Re: [PHP-DEV] Operator overloading for userspace objects

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January 29, 2020 12:12 oludonsexy@gmail.com (Olumide Samson)
Would there be an RFC to push this feature(with the right handler, POC)
into PHP?

Or something would stop it from happening?



On Wed, 29 Jan 2020, 10:20 am Nikita Popov, ppv@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 12:14 AM boehmer@gmx.de> wrote: > > > Hello everybody, > > > > > > > > the last days I have experimented a bit with operator overloading in > > userspace classes (redefing the meaning of arithmetic operations like +, > -, > > *, etc. for your own classes). > > > > This could be useful for different libraries which implements custom > > arithmetic objects (like money values, tensors, etc.) or things like > > Symfony > > string component (concatenate) operator, because it improves readability > > much: > > > > $x * ($a + $b) instead of $x->multiply($a->add($b)) > > > > > > > > 4 years ago, there was a RFC about this topic ( > > <https://wiki.php.net/rfc/operator-overloading> > > https://wiki.php.net/rfc/operator-overloading), which was discussed a > bit > > ( > > <https://externals.io/message/89967> https://externals.io/message/89967 > ), > > but there was no real Outcome. > > > > > > > > I have tried to implement a proof of concept of the RFC, I encountered > some > > problems, when implementing the operator functions as (non-static) class > > members and pass them only the “other” argument: What happens when we > > encounter an expression like 2/$a and how can the class differ this from > > $a/2. Also not every operation on every structure is e.g on commutative > > (e.g. for matrices A*B =/= B*A). So I tried a C#-like approach, where the > > operator implementations are static functions in the class, and both > > arguments are passed. In my PHP implementation this would look something > > like this: > > > > > > > > Class X { > > > > public static function __add($lhs, $rhs) { > > > > //... > > > > } > > > > } > > > > > > > > The class function can so decide what to do, based on both operands (so > it > > can decide if the developer wrote 2/$a or $a/2). Also that way an > > implementor can not return $this by accident, which could lead to > > unintended > > side effect, if the result of the operation is somehow mutated. > > > > Using static methods sounds reasonable to me. > > I have taken over the idea of defining a magic function for each operation > > (like Python does), because I think that way it is the clearest way to > see, > > what operators a class implements (could be useful for static analysis).. > > The > > downside to this approach is that this increases the number of magic > > functions highly (my PoC-code defines 13 additional magic functions, and > > the > > unary operators are missing yet), so some people in the original > discussion > > suggest to define a single (magic) function, where the operator is > passed, > > and the user code decides, what to do. Advantageous is very extensible > > (with > > the right parser implementation, you could even define your own new > > operators), with the cost that this method will become very complex for > > data > > structures which use multiple operators (large if-else or switch > > constructions, which delegate the logic to the appropriate functions). An > > other idea mentioned was to extract interfaces with common functionality > > (like Arithmetically, Comparable, etc.) like done with the ArrayAccess or > > Countable interfaces. The problem that I see here, is that this approach > is > > rather unflexible and it would be difficult to extract really universal > > interfaces (e.g. vectors does not need a division (/) operation, but the > > concatenation . could be really useful for implementing dot product). > This > > would lead to either that only parts of the interfaces are implemented > (and > > the other just throw exceptions) or that the interfaces contain only one > or > > two functions (so we would have many interfaces instead of magic > functions > > in the end). > > > > Yes, i don't think it makes sense to group these operations in interfaces, > the use-cases are just too diverse. It's possible to define one interface > per operator (e.g. what Rust does), though I don't think this is going to > be particularly useful in PHP. I would not want to see functions accepting > int|float|(Add&Mul) show up, because someone is trying to be overly generic > in their interfaces ;) > > As to whether it should be a single method or multiple, I would go for > multiple methods, as that makes it more clear which operators are > overloaded from an API perspective. > > On the topic which operators should be overloadable: My PoC-implementation > > has magic functions for the arithmetic operators (+, -, *, /, %, **), > > string > > concatenation (.), and bit operations (>>, <<, &, |, ^). Comparison and > > equality checks are implement using a common __compare() function, which > > acts like an overload of the spaceship operator. Based if -1, 0 or +1 is > > returned by the comparison operators (<, >, <=, >=, ==) are evaluated. I > > think this way we can enforce, that the assumed standard logic (e.g > > !