225. std:: algorithms use of other unqualified algorithms

Section: [global.functions] Status: CD1 Submitter: Dave Abrahams Opened: 2000-04-01 Last modified: 2016-02-10

Priority: Not Prioritized

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Are algorithms in std:: allowed to use other algorithms without qualification, so functions in user namespaces might be found through Koenig lookup?

For example, a popular standard library implementation includes this implementation of std::unique:

namespace std {
    template <class _ForwardIter>
    _ForwardIter unique(_ForwardIter __first, _ForwardIter __last) {
      __first = adjacent_find(__first, __last);
      return unique_copy(__first, __last, __first);

Imagine two users on opposite sides of town, each using unique on his own sequences bounded by my_iterators . User1 looks at his standard library implementation and says, "I know how to implement a more efficient unique_copy for my_iterators", and writes:

namespace user1 {
    class my_iterator;
    // faster version for my_iterator
    my_iterator unique_copy(my_iterator, my_iterator, my_iterator);

user1::unique_copy() is selected by Koenig lookup, as he intended.

User2 has other needs, and writes:

namespace user2 {
    class my_iterator;
    // Returns true iff *c is a unique copy of *a and *b.
    bool unique_copy(my_iterator a, my_iterator b, my_iterator c);

User2 is shocked to find later that his fully-qualified use of std::unique(user2::my_iterator, user2::my_iterator, user2::my_iterator) fails to compile (if he's lucky). Looking in the standard, he sees the following Effects clause for unique():

Effects: Eliminates all but the first element from every consecutive group of equal elements referred to by the iterator i in the range [first, last) for which the following corresponding conditions hold: *i == *(i - 1) or pred(*i, *(i - 1)) != false

The standard gives user2 absolutely no reason to think he can interfere with std::unique by defining names in namespace user2. His standard library has been built with the template export feature, so he is unable to inspect the implementation. User1 eventually compiles his code with another compiler, and his version of unique_copy silently stops being called. Eventually, he realizes that he was depending on an implementation detail of his library and had no right to expect his unique_copy() to be called portably.

On the face of it, and given above scenario, it may seem obvious that the implementation of unique() shown is non-conforming because it uses unique_copy() rather than ::std::unique_copy(). Most standard library implementations, however, seem to disagree with this notion.

[Tokyo:  Steve Adamczyk from the core working group indicates that "std::" is sufficient;  leading "::" qualification is not required because any namespace qualification is sufficient to suppress Koenig lookup.]

Proposed resolution:

Add a paragraph and a note at the end of [global.functions]:

Unless otherwise specified, no global or non-member function in the standard library shall use a function from another namespace which is found through argument-dependent name lookup (6.4.2 [basic.lookup.argdep]).

[Note: the phrase "unless otherwise specified" is intended to allow Koenig lookup in cases like that of ostream_iterators:


*out_stream << value;
if(delim != 0) *out_stream << delim;
return (*this);

--end note]

[Tokyo: The LWG agrees that this is a defect in the standard, but is as yet unsure if the proposed resolution is the best solution. Furthermore, the LWG believes that the same problem of unqualified library names applies to wording in the standard itself, and has opened issue 229 accordingly. Any resolution of issue 225 should be coordinated with the resolution of issue 229.]

[Toronto: The LWG is not sure if this is a defect in the standard. Most LWG members believe that an implementation of std::unique like the one quoted in this issue is already illegal, since, under certain circumstances, its semantics are not those specified in the standard. The standard's description of unique does not say that overloading adjacent_find should have any effect.]

[Curaçao: An LWG-subgroup spent an afternoon working on issues 225, 226, and 229. Their conclusion was that the issues should be separated into an LWG portion (Howard's paper, N1387=02-0045), and a EWG portion (Dave will write a proposal). The LWG and EWG had (separate) discussions of this plan the next day. The proposed resolution for this issue is in accordance with Howard's paper.]


It could be argued that this proposed isn't strictly necessary, that the Standard doesn't grant implementors license to write a standard function that behaves differently than specified in the Standard just because of an unrelated user-defined name in some other namespace. However, this is at worst a clarification. It is surely right that algorithsm shouldn't pick up random names, that user-defined names should have no effect unless otherwise specified. Issue 226 deals with the question of when it is appropriate for the standard to explicitly specify otherwise.