# Type classes

Type classes are a powerful tool used in functional programming to enable ad-hoc polymorphism, more commonly known as overloading. Where many object-oriented languages leverage subtyping for polymorphic code, functional programming tends towards a combination of parametric polymorphism (think type parameters, like Java generics) and ad-hoc polymorphism.

## Example: collapsing a list

The following code snippets show code that sums a list of integers, concatenates a list of strings, and unions a list of sets.

```
def sumInts(list: List[Int]): Int = list.foldRight(0)(_ + _)
def concatStrings(list: List[String]): String = list.foldRight("")(_ ++ _)
def unionSets[A](list: List[Set[A]]): Set[A] = list.foldRight(Set.empty[A])(_ union _)
```

All of these follow the same pattern: an initial value (0, empty string, empty set) and a combining function
(`+`

, `++`

, `union`

). We’d like to abstract over this so we can write the function once instead of once for every type
so we pull out the necessary pieces into an interface.

```
trait Monoid[A] {
def empty: A
def combine(x: A, y: A): A
}
// Implementation for Int
val intAdditionMonoid: Monoid[Int] = new Monoid[Int] {
def empty: Int = 0
def combine(x: Int, y: Int): Int = x + y
}
```

The name `Monoid`

is taken from abstract algebra which specifies precisely this kind of structure.

We can now write the functions above against this interface.

```
def combineAll[A](list: List[A], A: Monoid[A]): A = list.foldRight(A.empty)(A.combine)
```

## Type classes vs. subtyping

The definition above takes an actual monoid argument instead of doing the usual object-oriented practice of using subtype constraints.

```
// Subtyping
def combineAll[A <: Monoid[A]](list: List[A]): A = ???
```

This has a subtle difference with the earlier explicit example. In order to seed the `foldRight`

with the empty value,
we need to get a hold of it given only the type `A`

. Taking `Monoid[A]`

as an argument gives us this by calling the
appropriate `empty`

method on it. With the subtype example, the `empty`

method would be on a **value** of type
`Monoid[A]`

itself, which we are only getting from the `list`

argument. If `list`

is empty, we have no values to work
with and therefore can’t get the empty value. Not to mention the oddity of getting a constant value from a non-static
object.

For another motivating difference, consider the simple pair type.

```
final case class Pair[A, B](first: A, second: B)
```

Defining a `Monoid[Pair[A, B]]`

depends on the ability to define a `Monoid[A]`

and `Monoid[B]`

, where the definition
is point-wise. With subtyping such a constraint would be encoded as something like

```
final case class Pair[A <: Monoid[A], B <: Monoid[B]](first: A, second: B) extends Monoid[Pair[A, B]] {
def empty: Pair[A, B] = ???
def combine(x: Pair[A, B], y: Pair[A, B]): Pair[A, B] = ???
}
```

Not only is the type signature of `Pair`

now messy but it also forces all instances of `Pair`

to have a `Monoid`

instance, whereas `Pair`

should be able to carry any types it wants and if the types happens to have a
`Monoid`

instance then so would it. We could try bubbling down the constraint into the methods themselves.

```
final case class Pair[A, B](first: A, second: B) extends Monoid[Pair[A, B]] {
def empty(implicit eva: A <:< Monoid[A], evb: B <:< Monoid[B]): Pair[A, B] = ???
def combine(x: Pair[A, B], y: Pair[A, B])(implicit eva: A <:< Monoid[A], evb: B <:< Monoid[B]): Pair[A, B] = ???
}
// <console>:15: error: class Pair needs to be abstract, since:
// it has 2 unimplemented members.
// /** As seen from class Pair, the missing signatures are as follows.
// * For convenience, these are usable as stub implementations.
// */
// def combine(x: Pair[A,B],y: Pair[A,B]): Pair[A,B] = ???
// def empty: Pair[A,B] = ???
//
// final case class Pair[A, B](first: A, second: B) extends Monoid[Pair[A, B]] {
// ^
```

But now these don’t conform to the interface of `Monoid`

due to the implicit constraints.

