Pre-RFC / discussion: Legal transmute between repr(Rust) with repr(transparent) members

Hello. I'm working on a graph processing crate for Rust. The documentation is quite cryptic at this point, so I hope examples are more or less self-explanatory.

It seems promising so far, but I've recently come up with a way to radically streamline its API, which is unfortunately illegal according to Rustonomicon. Every graph is a collection of structures such as this one: The payload is an arbitrary data stored in a graph node, refs is a collection of pointers to other nodes in the same graph.

Since I can't allow users to use raw pointers, a special type called GraphPtr is used in the public API. As you can see, this is simply a #[repr(transparent)] wrapper of an ordinary NonNull pointer, except it uses this crate to ensure that every GraphPtr is always legal to dereference. Ergo, it is exactly the same as a normal pointer at runtime.

Intuitively this means any collection which holds NonNull should also look the same as a one holding GraphPtr

If this were the case, this no-op method and its friends would've been totally safe.

This actually works on my machine (Win10x64 + Rust 1.40), but it might inexplicably break on any update should the language team decide to do something weird with layout optimization.

If this hack will become a safe operation I will be able to replace a ton of boilerplate methods with Deref and Index traits, allow to trivially use user-defined graph structures and simply do away with the whole concept of Cursors.

I would like to get the following guarantee:

Any generic struct, tuple or enum Type<T, C>, must be layout compatible with Type<Tr, C> where T and Tr are sized copy types and Tr is #[repr(transparent)] of T.

  1. It is a user's responsibility to ensure Tr behaves identically to T inside Type.
  2. Non-generic types with the same fields and compiler-generated types like Futures and Closures don't need to adhere to this guarantee.

I'd like to know:

  1. Is there actual work required to implement my request, besides not breaking stuff that already works?

  2. Is there a realistic scenario when my suggestion blocks an important optimization?

Alternative solutions:

  1. Fork std::Collections into a separate crate and redefine every struct with #[repr(c)]
  2. A wrapper for every collection type which casts normal NonNull into my GraphPtr before giving it to a user.

These solutions are a hassle to maintain, don't provide 1-to-1 mapping of interfaces and may turn out non-zero cost in some scenarios.

  1. Add a new #[repr()] which is the same as 'transparent' plus my thing.

  2. Add a magical type for wrappers of this kind: SameLayout<T, Marker : !Sized> which does the same thing, but differently.

I have no idea if 3 and 4 make any difference implementation-wise, but these are the options I'm perfectly fine with if they do.

Would it work to use GraphPtr<'static, T> instead of NonNull<T>?

Also you could use an &LCell<'a, T> instead of inventing a GraphPtr<'a, T> pointer (where LCell is the type provided by the qcell crate or a variant that uses generativity).

It's being worked on. Main thread:

This isn't possible in general as worded. Counterexample adapted from this thread [playground]:

trait Foo {
    type Bar;

struct S(u8);
struct SS(S);

impl Foo for S {
    type Bar = u8;

impl Foo for SS {
    type Bar = u128;

struct Baz<T: Foo>(T::Bar, std::marker::PhantomData<T>);

fn hole<T>() -> T {

fn test() {
    let s: Baz<S> = hole();
    let ss: Baz<SS> = unsafe { std::mem::transmute(s) };
    // ^ cannot transmute between types of different sizes

In this example, S and SS are repr(transparent)-equivalent. However, even though Baz<T> is itself #[repr(tranparent)], Baz<S> and Baz<SS> are not repr(transparent)-equivalent, as the container can actually contain any associated data.

To make this even more startling, this probably won't even need a trait bound at some point in the future:

struct Baz<T>([u8; {std::any::type_name::<T>().len()}], std::marker::PhantomData<T>);

What you want here would have to be an opt-in documented promise from containers to not do any of these tricks, and a language guarantee of roughly "two generic instantiations of the same #[repr(Rust)] structure are considered layout-compatible if the only difference is that they contain differently-named but layout-compatible structures." If a structure doesn't promise to uphold that requirement, breaking this property in the future is a non-breaking change.

Hey look, that's me! :smile: Your use case may actually be better served by a closure-based generativity than the macro-based, to be completely honest.

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Darn. I have thought about using the struct itself, but decided that adding a random lifetime just to appease the type checker would be confusing. I totally forgot 'static exists. Thank you for making me feel dumb. :o)

Closures might get awkward when sharing data between two or more graphs in the same scope. And making an Anchor a simple object on the stack provides a nice trick of foregoing garbage collection through mem::forget which is a desirable property.

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Well, we'd first need a language-level guarantee before libraries can even make such a statement.

And I agree having such a guarantee would make sense. I think this corresponds roughly to this UCG issue: