Linear type systems have a long and storied history, but not a clear path forward to integrate with existing languages such as OCaml or Haskell. In this paper, we study a linear type system designed with two crucial properties in mind: backwards-compatibility and code reuse across linear and non-linear users of a library. Only then can the benefits of linear types permeate conventional functional programming. Rather than bifurcate types into linear and non-linear counterparts, we instead attach linearity to function arrows. Linear functions can receive inputs from linearly-bound values, but can also operate over
unrestricted, regular values.
To demonstrate the efficacy of our linear type system — both how easy it can be integrated in an existing language implementation and how streamlined it makes it to write programs with linear types — we implemented our type system in GHC, the leading Haskell compiler, and demonstrate two kinds of applications of linear types: mutable data with pure interfaces; and enforcing protocols in I/O-performing functions.
(This version is entirely rewritten compared to our earlier ICFP’17 submission.)