This guide explains why we use implicit Tupler parameters in the signature of some algebra operations and how it works.


As explained in the design page, to model a request that carries an information of type A, we use the type Request[A]. This type A is important because it represents what is needed by clients to build such a request and what is received by servers to process such a request. For instance, a request carrying a user id could be modeled as Request[Long]. Clients would have to supply a Long value in order to build such a request, and servers would decode a Long value. Tracking these types is important because it guarantees that requests and responses are well-formed.

Now, suppose that we define a request that has an URL carrying a user id (of type Long), and an entity carrying an UpdateUser value (describing changes to apply to a user resource). Such a request would have type Request[(Long, UpdateUser)].

To support the definition of such requests, the algebra provides an operation that, given an URL and a request entity, returns a request. A naive definition of such an operation could be the following:

def request[U, E](url: Url[U], entity: RequestEntity[E]): Request[(U, E)]

So that, given an Url[Long] and a RequestEntity[UpdateUser], it would return a Request[(Long, UpdateUser)].

However, some requests have no entity. An empty request entity is modeled by the emptyEntity constructor, which has type RequestEntity[Unit].

This means that given the above definition of request, defining a request whose URL carries a Long value, but having no entity, would have type Request[(Long, Unit)]. Also, to build such requests clients would have to supply a (Long, Unit) value, and to handle such requests servers would have to process a (Long, Unit) value. However, these Unit values are never meaningful: they can not carry any useful information.

Things are even worse because in practice requests are formed of an Url[U], a RequestEntity[E] and a RequestHeaders[H]. So, the “naive” return type of a request should be Request[(U, E, H)], even if several of these type parameters are instantiated to Unit.

The goal of the Tupler type is to compute more useful tuple types by discarding the Unit parameters. For instance, it produces a Request[Long] instead of a Request[(Long, Unit)]. Additionally, nested tuples are flattened: Request[((Long, Boolean), String)] becomes Request[(Long, Boolean, String)].

How it works

The Tupler[A, B] type takes two type parameters A and B and defines an abstract type member Out. This Out type defines the “useful” form of tupling A and B.

trait Tupler[A, B] {
  type Out

Algebra operations that want to tuple types A and B take as parameter an implicit tupler: Tupler[A, B] and return a tupler.Out instead of an (A, B).

Several implicit instances of Tupler are provided. For example, the following instance returns a pair of (A, B) for all types A and B:

implicit def pair[A, B]: Tupler[A, B] { type Out = (A, B) }

But we have seen that our goal is to special case tupling Unit types. This is achieved by defining another Tupler instance with a higher priority than this one, for the case where one of the type parameters is Unit. For instance:

implicit def keepFirst[A]: Tupler[A, Unit] { type Out = A }

The keepFirst instance computes the type of tupling A and Unit, for all type A, to be A.

When the operation that takes an implicit Tupler as parameter is called, appropriate instances of Tupler will compute the type of the resulting tuple, by discarding Unit types and flattening nested tuples.