Revamping the module hierarchy

Simon Marlow marlowsd at
Wed Jun 24 06:35:41 EDT 2009

On 19/06/2009 14:44, Edward Kmett wrote:
> On Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 6:06 AM, wren ng thornton
> <wren at <mailto:wren at>> wrote:
>     I agree with Maurico that what we really need is to have the tools
>     to be able to rearrange the tree at will. The Haskell language has
>     no business dealing with the provenance of where modules come
>     from--- and forcing modules to be named after their packages would
>     make it do so. Currently, ghc-pkg (or whatever) handles the
>     provenance of making sure that packages are visible to have their
>     modules be loaded. As it stands, this provenance mechanism
>     automatically roots all packages at the same place, but there's no
>     reason it needs to. We just have to come up with the right DSL for
>     scripting ghc-pkg (or equivalently, the right CLI) to be able to
>     play around with the module namespace in a more intelligent way.
>     For instance, let's assume we have:
>      > ghc-pkg describe libfoo-0.0.0
>         ...
>         exposed-modules: Data.Foo Control.Bar Control.Bar.Baz
>         ...
>     Now, if we say:
>         ghc-pkg expose libfoo-0.0.0
>     Then any Haskell programs can now load the modules mentioned above,
>     by the names mentioned above. If instead we said something like:
>         ghc-pkg expose libfoo-0.0.0 at Zot
>     Then Haskell programs would be able to load the modules by the names
>     Zot.Data.Foo, Zot.Control.Bar, and Zot.Control.Bar.Baz instead. And
>     if we wanted to rebase subtrees then we could say something like:
>         ghc-pkg expose libfoo-0.0.0:Control.Bar as Quux
>     Which would make the modules Quux and Quux.Baz available for
>     loading, and would effectively hide libfoo-0.0.0:Data.Foo from being
>     loadable.
>     To implement this we need to update not only ghc-pkg, but also the
>     Cabal format. Rather than just specifying which dependent packages
>     must be exposed, we also need to specify *where* the package expects
>     them to be exposed in the module namespace. Assuming this is
>     implemented sanely, then all of the renaming for changing the root
>     and for rebasing subtrees can be boiled out and undone during the
>     linking phase (that is, when GHC is "linking" things to follow
>     imports etc; not when ld is actually linking things). An import
>     declaration is a reference to an actual compiled module, the name is
>     just a proxy to know where to find it, the name doesn't have any
>     meaning in itself.
>     Since every package gets their own local view of the module
>     namespace, every package can choose their own names for things.
>     Moreover, since every package must specify their local view, if one
>     wants to have some crazy jumbled view then the burden is on them to
>     specify how to do it. Since every package exposes a view of its
>     exposed module namespace, this serves as the default view. Since it
>     takes work for people to rearrange things, there will still be a
>     force to give things good names in the first place. Only we would no
>     longer be stuck with bad decisions.
> +1
> I really like this proposal.
> I agree that I much prefer the current orthogonality of modules provided
> to package names. It lets you refactor packages into several smaller
> chunks, and this would not even be possible under the other namespacing
> schemes I've seen bandied about without breaking other code.
> The biggest problem that I have with the current scheme is the inability
> to work with packages with conflicting namespaces (i.e. to support both
> the mtl and one of its competitors that overlap it). This quite
> elegantly works around that restriction.

There's a little-known extension in GHC called PackageImports that lets 
you do this:

import "monads-tf" Control.Monad.State

we use this to implement the base3-compat overlay.  I'm not claiming 
this is something we want to advertise widely or start using to resolve 
conflicts, just pointing out its existence.

wren's proposal above actually requires a good deal of effort to 
implement.  It would decouple the compile-time namespace of module names 
from the actual module names used in the compiled package, and that is a 
deep change.  However, having made that change, lots of things become 

I should point out that there have been many proposals of this kind in 
the past (search for "grafting" and "mounting" in the mailing-list 
archives).  To my mind the reason we haven't done anything like this so 
far is because there hasn't been a single proposal that stands out as 
being the right thing, and with good power-to-weight ratio.  In the past 
it has been hard to predict what we actually *need* in the way of module 
namespace manipulation when we start scaling up to thousands of 
packages, but that is now changing, so it might well be time to think 
about this again.


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