Defensive Copies in Modern C++

Modern C++ solves this differently:

std::string s1 = "Cpp";
std::string s2 = s1;  // Duplicate the data in s1.
  • The heap data from s1 is duplicated and s2 gets its own independent copy.
  • When s1 and s2 go out of scope, they each free their own memory.

Before copy-assignment:


After copy-assignment:


Key points:

  • C++ has made a slightly different choice than Rust. Because = copies data, the string data has to be cloned. Otherwise we would get a double-free when either string goes out of scope.

  • C++ also has std::move, which is used to indicate when a value may be moved from. If the example had been s2 = std::move(s1), no heap allocation would take place. After the move, s1 would be in a valid but unspecified state. Unlike Rust, the programmer is allowed to keep using s1.

  • Unlike Rust, = in C++ can run arbitrary code as determined by the type which is being copied or moved.