rfc:mixed_type_v2

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PHP RFC: Mixed Type v2

Introduction

With the addition of scalar types in PHP 7, nullables in 7.1, `object` in 7.2, and lastly, union types in 8.0, people writing PHP code can explicitly declare type information for most function parameters, function returns, as well as class properties.

However, PHP has not always supported types, and most probably it will always allow to omit type information. But this leads to the problem that its meaning is ambiguous when type information is missing:

  • the type is a specific type, but the programmer forgot to declare it.
  • the type is a specific type, but the programmer omitted it to keep compatibility with an older PHP version
  • the type is not currently expressible in PHP's type system, and so no type could be specified.
  • for return types, it is not clear if the function will or will not return a value, other than null.

An explicit mixed type would allow people to add types to parameters, class properties and function returns to indicate that the type information wasn't forgotten about, it just can't be specified more precisely, or the programmer explicitly decided not to do so.

Currently, mixed can only be used in PHPDoc-based type hints to give more context about a type, but this is a suboptimal solution, since it also has the same problems that comments generally have.

One prominent example where the mixed type is extensively used in PHPDoc is the stubs of PHP's own standard library with which type information is defined for internal functions. If we had the native mixed type, we could provide more precise reflection information for users about functions that accept or return any type.

Additionally, the mixed pseudo-type is used widely in the PHP manual:

var_dump ( mixed $expression [, mixed $... ] ) : void

Proposal

This RFC proposes to add the mixed type to be used in PHP's type system. A type of mixed would be equivalent to array|bool|callable|int|float|null|object|resource|string as this is the correct behaviour to conform to LSP using PHP's implementation of type checking for inheritance.

LSP, Covariance and Contravariance

The proposal conforms to the Liskov Substituion Priniciple, when performing signature checks for inheritance.

Since 7.4 PHP allows covariant returns and contravariant parameters.

PHP allows contravariance (aka type widening) for parameter types to obey the LSP principle. A subclass may use a 'wider' aka less specific type in place of the inherited type for a parameter.

PHP allows covariance (aka type narrowing) for return types to obey the LSP principle. A subclass may use a 'narrower' aka more specific type in place of the inherited type for a function return.

Parameter types are contravariant

A parameter type may be widened in a subclass from a specific value type to the mixed type as this is contravariant and so is allowed in LSP.

// Valid example
 
class A
{
    public function foo(int $value) {}
}
 
class B extends A
{
    // Parameter type was widened from int to mixed, this is allowed
    public function foo(mixed $value) {}
}

A parameter type may not be narrowed in a subclass to a more specific type as this is not contravariant and so violates LSP.

// Invalid example
 
class A
{
    public function foo(mixed $value) {}
}
 
class B extends A
{
    // Parameter type cannot be narrowed from mixed to int
    // Fatal error thrown
    public function foo(int $value) {}
}

Return types are covariant

The mixed return type could be narrowed in a subclass as this is covariant and is allowed in LSP.

// Valid example
 
class A
{
    public function bar(): mixed {}
}
 
class B extends A
{
    // return type was narrowed from mixed to int, this is allowed
    public function bar(): int {}
}

Specific return type may not be widened by using mixed as this is not covariant and so breaks LSP.

// Invalid example
 
class C
{
    public function bar(): int {}
}
 
class D extends C
{
    // return type cannot be widened from int to mixed
    // Fatal error thrown
    public function bar(): mixed {}
}

Property types are invariant

Following the https://wiki.php.net/rfc/typed_properties_v2#inheritance_and_variance, all property types are invariant.

// Invalid example
 
class A
{
    public mixed $foo;
    public int $bar;
    public $baz;
}
 
class B extends A
{
    // property type cannot be narrowed from mixed to int
    // Fatal error thrown
    public int $foo;
}
 
class C extends A
{
    // property type cannot be widened from int to mixed
    // Fatal error thrown
    public mixed $bar;
}
 
class D extends A
{
    // property type cannot be added
    // Fatal error thrown
    public mixed $baz;
}
 
class E extends A
{
    // property type cannot be removed
    // Fatal error thrown
    public $foo;
}

Void return type

The signature checking done in PHP for functions that return void does not currently allow covariance, even though that could be conformant to LSP.

class A
{
    public function bar(): void {}
}
 
class B extends A
{
    public function bar(): int {}
}
 
// Fatal error: Declaration of B::bar(): int must be compatible with A::bar(): void

The position of this RFC is to follow the existing behaviour: i.e. you can't widen the type from void to mixed, when inheriting.

