Callback interfaces

Callback interfaces are traits specified in UDL which can be implemented by foreign languages.

They can provide Rust code access available to the host language, but not easily replicated in Rust.

  • accessing device APIs.
  • provide glue to clip together Rust components at runtime.
  • access shared resources and assets bundled with the app.

Using callback interfaces

1. Define a Rust trait

This toy example defines a way of Rust accessing a key-value store exposed by the host operating system (e.g. the key chain).


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
pub trait Keychain: Send + Sync + Debug {
  fn get(&self, key: String) -> Result<Option<String>, KeyChainError>
  fn put(&self, key: String, value: String) -> Result<(), KeyChainError>
}
}

Why Send + Sync?

The concrete types that UniFFI generates for callback interfaces implement Send, Sync, and Debug, so it's safe to include these as supertraits of your callback interface trait. This isn't strictly necessary, but it's often useful. In particular, Send + Sync is useful when:

  • Storing Box<dyn CallbackInterfaceTrait> types inside a type that needs to be Send + Sync (for example a UniFFI interface type)
  • Storing Box<dyn CallbackInterfaceTrait> inside a global Mutex or RwLock

2. Setup error handling

All methods of the Rust trait should return a Result. The error half of that result must be an error type defined in the UDL.

It's currently allowed for callback interface methods to return a regular value rather than a Result<>. However, this is means that any exception from the foreign bindings will lead to a panic.

Extra requirements for errors used in callback interfaces

In order to support errors in callback interfaces, UniFFI must be able to properly lift the error. This means that the if the error is described by an enum rather than an interface in the UDL (see Errors) then all variants of the Rust enum must be unit variants.

In addition to expected errors, a callback interface call can result in all kinds of unexpected errors. Some examples are the foreign code throws an exception that's not part of the exception type or there was a problem marshalling the data for the call. UniFFI uses uniffi::UnexpectedUniFFICallbackError for these cases. Your code must include a From<uniffi::UnexpectedUniFFICallbackError> impl for your error type to handle those or the UniFFI scaffolding code will fail to compile. See example/callbacks for an example of how to do this.

3. Define a callback interface in the UDL

callback interface Keychain {
    [Throws=KeyChainError]
    string? get(string key);

    [Throws=KeyChainError]
    void put(string key, string data);
};

4. And allow it to be passed into Rust

Here, we define a constructor to pass the keychain to rust, and then another method which may use it.

In UDL:

interface Authenticator {
    constructor(Keychain keychain);
    void login();
}

In Rust:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
struct Authenticator {
  keychain: Box<dyn Keychain>,
}

impl Authenticator {
  pub fn new(keychain: Box<dyn Keychain>) -> Self {
    Self { keychain }
  }
  pub fn login(&self) {
    let username = self.keychain.get("username".into());
    let password = self.keychain.get("password".into());
  }
}
}

5. Create an foreign language implementation of the callback interface

In this example, here's a Kotlin implementation.

class KotlinKeychain: Keychain {
    override fun get(key: String): String? {
        // … elide the implementation.
        return value
    }
    override fun put(key: String) {
        // … elide the implementation.
    }
}

…and Swift:

class SwiftKeychain: Keychain {
    func get(key: String) -> String? {
        // … elide the implementation.
        return value
    }
    func put(key: String) {
        // … elide the implementation.
    }
}

Note: in Swift, this must be a class.

6. Pass the implementation to Rust

Again, in Kotlin

val authenticator = Authenticator(KotlinKeychain())
// later on:
authenticator.login()

and in Swift:

let authenticator = Authenticator(SwiftKeychain())
// later on:
authenticator.login()

Care is taken to ensure that once Box<dyn Keychain> is dropped in Rust, then it is cleaned up in the foreign language.

Also note, that storing the Box<dyn Keychain> in the Authenticator required that all implementations must implement Send.

⚠️ Avoid callback interfaces cycles

Callback interfaces can create cycles between Rust and foreign objects and lead to memory leaks. For example a callback interface object holds a reference to a Rust object which also holds a reference to the same callback interface object. Take care to avoid this by following guidelines:

  1. Avoid references to UniFFI objects in callback objects, including direct references and transitive references through intermediate objects.
  2. Avoid references to callback objects from UniFFI objects, including direct references and transitive references through intermediate objects.
  3. If you need to break the first 2 guidelines, then take steps to manually break the cycles to avoid memory leaks. Alternatively, ensure that the number of objects that can ever be created is bounded below some acceptable level.