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


640. Accessing destroyed local objects of static storage duration

Section:  [basic.start.dynamic]     Status: NAD     Submitter: Howard Hinnant     Date: 30 July 2007 [basic.start.dynamic] paragraph 2 says,

If a function contains a local object of static storage duration that has been destroyed and the function is called during the destruction of an object with static storage duration, the program has undefined behavior if the flow of control passes through the definition of the previously destroyed local object.

I would like to turn this behavior from undefined to well-defined behavior for the purpose of achieving a graceful shutdown, especially in a multi-threaded world.

Background: Alexandrescu describes the “phoenix singleton” in Modern C++ Design. This is a class used as a function local static, that will reconstruct itself, and reapply itself to the atexit chain, if the program attempts to use it after it is destructed in the atexit chain. It achieves this by setting a “destructed flag” in its own state in its destructor. If the object is later accessed (and a member function is called on it), the member function notes the state of the “destructed flag” and does the reconstruction dance. The phoenix singleton pattern was designed to address issues only in single-threaded code where accesses among static objects can have a non-scoped pattern. When we throw in multi-threading, and the possibility that threads can be running after main returns, the chances of accessing a destroyed static significantly increase.

The very least that I would like to see happen is to standardize what I believe is existing practice: When an object is destroyed in the atexit chain, the memory the object occupied is left in whatever state the destructor put it in. If this can only be reliably done for objects with standard layout, that would be an acceptable compromise. This would allow objects to set “I'm destructed” flags in their state and then do something well-defined if accessed, such as throw an exception.

A possible refinement of this idea is to have the compiler set up a 3-state flag around function-local statics instead of the current 2-state flag:

We have the first two states today. We might choose to add the third state, and if execution passes over a function-local static with “destroyed” state, an exception could be thrown. This would mean that we would not have to guarantee memory stability in destroyed objects of static duration.

This refinement would break phoenix singletons, and is not required for the ~mutex()/~condition() I've described and prototyped. But it might make it easier for Joe Coder to apply this kind of guarantee to his own types.

Rationale (CWG 2023-05-12)

This is an extension that requires a paper targeted at EWG.