Trait Objects

Trait object serialization is supported through the rkyv_dyn crate. This crate is maintained as part of rkyv, but is separate from the main crate to allow other implementations to be used instead. This section will focus primarily on the architecture of rkyv_dyn and how to use it effectively.

rkyv_dyn may not work in some exotic environments due to the ✨magic✨ it uses to register trait objects. If you want these capabilities but rkyv_dyn doesn't work in your environment, feel free to file an issue or drop by in the discord to talk it through.

Core traits

The new traits introduced by rkyv_dyn are SerializeDyn and DeserializeDyn. These are effectively type-erased versions of SerializeUnsized and DeserializeUnsized so that the traits are object-safe. Likewise, it introduces type-erased versions of serializers and deserializers: DynSerializer and DynDeserializer. These attempt to provide the basic functionality required to serialize most types, but may be more or less capable than custom types require.

DynSerializer implements the Serializer and ScratchSpace traits, but that may not be suitable for all use cases. If you need more capabilities, file an issue or drop by in the discord to talk it through.


It is highly recommended to use the provided archive_dyn macro to implement the new traits and set everything up correctly.

Using archive_dyn on a trait definition creates another trait definition with supertraits of your trait and SerializeDyn. This "shim" trait is blanket implemented for all types that implement your trait and SerializeDyn, so you should only ever have to implement your trait to use it.

The shim trait should be used everywhere that you have a trait object of your trait that you want to serialize. By default, it will be named "Serialize" + your trait name. A different approach that similar libraries take is directly adding SerializeDyn as a supertrait of your trait. While more ergonomic, this approach does not allow the implementation of the trait on types that cannot or should not implement SerializeDyn, so the shim trait approach was favored for rkyv_dyn.

When the shim trait is serialized, it stores the type hash of the underlying type in its metadata so it can get the correct vtable for it when accessed. This requires that all vtables for implementing types must be known ahead of time, which is when we use archive_dyn for the second time.