3. Atexit registration during atexit() call is not described

Section: 21.5 [support.start.term] Status: TC1 Submitter: Steve Clamage Opened: 1997-12-12 Last modified: 2016-08-08

Priority: Not Prioritized

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Discussion:

We appear not to have covered all the possibilities of exit processing with respect to atexit registration.

Example 1: (C and C++)

    #include <stdlib.h>
    void f1() { }
    void f2() { atexit(f1); }
    
    int main()
    {
        atexit(f2); // the only use of f2
        return 0; // for C compatibility
    }

At program exit, f2 gets called due to its registration in main. Running f2 causes f1 to be newly registered during the exit processing. Is this a valid program? If so, what are its semantics?

Interestingly, neither the C standard, nor the C++ draft standard nor the forthcoming C9X Committee Draft says directly whether you can register a function with atexit during exit processing.

All 3 standards say that functions are run in reverse order of their registration. Since f1 is registered last, it ought to be run first, but by the time it is registered, it is too late to be first.

If the program is valid, the standards are self-contradictory about its semantics.

Example 2: (C++ only)

    
    void F() { static T t; } // type T has a destructor

    int main()
    {
        atexit(F); // the only use of F
    }

Function F registered with atexit has a local static variable t, and F is called for the first time during exit processing. A local static object is initialized the first time control flow passes through its definition, and all static objects are destroyed during exit processing. Is the code valid? If so, what are its semantics?

Section 18.3 "Start and termination" says that if a function F is registered with atexit before a static object t is initialized, F will not be called until after t's destructor completes.

In example 2, function F is registered with atexit before its local static object O could possibly be initialized. On that basis, it must not be called by exit processing until after O's destructor completes. But the destructor cannot be run until after F is called, since otherwise the object could not be constructed in the first place.

If the program is valid, the standard is self-contradictory about its semantics.

I plan to submit Example 1 as a public comment on the C9X CD, with a recommendation that the results be undefined. (Alternative: make it unspecified. I don't think it is worthwhile to specify the case where f1 itself registers additional functions, each of which registers still more functions.)

I think we should resolve the situation in the whatever way the C committee decides.

For Example 2, I recommend we declare the results undefined.

[See reflector message lib-6500 for further discussion.]

Proposed resolution:

Change section 18.3/8 from:

First, objects with static storage duration are destroyed and functions registered by calling atexit are called. Objects with static storage duration are destroyed in the reverse order of the completion of their constructor. (Automatic objects are not destroyed as a result of calling exit().) Functions registered with atexit are called in the reverse order of their registration. A function registered with atexit before an object obj1 of static storage duration is initialized will not be called until obj1's destruction has completed. A function registered with atexit after an object obj2 of static storage duration is initialized will be called before obj2's destruction starts.

to:

First, objects with static storage duration are destroyed and functions registered by calling atexit are called. Non-local objects with static storage duration are destroyed in the reverse order of the completion of their constructor. (Automatic objects are not destroyed as a result of calling exit().) Functions registered with atexit are called in the reverse order of their registration, except that a function is called after any previously registered functions that had already been called at the time it was registered. A function registered with atexit before a non-local object obj1 of static storage duration is initialized will not be called until obj1's destruction has completed. A function registered with atexit after a non-local object obj2 of static storage duration is initialized will be called before obj2's destruction starts. A local static object obj3 is destroyed at the same time it would be if a function calling the obj3 destructor were registered with atexit at the completion of the obj3 constructor.

Rationale:

See 99-0039/N1215, October 22, 1999, by Stephen D. Clamage for the analysis supporting to the proposed resolution.