Expand description

Compatibility between different async runtimes for Arti.


Rust’s support for asynchronous programming is powerful, but still a bit immature: there are multiple powerful runtimes you can use, but they do not expose a consistent set of interfaces.

The [futures] API abstracts much of the differences among these runtime libraries, but there are still areas where no standard API yet exists, including:

  • Network programming.
  • Time and delays.
  • Launching new tasks
  • Blocking until a task is finished.

Additionally, the AsyncRead and AsyncWrite traits provide by [futures] are not the same as those provided by tokio, and require compatibility wrappers to use.

To solve these problems, the tor-rtcompat crate provides a set of traits that represent a runtime’s ability to perform these tasks, along with implementations for these traits for the tokio and async-std runtimes. In the future we hope to add support for other runtimes as needed.

This crate is part of Arti, a project to implement Tor in Rust. As such, it does not currently include (or plan to include) any functionality beyond what Arti needs to implement Tor.

We hope that in the future this crate can be replaced (or mostly replaced) with standardized and general-purpose versions of the traits it provides.

Using tor-rtcompat

The tor-rtcompat crate provides several traits that encapsulate different runtime capabilities.

  • A runtime is a BlockOn if it can block on a future.
  • A runtime is a SleepProvider if it can make timer futures that become Ready after a given interval of time.
  • A runtime is a TcpProvider if it can make and receive TCP connections
  • A runtime is a TlsProvider if it can make TLS connections.

For convenience, the Runtime trait derives from all the traits above, plus [futures::task::Spawn] and Send.

You can get a Runtime in several ways:

  • If you already have an asynchronous backend (for example, one that you built with tokio by running with #[tokio::main]), you can wrap it as a Runtime with PreferredRuntime::current().

  • If you want to construct a default runtime that you won’t be using for anything besides Arti, you can use PreferredRuntime::create().

Both of the above methods use the “preferred runtime”, which is usually Tokio. However, changing the set of Cargo features available can affect this; see PreferredRuntime for more.

Advanced usage: implementing runtimes yourself

You might want to implement some of the traits above (especially TcpProvider and TlsProvider) if you’re embedding Arti, and want more control over the resources it uses. For example, you might want to perform actions when TCP connections open and close, replace the TLS stack with your own, or proxy TCP connections over your own custom transport.

This can be more easily accomplished using the CompoundRuntime type, which lets you create a Runtime from various implementors of the various traits (which don’t all need to be the same).

See arti-client/examples/hook-tcp.rs for a full example of this.

Cargo features

Features supported by this crate:

  • tokio – build with Tokio support
  • async-std – build with async-std support
  • native-tls – build with the native-tls crate for TLS support
  • static – link the native TLS library statically (enables the vendored feature of the native-tls crate).
  • rustls – build with the rustls crate for TLS support

By default, this crate doesn’t enable any features. However, you’re almost certainly using this as part of the arti-client crate, which will enable tokio and native-tls in its default configuration.

Design FAQ

Why support async_std?

Although Tokio currently a more popular and widely supported asynchronous runtime than async_std is, we believe that it’s critical to build Arti against multiple runtimes.

By supporting multiple runtimes, we avoid making tokio-specific assumptions in our code, which we hope will make it easier to port to other environments (like WASM) in the future.

Why a Runtime trait, and not a set of functions?

We could simplify this code significantly by removing most of the traits it exposes, and instead just exposing a single implementation. For example, instead of exposing a BlockOn trait to represent blocking until a task is done, we could just provide a single global block_on function.

That simplification would come at a cost, however. First of all, it would make it harder for us to use Rust’s “feature” system correctly. Current features are supposed to be additive only, but if had a single global runtime, then support for different backends would be mutually exclusive. (That is, you couldn’t have both the tokio and async-std features building at the same time.)

Secondly, much of our testing in the rest of Arti relies on the ability to replace Runtimes. By treating a runtime as an object, we can override a runtime’s view of time, or of the network, in order to test asynchronous code effectively. (See the [tor-rtmock] crate for examples.)


Entry points for use with async_std runtimes.

Utilities for dealing with periodic recurring tasks.

Functions for task management that don’t belong inside the Runtime trait.

Traits used to describe TLS connections and objects that can create them.

Entry points for use with Tokio runtimes.


Run a test closure, passing as argument every supported runtime.

Run a test closure, passing as argument one supported runtime.


A runtime made of several parts, each of which implements one trait-group.

The runtime that we prefer to use, out of all the runtimes compiled into the tor-rtcompat crate.

A timeout returned by SleepProviderExt::timeout.

An error value given when a function times out.


Trait for a runtime that can block on a future.

An object with a peer certificate: typically a TLS connection.

A runtime that we can use to run Tor as a client.

Trait for a runtime that can wait until a timer has expired.

An extension trait on SleepProvider for timeouts and clock delays.

Trait for a local socket that accepts incoming TCP streams.

Trait for a runtime that can create and accept TCP connections.

Trait for a runtime that knows how to create TLS connections over TCP streams of type S.

Trait for a runtime that can send and receive UDP datagrams.

Trait for a localy bound Udp socket that can send and receive datagrams.