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    type Bar = Box<dyn Future<Output = ()> + Send>;
    //         ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    fn method(&self) -> Box<dyn Future<Output = ()>> {
            ....
    }
}

// compiles to:
//
// Vtable_Foo = [ ..., `<u32 as Foo>::methodX`]
// fn `<u32 as Foo>::method`(self: &u32) { XXX  }
// fn `<u32 as Foo>::methodX`(self: &u32) -> Box<dyn> { Box::new(TheFuture)  }
}

Hard-coding box

One challenge is that we are hard-coding Box in the above impls. We could control this in a number of ways:

  • Annotate the trait with an alternate wrapper type
  • Extend dyn types with some kind of indicator of the wrapper (dyn(Box)) that they use for this case
  • Generate impls for Box<dyn> -- has several shortcomings

Applicable

Everything here is applicable more broadly, for example to types that return Iterator.

It'd be nice if we extended this capability of "writing your own dyn impls" to end-users.