Ownership Domains: Separating Alias Policy from Mechanism

2004 European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2004), Oslo, Norway, June 14-18 2004.
Jonathan Aldrich and Craig Chambers
Ownership types promise to provide a practical mechanism for enforcing stronger encapsulation by controlling aliasing in objectoriented languages. However, previous ownership type proposals have tied the aliasing policy of a system to the mechanism of ownership. As a result, these proposals are too weak to express many important aliasing constraints, yet also so restrictive that they prohibit many useful programming idioms.

In this paper, we propose ownership domains, which decouple encapsulation policy from the mechanism of ownership in two key ways. First, developers can specify multiple ownership domains for each object, permitting a fine-grained control of aliasing compared to systems that provide only one ownership domain for each object. Second, developers can specify the permitted aliasing between each pair of domains in the system, providing more flexibility compared to systems that enforce a fixed policy for inter-domain aliasing. Because it decouples policy from mechanism, our alias control system is both more precise and more flexible than previous ownership type systems.

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Cecil Group