Signature checking of function when no parameter type present

When no type is present for a function parameter, the signature checks for inheritance are done as if the parameter had a mixed type.

class A
{
    // no type is specified, mixed type is assumed
    public function foo($value) {}
}
 
class B extends A
{
    // mixed type is explicitly specified, and is invariant to
    // type in parent class
    public function foo(mixed $value) {}
}
 
class C extends B
{
    // no type is specified, mixed type is assumed which is
    // invariant to type in parent class
    public function foo($value) {}
}
 
class D extends B
{
    public function foo(mixed $value = null) {}
}

Currently this only affects inheritance in classes.

If/when PHP gains the abilties to declare function signatures as types, rather than just the generic callable type this signature checking should work for those signature checks also.

Signature checking of function when no return type present

When no type is present for a function return, the signature checks for inheritance are done as if the parameter had a mixed|void type.

When no type is specified, the same method in a subclass must either also declare no return type, declare void or declare mixed (or any other value type which is subtype of mixed). Additionally neither mixed nor void return types could be changed back to no type since this would widen the resulting type.

class A
{
    // no return type is specified, mixed|void is assumed
    public function foo() {}
}
 
class B extends A
{
    // mixed type is explicitly specified. The type 'mixed' is
    // covariant to 'mixed|void' and so is allowed to be declared
    // for this function.
    public function foo(): mixed {}
}
 
class C extends B
{
    // INVALID - no type is specified, mixed|void is assumed.
    // 'mixed|void' is not covariant to 'mixed' and so this breaks LSP.
    // Fatal error is thrown
    public function foo() {}
}
 
class D extends B
{
    // INVALID - as void is not subtype of mixed, Fatal error is thrown
    public function foo(): void {}
}

The mixed|void union type

The position of this RFC is that supporting a union of mixed|void is not needed and so proposes not allowing that type declaration to be used. This limitation could be lifted at a later date if a use-case was found.

Nullability

The mixed is a union type that accepts any value type, including null. Allowing the mixed type declaration to be nullable would be duplication of information i.e. ?mixed would be always be equivalent to be mixed.

The position of this RFC is to not support nullability of mixed type. This could always be added at a later date if a requirement for adding it was discovered. This would be part of a separate RFC that would address directly which 'redundant types' should or shouldn't be allowed.

//INVALID - Fatal error: Mixed types cannot be nullable, null is already part of the mixed type.
function foo(?mixed $arg) {}
 
//INVALID - Fatal error: Mixed types cannot be nullable, null is already part of the mixed type.
function bar(): ?mixed {}

Resource 'type'

Although variables can be a resource in PHP, it is not possible to use resource as a parameter, return or property type in userland PHP code.

The position of this RFC is that resource variables of type resource should pass the mixed type check as that is the most useful thing to do.

Mixed vs any

This RFC proposes mixed rather than any since mixed has been used widely in the PHP ecosystem already (e.g. the PHP manual, static analysis tools like PHPStan and Psalm, IDEs).

Also, choosing to use any would likely have a slightly bigger BC break, as mixed is a soft reserved keyword since PHP 7, but any hasn't had any warnings against using it as a class name.

RFC Impact

Proposed PHP Version(s)

8.0

Backward Incompatible Changes

Since PHP 7.0, mixed is a 'soft' reserved word. This RFC would prevent the use of mixed as a class name if it is passed.

To SAPIs

None known.

To Existing Extensions

None known.

To Opcache

Not analyzed.

Proposed Voting Choices

Add mixed as a type to be used as parameter, return and class property types - yes/no.

Patches and Tests

References

rfc/mixed_type_v2.1587345500.txt.gz · Last modified: 2020/04/20 01:18 by danack