Kind-polymorphic Typeablein GHC 7.8

The page describes an improved implementation of the Typeable class, using polymorphic kinds, available from GHC 7.8. Technically it is straightforward, but it represents a non-backward-compatible change to a widely used library, so we had to make a plan for the transition.

Relevant tickets we fixed: #5391, #5863.

The Typeable class before 7.8

Before 7.8, the Typeable class was as follows:

class Typeable (a :: *) where
  typeOf :: a -> TypeRep

Because it was mono-kinded we also had

class Typeable1 (f :: *->*) where
  typeOf1 :: f a -> TypeRep

and so on up to Typeable7. It was a mess, and we couldn't make Typeable at all for type constructors with higher kinds like

  Foo :: (* -> *) -> *

See #5391.

The new Typeable class, in GHC 7.8

Having polymorphic kinds lets us say this:

data Proxy t = Proxy

class Typeable t where
  typeRep :: proxy t -> TypeRep

Notice that

  • Typeable has a polymorphic kind:
      Typeable :: forall k. k -> Constraint
  • The method is called typeRep rather than typeOf
  • One reason for the name change is that the argument is not a value of the type t, but a value of type (proxy t). We have to do this because t may have any kind, so we can't say
      typeOf :: t -> TypeRep
  • You can instantiate proxy to whatever you want; one common choice is the poly-kinded Proxy datatype:
      Proxy:: forall k. k -> *

Now the base library code can have kind-specific instances:

instance Typeable Int where typeRep _ = ...
instance Typeable []  where typeRep _ = ...
instance (Typeable a, Typeable b) => Typeable (a b) where
  typeRep _ = ...

A use of deriving( Typeable ) for a type constructor T always generates

instance Typable T where typeRep _ = ....

i.e. an instance of T itself, not applied to anything.

How to make your code compile again

If you have code involving Typeable that fails to compile with 7.8, it might be due to the changes described above. Here's a few things to keep in mind in order to make your code compile again:

  • Users can no longer giving manual instances of Typeable; they must be derived.
  • Manual instances were often written for datatypes with non kind-* arguments. These can now be derived without problems. So if you had, for example:
    data Fix f = In (f (Fix f))
    instance (Typeable1 f) => Typeable (Fix f) where typeOf = ...
    you can now simply attach deriving Typeable to Fix.
  • You can still use typeOf1..7; they are now just (deprecated) type-specific versions of typeRep. But keep in mind that they are no longer methods of a class, as the classes Typeable1..7 no longer exist.
  • You can still use Typeable1..7; they are now just (deprecated) type synonyms for Typeable, fixing the kind of their argument. But keep in mind that they are no longer classes, just type synonyms.
  • If all else fails, you could just try replacing your import Data.Typeable with import Data.OldTypeable. But keep in mind that OldTypeable is distinct, and incompatible with the new Typeable.
  • If you want code that compiles with multiple versions of GHC, you should use CPP. The tagged package on Hackage is a good example of how to achieve this.

A change-over plan

In GHC 7.8:

  • Rename Data.Typeable to Data.OldTypeable and deprecate the whole module.
  • Define a new library Data.Typeable with the new definitions in them.
  • Include in Data.Typeable old methods for backward compatibility, but deprecate them:
    typeOf :: forall a. Typeable a => a -> TypeRep
    typeOf _ = typeRep (Proxy :: Proxy a)
    typeOf1 :: forall t (a :: *). Typeable t => t a -> TypeRep
    typeOf1 _ = typeRep (Proxy :: Proxy t)
    type Typeable1 (a :: * -> *)                               = Typeable a
    type Typeable2 (a :: * -> * -> *)                          = Typeable a
  • Make deriving( Typeable ) work with whatever Typeable class is in scope. So what it does will be determined by whether you say import Data.Typeable or import Data.OldTypeable.

In GHC 7.10:

  • Remove Data.OldTypeable


Open question: what are the corresponding changes to Data.Data? See #4896.

Last modified 14 months ago Last modified on Feb 25, 2014 10:23:02 AM