[concurrency-interest] synchronized constructors

Yuval Shavit yshavit at akiban.com
Thu Dec 15 16:43:02 EST 2011

So is the assumption that safe initial publication to other threads is
always required, and thread safety guarantees only kick in once that's been

I could imagine someone assigning their MyPoint to a non-volatile static
and creating a new instance if that static is null:

public static MyPoint myPoint;

MyPoint getAnyOldPoint() {
    if (myPoint == null)
        myPoint = new MyPoint();
    return myPoint;

The person who writes that code (not me! :)  ) says, "I don't care which
MyPoint I get -- I don't care if it's the same one another thread sees or
not. All I care is that there is one, and that it's thread-safe. And I got
one (didn't have to instantiate it in this method), but it wasn't thread
safe: I saw "(0,-1)" even though no thread could have possibly set such a
state. I must have seen the initial state of a MyPoint, but it wasn't
thread safe."

Now, I would love to tell them "sure it's thread safe, you're just doing
stupid things." But would they be wrong in telling me that no, my class is
only *partially* thread safe?


On Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 4:30 PM, Nathan Reynolds <nathan.reynolds at oracle.com
> wrote:

>  How is the MyPoint instance going to become shared with another thread?
> The thread calling the constructor has to execute some sort of
> synchronization to share the reference to the MyPoint instance.  The
> synchronization will cause a happens-before edge to be created.  For
> example, this code assigns a volatile field.  Writing to the volatile will
> ensure the proper values of x and y will be visible.
> public volatile MyPoint point = new MyPoint();
> Nathan Reynolds<http://psr.us.oracle.com/wiki/index.php/User:Nathan_Reynolds>| Consulting Member of Technical Staff |
> 602.333.9091
> Oracle PSR Engineering <http://psr.us.oracle.com/> | Server Technology
> On 12/15/2011 2:10 PM, Yuval Shavit wrote:
> Hi all,
>  This came up a few days ago on stackoverflow.com -- I forget the exact
> post, but someone referenced the JLS section concerning why constructors
> can't be synchronized:
>  There is no practical need for a constructor to be synchronized, because
>> it would lock the object under construction, which is normally not made
>> available to other threads until all constructors for the object have
>> completed their work.
>  If synchronization were only about mutual exclusion, this would make
> sense; but it also has memory visibility guarantees. For instance, say I
> have this really simple class:
>       public class MyPoint {
>         private int x;
>         private int y;
>         public MyPoint() {
>             x = -1; // init to (-1,-1) for some reason
>             y = -1;
>         }
>          public synchronized void setX(int x, int y) {
>             this.x = x;
>             this.y = y;
>         }
>          @Override
>         public synchronized String toString() {
>             return "(" + x + ", " + y + ")";
>         }
>     }
>  There's a thread safety issue there, right? There was no synchronization
> during construction time, and thus no happens-before between ctor ending
> and toString() starting, so with reordering etc, you could observe the
> initial state as "(0, 0)", "(-1, 0)", "(-1, -1)" or "(-1, 0)".  You could
> get around this by calling setX from the constructor, but if setX is
> non-final, that has its own issues. You could also put the x and y
> initialization within a synchronized (this) { ... } -- but at that point,
> why not just allow the constructor to be synchronized?
>  Thanks,
> Yuval
> _______________________________________________
> Concurrency-interest mailing listConcurrency-interest at cs.oswego.eduhttp://cs.oswego.edu/mailman/listinfo/concurrency-interest
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