Records -- current status

Brian Goetz brian.goetz at
Fri Mar 16 18:55:19 UTC 2018

There are a number of potentially open details on the design for 
records.  My inclination is to start with the simplest thing that 
preserves the flexibility and expectations we want, and consider opening 
up later as necessary.

One of the biggest issues, which Kevin raised as a must-address issue, 
is having sufficient support for precondition validation. Without 
foreclosing on the ability to do more later with declarative guards, I 
think the recent construction proposal meets the requirement for 
lightweight enforcement with minimal or no duplication.  I'm hopeful 
that this bit is "there".

Our goal all along has been to define records as being “just macros” for 
a finer-grained set of features.  Some of these are motivated by 
boilerplate; some are motivated by semantics (coupling semantics of API 
elements to state.)  In general, records will get there first, and then 
ordinary classes will get the more general feature, but the default 
answer for "can you relax records, so I can use it in this case that 
almost but doesn't quite fit" should be "no, but there will probably be 
a feature coming that makes that class simpler, wait for that."

Some other open issues (please see my writeup at for reference), 
and my current thoughts on these, are outlined below. Comments welcome!

  - Extension.  The proposal outlines a notion of abstract record, which 
provides a "width subtyped" hierarchy.  Some have questioned whether 
this carries its weight, especially given how Scala doesn't support 
case-to-case extension (some see this as a bug, others as an existence 
proof.)  Records can implement interfaces.

  - Concrete records are final.  Relaxing this adds complexity to the 
equality story; I'm not seeing good reasons to do so.

  - Additional constructors.  I don't see any reason why additional 
constructors are problematic, especially if they are constrained to 
delegate to the default constructor (which in turn is made far simpler 
if there can be statements ahead of the this() call.) Users may find the 
lack of additional constructors to be an arbitrary limitation (and 
they'd probably be right.)

  - Static fields.  Static fields seem harmless.

  - Additional instance fields.  These are a much bigger concern. While 
the primary arguments against them are of the "slippery slope" variety, 
I still have deep misgivings about supporting unrestricted non-principal 
instance fields, and I also haven't found a reasonable set of 
restrictions that makes this less risky.  I'd like to keep looking for a 
better story here, before just caving on this, as I worry doing so will 
end up biting us in the back.

  - Mutability and accessibility.  I'd like to propose an odd choice 
here, which is: fields are final and package (protected for abstract 
records) by default, but finality can be explicitly opted out of 
(non-final) and accessibility can be explicitly widened (public).

  - Accessors.  Perhaps the most controversial aspect is that records 
are inherently transparent to read; if something wants to truly 
encapsulate state, it's not a record.  Records will eventually have 
pattern deconstructors, which will expose their state, so we should go 
out of the gate with the equivalent.  The obvious choice is to expose 
read accessors automatically.  (These will not be named getXxx; we are 
not burning the ill-advised Javabean naming conventions into the 
language, no matter how much people think it already is.)  The obvious 
naming choice for these accessors is fieldName().  No provision for 
write accessors; that's bring-your-own.

  - Core methods.  Records will get equals, hashCode, and toString.  
There's a good argument for making equals/hashCode final (so they can't 
be explicitly redeclared); this gives us stronger preservation of the 
data invariants that allow us to safely and mechanically snapshot / 
serialize / marshal (we'd definitely want this if we ever allowed 
additional instance fields.)  No reason to suppress override of 
toString, though. Records could be safely made cloneable() with 
automatic support too (like arrays), but not clear if this is worth it 
(its darn useful for arrays, though.)  I think the auto-generated 
getters should be final too; this leaves arrays as second-class 
components, but I am not sure that bothers me.

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