nivlam nivlam - 3 months ago 5
C# Question

Dependency injection with interfaces or classes

I've been guilty of having a 1-to-1 relationship between my interfaces and concrete classes when using dependency injection. When I need to add a method to an interface, I end up breaking all the classes that implement the interface.

This is a simple example, but let's assume that I need to inject an

ILogger
into one of my classes.

public interface ILogger
{
void Info(string message);
}

public class Logger : ILogger
{
public void Info(string message) { }
}


Having a 1-to-1 relationship like this feels like a code smell. Since I only have a single implementation, are there any potentially issues if I create a class and mark the
Info
method as virtual to override in my tests instead of having to create an interface just for a single class?

public class Logger
{
public virtual void Info(string message)
{
// Log to file
}
}


If I needed another implementation, I can override the
Info
method:

public class SqlLogger : Logger
{
public override void Info(string message)
{
// Log to SQL
}
}


If each of these classes have specific properties or methods that would create a leaky abstraction, I could extract out a base class:

public class Logger
{
public virtual void Info(string message)
{
throw new NotImplementedException();
}
}

public class SqlLogger : Logger
{
public override void Info(string message) { }
}

public class FileLogger : Logger
{
public override void Info(string message) { }
}


The reason why I didn't mark the base class as abstract is because if I ever wanted to add another method, I wouldn't break existing implementations. For example, if my
FileLogger
needed a
Debug
method, I can update the base class
Logger
without breaking the existing
SqlLogger
.

public class Logger
{
public virtual void Info(string message)
{
throw new NotImplementedException();
}

public virtual void Debug(string message)
{
throw new NotImplementedException();
}
}

public class SqlLogger : Logger
{
public override void Info(string message) { }
}

public class FileLogger : Logger
{
public override void Info(string message) { }
public override void Debug(string message) { }
}


Again, this is a simple example, but when I should I prefer an interface?

Answer

The "Quick" Answer

I would stick with interfaces. They are designed to be contracts for consumption for external entities.

@JakubKonecki mentioned multiple inheritance. I think this is the biggest reason to stick with interfaces as it will become very apparent on the consumer side if you force them to take a base class... no one likes base classes being thrust upon them.

The Updated "Quick" Answer

You have stated issues with interface implementations outside your control. A good approach is to simply create a new interface inheriting from the old one and fix your own implementation. You can then notify the other teams that a new interface is available. Over time, you can deprecate older interfaces.

Don't forget you can use the support of explicit interface implementations to help maintain a nice divide between interfaces that are logically the same, but of different versions.

If you want all this to fit in with DI, then try not to define new interfaces and instead favour additions. Alternatively to limit client code changes, try to inherit new interfaces from old ones.

Implementation vs. Consumption

There is a difference between implementing the interface and consuming it. Adding a method breaks the implementation(s), but does not break the consumer.

Removing a method obviously breaks the consumer, but does not break the implementation - however you wouldn't do this if you are backwards-compatibility conscious for your consumers.

My Experiences

We frequently have a 1-to-1 relationship with interfaces. It is largely a formality but you occasionally get nice instances where interfaces are useful because we stub / mock test implementations, or we actually provide client-specific implementations. The fact that this frequently breaks that one implementation if we happen to change the interface isn't a code smell, in my opinion, it is simply how you work against interfaces.

Our interface-based approach is now standing us in good stead as we utilise techniques such as the factory pattern and elements of DI to improve an aged legacy code base. Testing was able to quickly take advantage of the fact that interfaces existed in the code base for many years before finding a "definitive" use (ie, not just 1-1 mappings with concrete classes).

Base Class Cons

Base classes are for sharing implementation details to common entities, the fact they are able to do something similar with sharing an API publicly is a by-product in my opinion. Interfaces are designed to share API publicly, so use them.

With base classes you could also potentially get leakage of implementation details, for example if you need to make something public for another part of the implementation to use. These are no conducive to maintaining a clean public API.

Breaking / Supporting Implementations

If you go down the interface route you may run into difficulty changing even the interface due to breaking contracts. Also, as you mention, you could break implementations outside of your control. There are two ways to tackle this problem:

  1. State that you won't break consumers, but you won't support implementations.
  2. State that once an interface is published, it is never changed.

I have witnessed the latter, I see it come in two guises:

  1. Completely separate interfaces for any new stuff: MyInterfaceV1, MyInterfaceV2.
  2. Interface inheritance: MyInterfaceV2 : MyInterfaceV1.

I personally wouldn't choose to go down this route, I would choose to not support implementations from breaking changes. But sometimes we don't have this choice.

Some Code

public interface IGetNames
{
    List<string> GetNames();
}

// One option is to redefine the entire interface and use 
// explicit interface implementations in your concrete classes.
public interface IGetMoreNames
{
    List<string> GetNames();
    List<string> GetMoreNames();
}

// Another option is to inherit.
public interface IGetMoreNames : IGetNames
{
    List<string> GetMoreNames();
}

// A final option is to only define new stuff.
public interface IGetMoreNames 
{
    List<string> GetMoreNames();
}
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