Jarrad J. Waterloo <descender76 at gmail dot com>
|Audience||Library Evolution Working Group (LEWG)
SG23 Safety and Security
This paper proposes the standard adds the
at method to
std::span class in order to address safety, consistency and PR (public relations) concerns.
constexpr reference at(size_type idx) const;
Returns a reference to the element at specified location idx, with bounds checking.
If idx is not within the range of the container, an exception of type std::out_of_range is thrown.
Parameters idx - index of the element to return
Return value Reference to the requested element.
Exceptions Throws std::out_of_range if idx >= size().
This new method is safe in the sense that it has defined behavior instead of undefined behavior. Further, the defined behavior is one that can be caught in the code by catching the exception.
C++ keeps giving easy wins to our rivals even though they like to hit below the belt. It is nice when a supporter of a rival language makes an honest comparison.
“In both Rust and C++, there is a method for checked array indexing, and a method for unchecked array indexing. The languages actually agree on this issue. They only disagree about which version gets to be spelled with brackets.” - Being Fair about Memory Safety and Performance 
Unfortunately this isn’t totally true.
std::span<T> indexing” 
std::array can at least theoretically be used safely because they offer an
at() method which is bounds checked (in practice I’ve never seen this done, but you could imagine a project adopting a static analysis tool which simply banned calls to
span does not offer an
at() method, or any other method which performs a bounds checked lookup.” [7:1]
“Interestingly, both Firefox and Chromium’s backports of std::span do perform bounds checks in operator, and thus they’ll never be able to safely migrate to std::span.” - Modern C++ Won’t Save Us [7:2]
Consequently, the programming community in general are encouraged to ask some tough questions.
span::at()not provided in
atfunctions going to be deprecated?
span::at()not added in
Ultimately, this becomes a stereotypical example of how
C++ traditionally handles safety. This example gets to be pointed at for years/decades to come. All of this could have been avoided, along with more effort of adding this function individually had more consideration been given valid safety concerns.
Both of the
span lite and
Guidelines Support Library libraries have this new method implemented for years.
span lite: A single-file header-only version of a C++20-like span for C++98, C++11 and later
Guidelines Support Library
Likely, there are others too such as “Firefox and Chromium’s backports of std::span”. [7:3]
Please add the
at method to
std::span class in order to address safety, consistency and PR (public relations) concerns. Also keep ones mind open to an
std::expected version in the future as well as other reasonable safety requests.