Feature #16511


Staged warnings and better compatibility for keyword arguments in 2.7.1

Added by Dan0042 (Daniel DeLorme) over 1 year ago. Updated over 1 year ago.

Target version:


As an alternative to #16463 and #16494 I'd like to propose this approach, which I believe allows a much more flexible path for migration of keyword arguments.

The idea is to indicate for every Hash object if it's intended to represent a keyword hash or a data hash. This extra information is then used to generate more granular warnings depending on a user's compatibility needs.

The "keywordness" of a hash would be indicated by a flag on the Hash object; this is already implemented in 2.7 and is the approach favored by Matz. Let's call this flagged hash a "KwHash", and a non-flagged hash is just a "Hash". Note: this could also be implemented via a subclass of Hash (I personally favor this object-oriented approach) which was the original idea in this proposal.

I'll try to describe the idea in detail by breaking it down into figurative steps. (Skip to "Putting it all together" for the TL;DR version.) Imagine starting with ruby 2.6 and then:

Step 1

When a double-splat or a brace-less hash is used, instead of a Hash it creates a KwHash.

def foo(x) x end
foo(k:1).class      #=> KwHash
foo(**hash).class   #=> KwHash
[k:1].last.class    #=> KwHash
[**hash].last.class #=> KwHash
{**hash}.class      #=> Hash

At this point we haven't introduced any real change. Everything that worked before is still working the same way.
(With a minor exception if using the subclass approach: unusual code like kw.class == Hash would now return false.)

Step 2

When there is ambiguity due to optional vs keyword argument, we rely on the last argument being Hash or KwHash to disambiguate.

def foo(x=nil, **kw)
foo({k:1}) #=> [{k:1},{}]
foo(k:1)   #=> [nil,{k:1}]

This is the minimum amount of incompatibility required to solve ALL bugs previously reported with keyword arguments. (#8040, #8316, #9898, #10856, #11236, #11967, #12104, #12717, #12821, #13336, #13647, #14130, etc.)

The warnings for this would be about an impending change of behavior in the next ruby version, where foo({k:1}) is no longer interpreted as keyword argument.

Step 3

Introduce additional incompatibility to improve clarity of design. Here we deprecate the automatic conversion of Hash to keyword argument; only KwHash is accepted. With a deprecation/warning phase, of course. The "automatic" promotion of a KwHash to a keyword argument follows the same rules as a Hash in 2.6; since the KwHash is conceptually intended to represent keyword arguments, this conversion makes sense in a way that a normal data Hash doesn't. We've taken the "last positional hash" concept and split it into "conceptually a hash" and "conceptually keyword arguments". Most importantly, all the changes required to silence these warnings are compatible with 2.6.

def foo(x, **kw); end
foo(k:1)      # ArgumentError because x not specified
foo(1, {k:1}) # ArgumentError because too many arguments; Hash cannot be converted to KwHashs
opts = [k:1].first
foo(opts)     # opts is a KwHash therefore used as keyword argument; ArgumentError because x not specified
foo(1, opts)  # opts is a KwHash therefore used as keyword argument

The warnings for this would be about upcoming errors for positional arguments: foo(x:1) will be "given 0, expected 1" and foo(1,{x:2}) will be "given 2, expected 1". Such errors are useful when developing, but there is no new functionality per se, just a stricter syntax. So it's less important to escalate to an error and we can keep the warnings for longer than Step 2.

At this point we have achieved almost-full dynamic keyword separation, as opposed to the current almost-full static approach. I want to make the point here that, yes, keyword arguments are separated, it's just a different paradigm. With static separation, a keyword argument is defined lexically by a double-splat. With dynamic separation, a keyword argument is when the last argument is a KwHash. {{Note: I'm saying "almost-full" because KwHash is not promoted to keywords in def foo(a,**kw);end;foo(x:1) and because static keywords are auto-demoted to positional in def foo(a);end;foo(x:1)}}

Any form of delegation works with no change required. This preserves the behavior of 2.6 but only for KwHash objects. This is similar to having 2.7 with ruby2_keywords enabled by default. But also different in some ways; most notably it allows the case shown in #16494 to work by default:

array = [x:1]
array.push(x:2){ |x:| x } #=> [1,2]
[{x:3}].map{ |x:| x } #=> but this warns, as it should

The current approach does not allow this to work at all. The solution proposed in #16494 has all the same flaws as Hash-based keyword arguments; what happens to each{ |x=nil,**kw| } ? This solution allows a KwHash to be converted to... keywords. Very unsurprising.

