3454. pointer_traits::pointer_to should be constexpr

Section: 20.2.3 [pointer.traits] Status: LEWG Submitter: Alisdair Meredith Opened: 2020-06-21 Last modified: 2022-07-21 17:32:02 UTC

Priority: Not Prioritized

View all other issues in [pointer.traits].

View all issues with LEWG status.


Trying to implement a constexpr std::list (inspired by Tim Song's note on using variant members in the node) as part of evaluating the constexpr container and adapters proposals, I hit problems I could not code around in pointer_traits, as only the specialization for native pointers has a constexpr pointer_to function.

This means that containers of my custom allocator, that delegates all allocation behavior to std::allocator<T> but adds extra telemetry and uses a fancy pointer, does not work with the approach I tried for implementing list (common link type, shared between nodes, and stored as end sentinel directly in the list object).

[2020-07-17; Forwarded to LEWG after review in telecon]

[2022-07-19; Casey Carter comments]

This is no longer simply a theoretical problem that impedes implementing constexpr std::list, but an actual defect affecting current implementations of constexpr std::string. More specifically, it makes it impossible to support so-called "fancy pointers" in a constexpr basic_string that performs the small string optimization (SSO). (pointer_traits::pointer_to is critically necessary to get a pointer that designates the SSO buffer.) As things currently stand, constexpr basic_string can support fancy pointers or SSO, but not both.

Proposed resolution:

This wording is relative to N4861.

  1. Modify 20.2.3 [pointer.traits] as indicated:

    -1- The class template pointer_traits supplies a uniform interface to certain attributes of pointer-like types.

    namespace std {
      template<class Ptr> struct pointer_traits {
        using pointer         = Ptr;
        using element_type    = see below;
        using difference_type = see below;
        template<class U> using rebind = see below;
        static constexpr pointer pointer_to(see below r);
  2. Modify [pointer.traits.functions] as indicated:

    static constexpr pointer pointer_traits::pointer_to(see below r);
    static constexpr pointer pointer_traits<T*>::pointer_to(see below r) noexcept;

    -1- Mandates: For the first member function, Ptr::pointer_to(r) is well-formed.

    -2- Preconditions: For the first member function, Ptr::pointer_to(r) returns a pointer to r through which indirection is valid.

    -3- Returns: The first member function returns Ptr::pointer_to(r). The second member function returns addressof(r).

    -4- Remarks: If element_type is cv void, the type of r is unspecified; otherwise, it is element_type&.