# A note on namespace __cpo

Eventually I’ll write up a full “libc++ beginner’s guide to writing niebloids.” For now, this is just a quick note to explain one particular quirk. The shape of a libc++ niebloid and/or CPO is:

namespace std::ranges {
namespace __iter_swap {
struct __fn {
auto operator()(~~~) const { ~~~ }
};
}
inline namespace __cpo {
inline constexpr auto iter_swap = __iter_swap::__fn{};
}
}


Why do we have that extra inline namespace __cpo? Why not simply do this?

namespace std::ranges {
namespace __iter_swap {
~~~
}
inline constexpr auto iter_swap = __iter_swap::__fn{};
}


Well, you see, in another part of the forest we have counted_iterator, which has an ADL iter_swap defined using the hidden friend idiom:

namespace std::ranges {
template<~~~>
struct counted_iterator {
friend void iter_swap(counted_iterator, counted_iterator) { ~~~ }
};
}


Hidden friends are hidden from qualified name lookup, but they still possess qualified names, according to their associated namespace. Here we’re telling the compiler that for each instantiation of counted_iterator there exists a function std::ranges::iter_swap (which btw is hidden from ordinary qualified lookup). There might be many such functions; that’s okay because functions can be overloaded.

But the compiler will complain loudly if we tell it that std::ranges::iter_swap is both a function and a variable! Variables can’t be “overloaded” with functions in that way.

int f(int); int f(double);  // OK

int f(int); int f;  // Error


So any time any class std::ranges::Foo has a hidden friend named bar, we can never define std::ranges::bar as a variable.

But we can define std::ranges::__cpo::bar as a variable! And we can mark __cpo as an inline namespace, so that std::ranges::__cpo::bar will be found by ordinary qualified lookup of std::ranges::bar. (Unambiguously, because all the functions named std::ranges::bar that might compete with it are defined as hidden friends.)

So, for certain identifiers such as iter_swap, swap, and iter_move, some little quirk like namespace __cpo is simply mandatory. For other identifiers, such as take and equal and (AFAIK) cbegin, the extra namespace is not required today — but libc++ (as of this writing) does it anyway, for two reasons:

• Consistency is the best policy. It’s easier to just be consistent, than to have to worry about “Should I create the inline namespace for this particular niebloid or not? What are our criteria?” The criterion is simple: Just do it.

• Future-proofing. Today, std::ranges::cbegin doesn’t technically require the inline namespace because no type in the std::ranges namespace provides a hidden-friend cbegin function. But that’s no guarantee it won’t happen in the future! (There is precedent for types with ADL begin functions; std::valarray and std::filesystem::directory_iterator are two examples.) Likewise, std::views::take doesn’t require the inline namespace today, but there is already a WG21 proposal (Giuseppe D’Angelo’s P2226 “An idiom to move from an object and reset it to its default-constructed state”, October 2020) to add an ADL customization point named take, which raises the terrifying possibility of some standard type acquiring a hidden-friend take at some point in the future. If this ever happened, we might have to go add an inline namespace around std::ranges::cbegin, or around std::views::take. Which would be an ABI break. So let’s just do it right the first time.

“But there are no types in the std::views namespace!” Fair enough. But there might be in the future. Who knows? And what about names like copy and equal, which are directly in the std::ranges namespace?

Microsoft STL appears to do the same inline-namespace trick for iter_swap and all the other CPOs (cbegin, data, strong_order,…) but stops there: it does not extend the franchise to all niebloids (take, copy, equal,…) as a general rule. Its inline namespace is namespace _Cpos.

Likewise, GNU libstdc++ appears to do the trick for most CPOs, but notably not for strong_order etc., and not for all niebloids (take, copy, equal…) as a general rule. Its inline namespace is namespace __cust.

Posted 2021-12-07