Provides structural equality for unions.

This feature is experimental!

This API is still experimental, so it may change or be removed in future versions. You should not rely on it for production applications.


(Variant, Union) => Void


Provides structural equality for unions.

The equality derivation bestows Fantasy Land's fantasy-land/equals method upon unions constructed by adt/union, as well as an equals alias. This equals method performs structural equality, and may be configured on how to compare values that don't implement Equality.


const { union, derivations } = require('folktale/adt/union');
const Result = union('Result', {
    return { value };
  Error(value) {
    return { value };
const { Ok, Error } = Result;

// ==> true

// ==> false

// ==> true

Structural equality

The equals method provided by this derivation checks for structural equivalence. That is, two values are considered equal if they have the same content.

For simple unions this is pretty easy to see. For example, consider the following definition:

const { union, derivations } = require('folktale/adt/union');
const Id = union('Id', {
  Id(value){ return { value } }

const a = Id.Id(1);
const b = Id.Id(1);

Here we have an union with a single case, Id, and we've made two instances of this data structure, each containing the value 1. However, if we try to compare them using JavaScript standard operators, we'll not be comparing their contents, but rather whether or not they are the same object:

a === a; // ==> true
b === b; // ==> true
a === b; // ==> false

So a === b is false, even though both a and b have the same contents. This is because === compares values by their identity, and each object has a different identity.

If we want to compare things by value, we can use the equals method provided by this equality derivation instead:

a.equals(b);        // ==> true
a.equals(a);        // ==> true
a.equals(Id.Id(2)); // ==> false

When comparing with the equals method, two values are considered equal if they represent the same value. This is called structural equality.

Equality in detail

Given two data structures, they are considered equal if:

  • They have the same type;
  • They have the same tag;
  • They have the same keys, and these keys have the same values;

The following example shows these in practice:

const { union, derivations } = require('folktale/adt/union');

//                     ┌◦ TYPE
//                   ┌╌┴╌╌╌╌┐
const Result = union('Result', {
//  ┌◦ TAG             ┌◦ KEYS
// ┌┴┐               ┌╌┴╌╌╌╌╌┐
   Ok(value){ return { value } },

//   ┌◦ TAG               ┌◦ KEYS
// ┌╌┴╌┐                ┌╌┴╌╌╌╌╌┐
   Error(value){ return { value } }

const { Ok, Error } = Result;

So here we have the Result union. Values created from this union always have the same type: "Result". A type is expected to be unique within all unions in a program:

Ok(1)[union.typeSymbol];    // ==> 'Result'
Error(1)[union.typeSymbol]; // ==> 'Result'

Each variant has its own tag, which is the name you give to the constructor. A tag is unique within an union, but not necessarily unique amongst other unions:

Ok(1)[union.tagSymbol];     // ==> 'Ok'
Error(1)[union.tagSymbol];  // ==> 'Error'

Finally, the keys in an union are the same as the keys which the constructor returns. So, in this case, both Ok and Error have [value] as the key:

Object.keys(Ok(1));    // ==> ['value']
Object.keys(Error(1)); // ==> ['value']

So if we compare these two for equality:

Ok(1).equals(Ok(1)); // ==> true
// same type, tag, keys and values.

Ok(1).equals(Ok(2)); // ==> false
// same type, tag, and keys. Different values (1 !== 2).

Ok(1).equals(Error(1)); // ==> false
// same type, keys, and values. Different tags ('Ok' !== 'Error').

const { Error: E } = union('Res', {
  Error(value){ return { value } }

E(1).equals(Error(1)); // ==> false
// same tag, keys, and values. Different types ('Result' !== 'Res')

How complex equality works?

The values in an union aren't always JS primitives, such as numbers and strings. Equality's equals method handles these in two different ways:

  • If the values implement Equality, then the values are compared using the left's equals method. This means that if all values implement Equality or are primitives, deep equality just works.

  • If the values do not implement Equality, the provided equality comparison is used to compare both values. By default, this comparison tests plain objects and arrays structurally, and all other values with ===.

Here's an example:

const { union, derivations } = require('folktale/adt/union');
const { Id } = union('Id', {
  Id(value){ return { value } }

// This is fine, because all values implement Equality or are primitives
Id(Id(1)).equals(Id(Id(1))); // ==> true

// This is not fine, because they're arrays
Id([1]).equals(Id([1])); // ==> true

// This is fine, because they're plain objects
Id({ a: 1 }).equals(Id({ a: 1 })); // ==> true

const { Other } = union('Other', { 
  Other(value) { return { value } }

// This isn't fine, because they're not plain objects
Id({ value: 1 }).equals(Id(Other(1))); // ==> false

A plain object is any object that doesn't overwrite the .toString or Symbol.toStringTag properties.

To handle complex JS values, one must provide their own deep equality function. Folktale does not have a deep equality function yet, but most functional libraries have an equals function for that.

