Caching and subtle considerations therewith

In general, we attempt to cache the results of trait selection. This is a somewhat complex process. Part of the reason for this is that we want to be able to cache results even when all the types in the trait reference are not fully known. In that case, it may happen that the trait selection process is also influencing type variables, so we have to be able to not only cache the result of the selection process, but replay its effects on the type variables.

An example

The high-level idea of how the cache works is that we first replace all unbound inference variables with placeholder versions. Therefore, if we had a trait reference usize : Foo<$t>, where $t is an unbound inference variable, we might replace it with usize : Foo<$0>, where $0 is a placeholder type. We would then look this up in the cache.

If we found a hit, the hit would tell us the immediate next step to take in the selection process (e.g. apply impl #22, or apply where clause X : Foo<Y>).

On the other hand, if there is no hit, we need to go through the selection process from scratch. Suppose, we come to the conclusion that the only possible impl is this one, with def-id 22:

impl Foo<isize> for usize { ... } // Impl #22

We would then record in the cache usize : Foo<$0> => ImplCandidate(22). Next we would confirm ImplCandidate(22), which would (as a side-effect) unify $t with isize.

Now, at some later time, we might come along and see a usize : Foo<$u>. When replaced with a placeholder, this would yield usize : Foo<$0>, just as before, and hence the cache lookup would succeed, yielding ImplCandidate(22). We would confirm ImplCandidate(22) which would (as a side-effect) unify $u with isize.

Where clauses and the local vs global cache

One subtle interaction is that the results of trait lookup will vary depending on what where clauses are in scope. Therefore, we actually have two caches, a local and a global cache. The local cache is attached to the ParamEnv, and the global cache attached to the tcx. We use the local cache whenever the result might depend on the where clauses that are in scope. The determination of which cache to use is done by the method pick_candidate_cache in At the moment, we use a very simple, conservative rule: if there are any where-clauses in scope, then we use the local cache. We used to try and draw finer-grained distinctions, but that led to a series of annoying and weird bugs like #22019 and #18290. This simple rule seems to be pretty clearly safe and also still retains a very high hit rate (~95% when compiling rustc).

TODO: it looks like pick_candidate_cache no longer exists. In general, is this section still accurate at all?