[JSR308] Ideas for Java annotation extension (independent of JSR-30[58])

Bill Pugh PUGH at cs.umd.edu
Sun Jul 29 12:06:48 EDT 2007

I wanted to float the following ideas for extensions of Java  
annotations. These ideas are independent of JSR-305 and JSR-308, but  
from my experience I think they would be useful in that effort as well.

After talking with Josh, I've decided to live within one design  
constraint of the existing framework: for any annotation location and  
annotation class, there is either zero or one matching annotations.  
This forbids some things like subtyping between annotations, and  
multiple instances of the same annotation on an element.

* Proposal 1: An annotation is allowed to extend/implement any number  
of interfaces.

   You might want to use this for marker interfaces, or define an  
interface that defines
   several elements/methods, and any annotation that implements that  
interface would be
   required to implement those methods.

   Note that the interface would just be a normal interface that  
could be implemented by
   classes as well (although this wouldn't be recommended practice).  
interfaces can't
   define default values.

   This would allow you to define a standard set of element names  
that were used by
   by set of specific annotations, and allow internal API's that  
worked with any annotation
   from that set.

* Proposal 2 (requires proposal 1):

   An annotation can define an element that returns an interface that  
   java.lang.annotation.Annotation. When applying such an annotation  
in the source code, the
   value used there must be some concrete annotation that extends  
that interface.

   Right now, the only values allowed for annotation elements are:
	primitives, String, Class, enums, specific annotation classes, and  

   This proposal would allow you to define annotations that, when  
applied in source code,
   accepted as an element value any one of a number of specific  
annotations. By defining the
   element to return a value of type Annotation, you can define an  
element where an arbitrary
   Annotation can be provided. For example, consider example where  
the Baz annotation can be
   applied with either a Foo or a Baz annotation as an element:

public interface AnnotationWithId extends Annotation {
   int id();
public @interface Foo extends AnnotationWithId {
   int id();  // this could be omitted, since it is defined in the  
   String msg();
public @interface Bar extends AnnotationWithId {
   int id() default 0; // couldn't be omitted, since the interface  
can't give a default value
   String date();
public @interface Baz {
   AnnotationWithId annotation(); // can supply a @Foo or @Bar here
   String reason();
public Test {
   @Baz(annotation=@Foo(id=17, msg="testing"), reason="because")
      public int test() { return 17; }

I suspect there may be issues I hadn't considered, so I'd appreciate  
your feedback on this.

My current thought is to not make this part of JSR-308, but directly  
submit it to the JSE7 effort.


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