Here's an example of an equality function that checks array equality:

const isEqual = (a, b) =>
  Array.isArray(a) && Array.isArray(b) ?  arrayEquals(a, b)
: a == null                            ?  a === b
: a['fantasy-land/equals']             ?  a['fantasy-land/equals'](b)
: a.equals                             ?  a.equals(b)
:                                         a === b;

const arrayEquals = (a, b) =>
   Array.isArray(a) && Array.isArray(b)
&& a.length === b.length
&& a.every((x, i) => isEqual(x, b[i]));

const { Id: Id2 } = union('Id', {
  Id(value){ return { value } }

Id2([1]).equals(Id2([1]));       // ==> true
Id2(Id2(1)).equals(Id2(Id2(1))); // ==> true
Id2(2).equals(Id2(1));           // ==> false

Equality and the asymmetry problem:

Because the equals method is defined directly in objects, and invoked using the method call syntax, it creates an asymmetry problem. That is, if there are two objects, a and b, then a equals b is not the same as b equals a, since the equals method may be different on those objects!

Here's an example of the asymmetry problem:

const { union, derivations } = require('folktale/adt/union');
const { Id } = union('Id', {
  Id(value){ return { value } }

const bogus = {
  equals(that){ return that.value === this.value },
  value: 1

// This is what you expect
Id(1).equals(bogus); // ==> false

// And so is this
Id(Id(1)).equals(Id(bogus)); // ==> false

// But this is not
Id(bogus).equals(Id(Id(1))); // ==> true

To avoid this problem all Equality implementations should do type checking and make sure that they have the same equals method. Equality implementations derived by this derivation do so by checking the type and tag of the unions being compared.

Performance considerations

There are no optimisations for deep equality provided by this method, thus you should expect it to visit every value starting from the root. This can be quite expensive for larger data structures.

If you expect to be working with larger data structures, and check equality between them often, you are, usually, very out of luck. You may consider providing your own Equality implementation with the following optimisations:

  • If two objects are the same reference, you don't need to check them structurally, for they must be equal — Equality's .equals does this, but if you're providing your own equality function, you must do it there as well;

  • If two objects have the same type, but different hashes, then they must have different values (assuming you haven't messed up your hash function);

  • If two objects have the same type, and the same hashes, then they might be equal, but you can't tell without looking at all of its values.

Here's an example of this optimisation applied to linked lists that can only hold numbers (with a very naive hash function):

const hash = Symbol('hash code');
const { union, derivations } = require('folktale/adt/union');

const { Cons, Nil } = union('List', {
  Nil(){ return { [hash]: 0 } },
  Cons(value, rest) {
    return {
      [hash]: value + rest[hash],
      value, rest

Nil.prototype.equals = function(that) {
  return Nil.hasInstance(that);

Cons.prototype.equals = function(that) {
  if (this === that)              return true
  if (!Cons.hasInstance(that))    return false
  if (this[hash] !== that[hash])  return false

  return this.value === that.value

const a = Cons(1, Cons(2, Cons(3, Nil())));
const b = Cons(1, Cons(2, Cons(3, Nil())));
const c = Cons(1, b);

a.equals(b); // ==> true
a.equals(c); // ==> false

You should use a suitable hashing algorithm for your data structures.


Source Code

Defined in source/adt/union/derivations/equality.js at line 83, column 0
(valuesEqual) => {
   * type: ('a, 'a) => Boolean
  const equals = (a, b) => {
    // identical objects must be equal
    if (a === b)  return true;

    // we require both values to be setoids if one of them is
    const leftSetoid  = isSetoid(a);
    const rightSetoid = isSetoid(b);
    if (leftSetoid) {
      if (rightSetoid)  return flEquals(a, b);
      else              return false;

    // fall back to the provided equality
    return valuesEqual(a, b);

   * type: (Object Any, Object Any, Array String) => Boolean
  const compositesEqual = (a, b, keys) => {
    for (let i = 0; i < keys.length; ++i) {
      const keyA = a[keys[i]];
      const keyB = b[keys[i]];
      if (!(equals(keyA, keyB))) {
        return false;
    return true;

  const derivation = (variant, adt) => {
     * stability: experimental
     * module: null
     * authors:
     *   - "@boris-marinov"
     *   - Quildreen Motta
     * type: |
     *   forall S, a:
     *     (S a).(S a) => Boolean
     *   where S is Setoid
    variant.prototype.equals = function(value) {
      assertType(adt)(`${this[tagSymbol]}#equals`, value);
      return sameType(this, value) && compositesEqual(this, value, Object.keys(this));
    return variant;
  copyDocs(createDerivation, derivation, {
    type: '(Variant, Union) => Void'

  return derivation;
(c) 2013-2017 Quildreen Motta, and CONTRIBUTORS
  • @boris-marinov
  • Quildreen Motta <> (