Patryk Patryk - 1 month ago 7
C++ Question

How exactly std::string_view is faster than const std::string&?

has made it to C++17 and it is widely recommended to use it instead of
const std::string&
.

One of the reasons is performance.

Can someone explain how exactly
std::string_view
is/will be faster than
const std::string&
when used as a paramter type? (let's assume no copies in the callee are made)

Answer

std::string_view is faster in a few cases.

First, std::string const& requires the data to be in a std::string, and not a raw C array, a char const* returned by a C API, a std::vector<char> produced by some deserialization engine, etc. The avoided format conversion avoids copying bytes, and (if the string is longer than the SBO1 for the particular std::string implementation) avoids a memory allocation.

void foo( std::string_view bob ) {
  std::cout << bob << "\n";
}
int main(int argc, char const*const* argv) {
  foo( "This is a string long enough to avoid the std::string SBO" );
  if (argc > 1)
    foo( argv[1] );
}

No allocations are done in the string_view case, but there would be if foo took a std::string const& instead of a string_view.

The second really big reason is that it permits working with substrings without a copy. Suppose you are parsing a 2 gigabyte json string (!)2. If you parse it into std::string, each such parse node where they store the name or value of a node copies the original data from the 2 gb string to a local node.

Instead, if you parse it to std::string_views, the nodes refer to the original data. This can save millions of allocations and halve memory requirements during parsing.

The speedup you can get is simply ridiculous.

This is an extreme case, but other "get a substring and work with it" cases can also generate decent speedups with string_view.

An important part to the decision is what you lose by using std::string_view. It isn't much, but it is something.

You lose implicit null termination, and that is about it. So if the same string will be passed to 3 functions all of which require a null terminator, converting to std::string once may be wise. Thus if your code is known to need a null terminator, and you don't expect strings fed from C-style sourced buffers or the like, maybe take a std::string const&. Otherwise take a std::string_view.

If std::string_view had a flag that stated if it was null terminated (or something fancier) it would remove even that last reason to use a std::string const&.

There is a case where taking a std::string with no const& is optimal over a std::string_view. If you need to own a copy of the string indefinitely after the call, taking by-value is efficient. You'll either be in the SBO case (and no allocations, just a few character copies to duplicate it), or you'll be able to move the heap-allocated buffer into a local std::string. Having two overloads std::string&& and std::string_view might be faster, but only marginally, and it would cause modest code bloat (which could cost you all of the speed gains).


1 Small Buffer Optimization

2 Actual use case.

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