I'm following up on a message by Andrea Faulds on Feb 4, 2019
Have you considered adding a WeakMap type as well — a map of (object)
keys to values where the keys are weakly referenced? This is a useful
construct based on weak references and something I'm sure will be
wanted. It could in theory be implemented in userland on top of your
proposal, but it would be nice to save userland having to reimplement it
(probably multiple times), and userland could be saved the problem of
manually cleaning up now-dead weak references (annoyingly O(n)) and
deciding when to do so — an internal implementation can handle it
automagically and more performantly. :)
Followed by a message by Joe Watkins the next day
I have considered maps ... since it is possible to do in userland, I don't
consider it super urgent, and even if you do, it doesn't become urgent
until PHP 7.4 is much closer to release.
So, we have almost a year; If this flies in, it's highly likely I'll
follow it up ... but don't really want to spend any more time on it until I
know it's worthwhile.
I'm starting to play with WeakReferences, and the need for a WeakMap is
coming fast. As said above, yes it can be implemented in userland, but you
cannot free up memory until you have an opportunity to do so manually, and
it's expensive. This is particularly painful and defeats some of the
purpose of weak references, as you cannot reclaim all memory easily.
Take the example of a data mapper, that loads objects from the DB and
associates them with some metadata (snapshot of original properties, etc.).
Weak references, in theory, allows the data mapper to automatically clean
up the associated metadata when an object goes out of scope.
With the current WeakReference implementation though, we can only perform
this cleanup the next time we interact with our data mapper, which will
be our opportunity to loop through weak references and check if they're
still valid. If we don't interact with it anymore (and it stays in scope),
well too bad, memory is wasted. If we do interact with it, we'll waste CPU
cycles by looping through weak refs on potentially every interaction, to
check if something can be cleaned up. Or worse, we can put this burden on
our users, by "offering" them to call some cleanup method when they see fit.
Enough said, it would be nice to have either a native WeakMap
implementation, or alternatively, the possibility to set up a callback
function on the WeakReference, that would be called when the object is
reclaimed by the GC. This would open the possibility of an actually useful
userland implementation of WeakMap (though I do think that a native one
would be much better).
Unfortunately the discussion went silent for quite some time and missed the
feature freeze deadline for PHP 7.4.
Still, is there any plan to add WeakMap at some point? Is there any tiny
chance that an exception can be made to the feature freeze to finish this
As it stands, the WeakReference is not nearly as useful as I thought it