SIP 25 - @static fields and methods in Scala objects(SI-4581)

Dmitry Petrashko, Sébastien Doeraene and Martin Odersky

first submitted 11 January 2016


We would like to allow methods and fields to be compiled as static. This is usable for interop with Java and other JVM languages, as well as with JavaScript, and is convenient for optimizations.

Use Cases

Some JVM and JavaScript frameworks require classes to have specific static fields and/or methods.

For example, classes extending android.os.Parcelable are required to have a static field named CREATOR of type android.os.Parcelable$Creator.

Another example is using an AtomicReferenceFieldUpdater.

On the JavaScript side, one example is Relay Route Definitions, whose subclasses must define static fields such as queries. Static methods and fields for JavaScript classes are one of the very few things (if not the only thing) that Scala.js “cannot do” at the moment, at least not declaratively.


In order for a method or field to be considered static it needs to be defined in an object and annotated @static. There is no special syntax proposed to access these members, they are accessed as if they were a member of defining objects with all appropriate access requirements for accessing them.

For example:

class Foo

object Foo {
  @static val x = 5
  @static def bar(y: Int): Int = x + y


Intuitively, the presence of the @static annotation ensures that a field/method is declared as a static member of the companion class. For the JVM, the above would therefore look to other Java code as if it had been declared with the following Java code:

class Foo {
  public static int x = 5;
  public static int bar(int y) {
    return x + y;

In Scala.js, the @static annotation has no semantic effect in Scala objects, as they are not visible from JavaScript anyway (it could be used for optimizations). It has a semantic effect on Scala.js-defined JS classes, for example:

class Foo extends js.Object

object Foo extends js.Object {
  @static val x = 5
  @static def bar(y: Int): Int = x + y

would look to JavaScript code as if it had been declared with the following JavaScript code:

class Foo extends Object {
  static bar(y) {
    return x + y;
Foo.x = 5; // in ES6, there is no declarative syntax for static fields yet

Comparison with mirror classes

Scalac currently generates static forwarders for fields and methods in top-level objects:

object O {
  val d = 1 
  object I {
    val f = 1

Under the proposed scheme users will be able to opt-in to have the field f defined in the inner object I emited as a static field. In case O.d is annotated with @static the field will be created as a static field d in class O. If not annotated, it will be created in the companion module with a static forwarder d in class O.


The following rules ensure that methods can be correctly compiled into static members on both JVM and JavaScript:

  1. Only objects can have members annotated with @static

  2. The fields annotated with @static should preceed any non-@static fields. This ensures that we do not introduce surprises for users in initialization order of this class.

  3. The right hand side of a method or field annotated with @static can only refer to top-level classes, members of globally accessible objects and @static members. In particular, for non-static objects this is not accesible. super is never accessible.

  4. If a member foo of an object C is annotated with @static, the companion class C is not allowed to define term members with name foo.

  5. If a member foo of an object C is annotated with @static, the companion class C is not allowed to inherit classes that define a term member with name foo.

  6. Only @static methods and vals are supported in companions of traits. Java8 supports those, but not vars, and JavaScript does not have interfaces at all.

Note that because of platform requirements for JavaScript interop, rules 3 and 4 would be lifted for objects that have a companion class that inherits js.Any.

Compilation scheme

No modification of the typer is planned. The current proposed scheme piggybacks on already existing scoping restrictions in the typer, thus requiring @static methods to be defined in objects.

If implemented in the dotty code base, the following modifications would be needed:

  • extend RefChecks to check restrictions 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. This can be done in a separate mini-phase;
  • extend LambdaLift.CollectDependencies to be aware that accessing a member annotated @static should not trigger capturing the object that contains this member;
  • extend LambdaLift to trigger an error if a method annotated with @static method cannot be lifted to the top level scope;
  • extend GenBCode to emit static fields and methods in companion classes and forwarders to them in companion modules.

Overriding & Hiding

Java allows classes to define static methods with the same name and signature as a static method of a superclass. In order to define the semantics of such cases, the Java Specification introduces the notion of hiding.

This is required because in Java calling a static method on a class instance is supported. This proposal does not need to introduce this notion as we do not support such calls.

Scala.js and @JSStatic

As Scala.js needs this feature fast, a decision has been made to ship it under a name of @JSStatic before waiting for this SIP to be accepted and implemented in scalac. When this SIP is accepted and implemented in scalac the @JSStatic would become a deprecated type alias to scala.static.

Comparison with @lrytz’s proposal

Lukas Rytz has proposed a similar SIP, but his SIP requires changes to the typer to ensure that @static fields do not capture this, as in his proposal @static fields are defined in the class, rather than its companion object. It also does not address the question of @static members in inner objects and inheritance/hiding of those methods in subclasses.

Open questions

  • @static lazy val

Initialization order discussion

In general, emission of static fields could affect the initialization order and change semantics. This SIP solves this by enforcing (rule 2) that @static fields and expressions preceed non-static fields. This means that no code precedes the @static field initialization which makes it hard to observe the difference between if the field is initialized statically or not, since fields are initialized in the order as written, similar to how normal fields are initialized.

The @static proposal is similar to @tailrec in a sense that it fails compilation in the case where the user did not write code that follows the aforementioned rules. These rules exist to enforce the unlikelyhood of an observable difference in semantics if @static annotations are dropped; The restrictions in this SIP make it hard to observe changes in initialization within the same object. It is still possible to observe those changes using multiple classes and side effects within initializers:

class C { 
  val x = {println("x"); 1 } 

object O extends C { 
  val y = { println("y"); 2 } 
  // prints:
  // x
  // y
object Os extends C { 
  @static val y = { println("y"); 2 }
   // prints:
   // y
   // x

Static fields can be initialized earlier than they used to be initialized while being non-static, but never later. By requiring @static first to be defined first inside the object, we guarantee that you can’t observe the changes in initialization withing the same object without resorting to code which either uses Unsafe or exhibits undefined behaviour under the JVM.

Could @static be a @tailrec-like annotation that doesn’t affect code generation but only checks

Unlike @tailrec this annotation does affect the binary API and dropping such an annotation would be a binary incompatible change. This is why authors believe that developers should be in full control of what is static.

Alternative: Emitting fields of objects as static by default

An alternative to this proposal would be to emit all the fields defined in objects as static. Unfortunately this gets us under dark waters when we try to figure out in the following example:

class Super {
 val c = {println(1); 1}
object Object extends Super {
 override val c = {println(2); 2}
 val d = {println(3); 2}

Let’s consider possible options:

  • if the field c is emitted as static on the bytecode level, it will be initialized before the c in superclass is initialized, reordering side-effects in initializers;
  • if the field c is not emitted as static but the field d is, then the order of initialization would also be affected, reordering side-effects.

Based on the previous study done in preparation for this SIP, the authors believe that the only reasonable way to maintain current sematics would be to say that such alternative would require these rules:

  • only the fields which were not declared by parents of the object can be emitted as static;
  • only fields that are lexically defined before any non-static field or statement in the body can be emitted as static.

Authors believe that the alternative would require the same effort to implement, but will be less intuitive to users and harder to control as, for example, reodering fields in object might not be binary compatible.

See Also

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SIP Committee Decision

Under Review

Authors need to update the proposal before the next review.