Given that ruby is a dynamically-typed language I feel that dynamic typing of keywords if a more natural fit than static typing. But I realize that many disagree with that, which is why we continue to...

Step 4

Introduce additional incompatibility to reach static/lexical separation of keyword arguments. Here we require that even a KwHash should be passed with a double-splat in order to qualify as a keyword argument.

def bar(**kw)
def foo(**kw)
  bar(kw)   #=> error; KwHash passed without **
  bar(**kw) #=> ok

At this point we've reached the same behavior as 2.7. Delegation needs to be fixed, but as we know the changes required to silence these warnings are not compatible with 2.6 or 2.7. The warnings for this are fundamentally not fixable as long as Step 2 has not been fixed. This is the core reason why ruby2_keywords is currently necessary in 2.7. So in the version after 2.7 we can enable these warnings by default since it's now possible to fix delegation to use static keywords. Except that gem authors who need to stay compatible with ≤2.7 cannot yet make these changes, so we introduce a way to silence only these "Step 4" warnings, for people who need to remain compatible with ≤2.7. And we keep them as warnings instead of errors until ruby 2.7 is EOL.

So instead of having to update a bunch of places with ruby2_keywords just to temporarily silence warnings, it's a single flag like Warning[:ruby3_keywords]. Once ruby 2.7 is EOL these become controlled by Warning[:deprecated] which tells people they have to fix their code. Which is just like the eventual deprecation of ruby2_keywords, just without the busy work of adding ruby2_keywords statements in the first place. But again, this introduces no new functionality, just a stricter syntax. So we can play nice and leave the warnings for a few years before changing to errors.

The question remains of how to handle #16494 here. Either disallow it entirely, but I think that would be a shame. Or just like #16494 suggests, allow hash unpacking in non-lambda Proc. Except that now it can be a KwHash instead of a Hash, which at least preserves dynamic keyword separation.

Putting it all together (TL;DR)

The idea is not to reimplement keyword argument separation; all that is needed is to implement the things above that are not in 2.7:

  • Create a KwHash object for brace-less and double-splatted hashes.
  • Differentiate the various types of warnings and allow to toggle on/off separately
    • Step 2 warnings must be fixed now; cannot toggle off
    • Step 3 warnings should be fixed now but you don't absolutely need to upgrade your gems just for that
    • Step 4 warnings should be fixed in next version unless you need to support ≤2.7

I think that's all, really...


  • Cleaner way to solve #16494
  • Better compatibility (at least until 2.6 is EOL)
    • delegation
    • storing an argument list that ends with a KwHash
    • destructuring iteration (#16494)
  • We can avoid the "unfortunate corner case" as described in the release notes
    • in 2.7 only do not output "Step 4" warnings, leave delegation like it was
    • in 2.8 the "Step 3" warnings have been fixed and a Hash will not be converted to keyword arguments
    • delegation can now safely be fixed to use the ** syntax
  • ruby2_keywords is not required, which is desirable because
    • it's a hidden flag hack
    • it requires to change the code now, and change it again when ruby2_keywords is deprecated; twice the work; twice the gem upgrades
    • it was supposed to be used only for people who need to support 2.6 or below, but it's being misunderstood as an acceptable way to fix delegation in general
    • there's the non-zero risk that ruby2_keywords will never be removed, leaving us with a permanent "hack mode"
      • dynamic keywords are by far preferable to supporting ruby2_keywords forever
  • Likely better performance, as the KwHash class can be optimized specifically for the characteristics of keyword arguments.
  • More flexible migration
    • Allow more time to upgrade the hard stuff in Step 4
    • Can reach the same goal as the current static approach
    • Larger "support zone"
    • Instead of wide-ranging incompatibilities all at once, there's the possibility of making it finer-grained and more gradual
      • rubyists can choose to migrate all at once or in smaller chunks
    • It hedges the risks by keeping more possibilities open for now.
    • It allows to cop-out at Step 3 if Step 4 turns out too hard because it breaks too much stuff


  • It allows to cop-out at Step 3 if Step 4 turns out too hard because it breaks too much stuff

Related issues

Related to Ruby master - Feature #16463: Fixing *args-delegation in Ruby 2.7: ruby2_keywords semantics by default in 2.7.1Closedmatz (Yukihiro Matsumoto)Actions

Also available in: Atom PDF