This is an unofficial snapshot of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC22 WG21 Core Issues List revision 112e. See for the official list.


209. Must friend declaration names be accessible?

Section: 11.8.4  [class.friend]     Status: NAD     Submitter: Judy Ward     Date: 1 Mar 2000

11.8.4 [class.friend], paragraph 7, says

A name nominated by a friend declaration shall be accessible in the scope of the class containing the friend declaration.

Does that mean the following should be illegal?

    class A { void f(); };
    class B { friend void A::f(); }; // Error: A::f not accessible from B

I discussed this with Bjarne in email, and he thinks it was an editorial error and this was not the committee's intention. The paragraph seems to have been added in the pre-Kona (24 Sept 1996) mailing, and I could not find anything in the previous meeting's (Stockholm) mailings which led me to believe this was intentional. The only compiler vendor which I think currently implements it is the latest release (2.43) of the EDG front end.

Proposed resolution (10/00):

Remove the first sentence of 11.8.4 [class.friend], paragraph 7.

Rationale (04/01):

After the 10/00 vote to accept this issue as a DR with the proposed resolution, it was noted that the first two sentences of 11.8 [class.access] paragraph 3 cause the proposed change to have no effect:

Access control is applied uniformly to all names, whether the names are referred to from declarations or expressions. [Note: access control applies to names nominated by friend declarations (11.8.4 [class.friend]) and using-declarations (9.9 [namespace.udecl]). ]

In addition to the obvious editing to the text of the note, an exception to the blanket statement in the first sentence would also be required. However, discussion during the 04/01 meeting failed to produce consensus on exactly which names in the friend declaration should be exempted from the requirements of access control.

One possibility would be that only the name nominated as friend should be exempt. However, that approach would make it impossible to name a function as a friend if it used private types in its parameters or return type. Another suggestion was to ignore access for every name used in a friend declaration. That approach raised a question about access within the body of a friend function defined inline in the class body — the body is part of the declaration of a function, but references within the body of a friend function should still be subject to the usual access controls.

Other possibilities were raised, such as allowing the declaration of a friend member function if the declaration were permissible in its containing class, or taking the union of the access within the befriending class and the befriended entity. However, these suggestions would have been complex and difficult to specify correctly.

Ultimately it was decided that the original perceived defect was not sufficiently serious as to warrant the degree of complexity required to resolve it satisfactorily and the issue was consequently declared not to be a defect. It was observed that most of the problems involved with the current state of affairs result from inability to declare a particular member function as a friend; in such cases, an easy workaround is simply to befriend the entire class rather than the specific member function.