($a<$b)=($a>=$b) and ($a<$b)=($b>$a)) of comparison is implemented. > Also I > > don’t think this would restrict real world applications much (if you have > > an > > example, where a separate definition of < and >= could be useful, please > > comment it). > > > > I would recommend not handling overloading of comparisons in the same > proposal. Comparison is more widely useful than other overloading and has a > more complex design space (especially when it comes to accommodating > objects that can only be compared for equality/inequality for example). > Comparison may also benefit more from having an interface than the other > operators. > > > > Unlike the original idea, I don’t think it should be possible to > overwrite > > identity operator (===), because it should always be possible to check if > > two objects are really identical (also every case should be coverable by > > equality). The same applies to the logic operators (!, ||, &&), I think > > they > > should always work like intended (other languages like Python and C# > > handles > > it that way too). > > > > I agree that === should not be overloadable. || and && are > short-circuiting, so overloading them in any meaningful way would be pretty > hard anyway (we'd have to implicitly wrap the RHS into a closure or ... > something?) > > > > For the shorthand assignment operators like +=, -= the situation is a bit > > more complicated: On the one hand the user has learned that $a+=1 is just > > an > > abbreviation of $=$a+1, so this logic should apply to overloaded > operators > > as well (in C# it is implemented like this). On the other hand it could > be > > useful to differentiate between the two cases, so you can mutate the > object > > itself (in the += case) instead of returning a new object instance (the > > class cannot know it is assigned to its own reference, when $a + 1 is > > called). Personally I don’t think that this would be a big problem, so my > > PoC-Code does not provide a possibility to override the short hand > > operators.) For the increment/decrement operators ($a++) it is similar, > it > > would be nice if it would be possible to overload this operator but on > the > > other hand the use cases of this operator is really limited besides > integer > > incrementation and if you want to trigger something more complex, you > > should > > call a method, to make clear of your intent. > > > > At least to start with, I don't think we should offer separate overloading > of $a += 1 and treat it as $a = $a +1, as the existing operator overloading > implementation does. Operators currently only work on values that use > by-value passing semantics, so if you write something like > > $b = $a = 1; > $a += 1; > > then $a will be 2, but $b will be 1. Using the $a = $a + 1 expansion for > operator overloading ensures that this is also the case for objects. > > Of course there are performance concerns here, and it could in some cases > be significantly more efficient to perform an in-place modification. It is > possible to allow that while still keeping the above semantics by only > allowing an in-place modification if $a has no over users (something that > we can check in the VM). But I don't think this should be part of an > initial proposal. > > > > On the topic in which order the operators should be executed: Besides > the > > normal priority (defined by PHP), my code checks if the element on the > left > > side is an object and tries to call the appropriate magic function on it. > > If > > this is not possible the same is done for the right argument. This should > > cover the most of the use cases, except some cases: Consider a expression > > like $a / $b, where $a and $b has different classes (class A + class B).. > If > > class B knows how to divide class A, but class A does not know about > class > > B, we encounter a problem when evaluating just from left to right (and > > check > > if the magic method exists). A solution for that would be that object $a > > can > > express that he does not know how to handle class B (e.g. by returning > > null, > > or throwing a special exception) and PHP can call the handler on object > $b. > > I'm not sure how common this problem would be, so I don’t have an idea > how > > useful this feature would be. > > > > That sounds reasonable to me. > > > > My proof-of-concept implementation can be found here: > > <https://github.com/jbtronics/php-src> > > https://github.com/jbtronics/php-src > > > Unfortunately, this implementation goes in the wrong direction: PHP already > has full internal support for operator overloading through the do_operation > object handler. Operator overloading should be exposed to userland through > that handler as well. > > > > Here you can find some basic demo code using it: > > <https://gist.github.com/jbtronics/ee6431e52c161ddd006f8bb7e4f5bcd6> > > https://gist.github.com/jbtronics/ee6431e52c161ddd006f8bb7e4f5bcd6 > > > > > > > > I would be happy to hear some opinions for this concept, and the idea of > > overloadable operators in PHP in general. > > > > Thanks for working on this :) I think overloaded operators are a reasonable > addition to the language at this point. I think the main concern people > tend to have in this area is that operator overloading is going to be > abused (see for example << in C++). There are many very good use-cases for > operator overloading though (as mentioned, vector/matrix calculations, > complex, rationals, money, ...) Some of those are not common in PHP, but > maybe the lack of operator overloading is part of the problem there ;) > > Regards, > Nikita >