Barry Barry - 11 days ago 5x
C++ Question

Why should optional<T&> rebind on assignment?

There is an ongoing debate about what

should do with reference types, particularly with regards to assignment. I would like to better understand the debate around this issue.

optional<T&> opt;
opt = i;
opt = j; // should this rebind or do i=j?

Currently, the decision is to make
ill-formed and make
ill-formed if any of the types is a reference type - to sidestep the argument and still give us most of the functionality.

What is the argument that
opt = j
should rebind the underlying reference? In other words, why should we implement
like this:

template <class T>
struct optional<T&> {
T* ptr = nullptr;

optional& operator=(T& rhs) {
ptr = &rhs;
return *this;


What is the argument that opt = j should rebind the underlying reference?

I don't know what "the argument" you're looking for is. But you've just presented "an argument" for it:

optional<T&> opt;
opt = i;
opt = j;

Now, pretend that the second and third lines are far from each other. If you're just reading the code, what would you expect opt = j to do? Or more to the point, why would you expect its behavior to differ from opt = i?

To have the behavior of a wrapper type differ so drastically based purely on its current state would be very surprising.

Furthermore, we already have a way to communicate that you want to change the value inside the optional. Namely: *opt = j. This works just as well for optional<T&> as it does for optional<T>.

The way optional works is very simple: it's a wrapper type. Like any currently existing wrapper types, operations on them affect the wrapper, not the thing being wrapped. To affect the thing being wrapped, you explicitly use * or -> or some other interface function.