Class sharing is a new language mechanism that helps build extensible software systems. Recent work has separately explored two different kinds of extensibility: first, family inheritance, in which an entire family of related classes can be inherited, and second, adaptation, in which existing objects are extended in place with new behavior and state. Class sharing integrates these two kinds of extensibility mechanisms. With little programmer effort, objects of one family can be used as members of another, while preserving relationships among objects. Therefore, a family of classes can be adapted in place with new functionality spanning multiple classes. Object graphs can evolve from one family to another, adding or removing functionality even at run time.
Several new mechanisms support this flexibility while ensuring type safety. Class sharing has been implemented as an extension to Java, and its utility for evolving and extending software is demonstrated with realistic systems.J& web site ]