### Implicit derivation

Note that a `Monoid[Pair[A, B]]`

is derivable given `Monoid[A]`

and `Monoid[B]`

:

```
final case class Pair[A, B](first: A, second: B)
def deriveMonoidPair[A, B](A: Monoid[A], B: Monoid[B]): Monoid[Pair[A, B]] =
new Monoid[Pair[A, B]] {
def empty: Pair[A, B] = Pair(A.empty, B.empty)
def combine(x: Pair[A, B], y: Pair[A, B]): Pair[A, B] =
Pair(A.combine(x.first, y.first), B.combine(x.second, y.second))
}
```

One of the most powerful features of type classes is the ability to do this kind of derivation automatically. We can do this through Scala’s implicit mechanism.

```
object Demo { // needed for tut, irrelevant to demonstration
final case class Pair[A, B](first: A, second: B)
object Pair {
implicit def tuple2Instance[A, B](implicit A: Monoid[A], B: Monoid[B]): Monoid[Pair[A, B]] =
new Monoid[Pair[A, B]] {
def empty: Pair[A, B] = Pair(A.empty, B.empty)
def combine(x: Pair[A, B], y: Pair[A, B]): Pair[A, B] =
Pair(A.combine(x.first, y.first), B.combine(x.second, y.second))
}
}
}
```

We also change any functions that have a `Monoid`

constraint on the type parameter to take the argument implicitly,
and any instances of the type class to be implicit.

```
implicit val intAdditionMonoid: Monoid[Int] = new Monoid[Int] {
def empty: Int = 0
def combine(x: Int, y: Int): Int = x + y
}
def combineAll[A](list: List[A])(implicit A: Monoid[A]): A = list.foldRight(A.empty)(A.combine)
```

Now we can also `combineAll`

a list of `Pair`

s so long as `Pair`

’s type parameters themselves have `Monoid`

instances.

```
implicit val stringMonoid: Monoid[String] = new Monoid[String] {
def empty: String = ""
def combine(x: String, y: String): String = x ++ y
}
```

```
import Demo.{Pair => Paired}
// import Demo.{Pair=>Paired}
combineAll(List(Paired(1, "hello"), Paired(2, " "), Paired(3, "world")))
// res7: Demo.Pair[Int,String] = Pair(6,hello world)
```

## A note on syntax

In many cases, including the `combineAll`

function above, the implicit arguments can be written with syntactic sugar.

```
def combineAll[A : Monoid](list: List[A]): A = ???
```

While nicer to read as a user, it comes at a cost for the implementer.

```
// Defined in the standard library, shown for illustration purposes
// Implicitly looks in implicit scope for a value of type `A` and just hands it back
def implicitly[A](implicit ev: A): A = ev
def combineAll[A : Monoid](list: List[A]): A =
list.foldRight(implicitly[Monoid[A]].empty)(implicitly[Monoid[A]].combine)
```

For this reason, many libraries that provide type classes provide a utility method on the companion object of the type
class, usually under the name `apply`

, that skirts the need to call `implicitly`

everywhere.

```
object Monoid {
def apply[A : Monoid]: Monoid[A] = implicitly[Monoid[A]]
}
def combineAll[A : Monoid](list: List[A]): A =
list.foldRight(Monoid[A].empty)(Monoid[A].combine)
```

Cats uses simulacrum for defining type classes which will auto-generate such an `apply`

method.

# Laws

Conceptually, all type classes come with laws. These laws constrain implementations for a given type and can be exploited and used to reason about generic code.

For instance, the `Monoid`

type class requires that
`combine`

be associative and `empty`

be an identity element for `combine`

. That means the following
equalities should hold for any choice of `x`

, `y`

, and `z`

.

```
combine(x, combine(y, z)) = combine(combine(x, y), z)
combine(x, id) = combine(id, x) = x
```

With these laws in place, functions parameterized over a `Monoid`

can leverage them for say, performance
reasons. A function that collapses a `List[A]`

into a single `A`

can do so with `foldLeft`

or
`foldRight`

since `combine`

is assumed to be associative, or it can break apart the list into smaller
lists and collapse in parallel, such as

```
val list = List(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
val (left, right) = list.splitAt(2)
```

```
// Imagine the following two operations run in parallel
val sumLeft = combineAll(left)
// sumLeft: Int = 3
val sumRight = combineAll(right)
// sumRight: Int = 12
// Now gather the results
val result = Monoid[Int].combine(sumLeft, sumRight)
// result: Int = 15
```

Cats provides laws for type classes via the `kernel-laws`

and `laws`

modules which makes law checking
type class instances easy.