Weekly Swift articles, podcasts and tips by John Sundell.

Constraining protocols to classes to ensure mutability

Published on 02 Jan 2018

Using the AnyObject constraint on protocols is not only useful when defining delegates (or other weak references), but also when you always want instances to be mutable without copying.

// By constraining a protocol with 'AnyObject' it can only be adopted
// by classes, which means all instances will always be mutable, and
// that it's the original instance (not a copy) that will be mutated.
protocol DataContainer: AnyObject {
    var data: Data? { get set }

class UserSettingsManager {
    private var settings: Settings
    private let dataContainer: DataContainer

    // Since DataContainer is a protocol, we an easily mock it in
    // tests if we use dependency injection
    init(settings: Settings, dataContainer: DataContainer) {
        self.settings = settings
        self.dataContainer = dataContainer

    func saveSettings() throws {
        let data = try settings.serialize()

        // We can now assign properties on an instance of our protocol
        // because the compiler knows it's always going to be a class
        dataContainer.data = data