Jonathan Aldrich
Carnegie Mellon University

Ownership Domains: High-level Reasoning about Object Aliasing


Shared, mutable state is endemic in object-oriented programs, causing significant problems in understanding and evolving object-oriented software systems.  Ownership types provide a lightweight way to state and enforce high-level constraints on aliasing, enabling separate reasoning about the state of different parts of the program.

However, previous ownership type proposals have tied the aliasing policy of a system to the mechanism of ownership.  As a result, these proposals are too weak to express many important aliasing constraints, yet also so restrictive that they prohibit many useful programming idioms.

In this talk, I will describe Ownership Domains, which decouple encapsulation policy from the mechanism of ownership in two key ways. First, developers can specify multiple ownership domains for each object, permitting a fine-grained control of aliasing compared to systems that provide only one ownership domain for each object.  Second, developers can specify the permitted aliasing between each pair of domains in the system, providing more flexibility compared to systems that enforce a fixed policy for inter-domain aliasing.  Because it decouples policy from mechanism, our alias control system is both more precise and more flexible than previous ownership type systems.
This is joint work with Craig Chambers at the University of Washington.

Principles of Programming Seminars

Friday, January 23, 2004
3:30 p.m.
Wean Hall 8220