Is it reasonable to take std::istream&& as a argument?

  • A+

I have encountered code which does this:

SomeObject parse (std::istream && input) {.... 

The input argument is an rvalue reference, which normally means the function is intended to take ownership of the argument. That's not quite what is happening here.

The parse function will completely consume the input stream, and it demands an rvalue reference because then calling code will give away ownership of the istream and hence this is a signal that the input stream will be unusable.

I think this is okay because, since the parse function doesn't actually move the object around, there is no danger of slicing out the subtype. This is basically behaving as a normal reference from parse's point of view, only there is a kind of compilable comment to the calling function that you have to give up ownership of the stream.

Is this code actually safe? Or is there some overlooked subtlety which makes this dangerous?


std::move just produces an rvalue reference from an object and nothing more. The nature of an rvalue is such that you can assume nobody else will care about it's state after you're done with it. std::move then is used to allow developpers to make that promise about objects with other value categories. In other words calling std::move in a meaningful context is equivalent to saying "I promise I don't care about this object's state anymore".

Since you will be making the object essentially unusable and you want to make sure the caller won't use the object anymore using an rvalue reference enforces this expectation to some extent. It forces the caller to make that promise to your function. Failure to make the promise will result in a compiler error (assuming there isn't another valid overload). It does not matter if you actually move from the object or not, only that the original owner has agreed to forfeit it's ownership.


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