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It may be useful to understand how Wonka’s sources work internally if you want to write a new operator from scratch or contribute to it.

This section explains how Wonka works internally and how it differs from the callbag specification.

Just Functions

Internally Wonka only uses functions with rather simple signatures to make its streams work.

We have sinks on one end, which need to receive values, and sources on the other, which need to send values. The sink is therefore just a function that we call with values over time. This is called a “push” signal.

Because a sink has a start, incoming values, and an end, there are three signals that a sink can receive: Start, Push, and End.

type signalT('a) =
| Start
| Push('a)
| End;
type sinkT('a) = (. signalT('a)) => unit;

As shown, the sink is just a function accepting a signal as its argument.

When the stream starts then the sink is called with Start, Then for every incoming, new value it’s called with Push('a), and when the stream ends it’s finally called with End.

Since we want a source to send these values to the sink, the source is also just a function and it accepts a sink as its argument.

type sourceT('a) = sinkT('a) => unit;

This is completely sufficient to represent simple “push” streams, where values are pushed from the source to the sink. They essentially flow from the “top” to the “bottom”.

Operators are just functions that transform a source. They take a source and some number of arguments and return a new source. Internally they may also create a new sink function that wraps the sink that their source will be called with.

The type signature of an operator with no other arguments is thus:

type operatorT('a, 'b) = sourceT('a) => sourceT('b);
/* which is the same as: */
type operatorT('a, 'b) = (sourceT('a), sinkT('b)) => unit;

Adding Callbacks

To complete this pattern we’re still missing a single piece: callbacks!

Previously, we’ve looked at how sources are functions that accept sinks, which in turn are functions accepting a signal. What we’re now missing is what makes Wonka’s streams also work as iterables.

We’d also like to be able to cancel streams, so that we can interrupt them and not receive any more values.

We can achieve this by passing a callback function on when a stream starts. In Wonka, a sink’s Start signal also carries a callback that is used to communicate back to the source, making these “talkback signals” flow from the bottom to the top.

type talkbackT =
| Pull
| Close;
type signalT('a) =
| Start((. talkbackT) => unit)
| Push('a)
| End;

This is like the previous signalT('a) definition, but the Start signal has the callback definition now. The callback accepts one of two signals: Pull or Close.

Close is a signal that will cancel the stream. It tells the source to stop sending new values.

The Pull signal is a signal that asks the source to send the next value. This is especially useful to represent iterables. In practice a user would never send this signal explicitly, but sinks would send the signal automatically after receiving the previous value from the stream.

In asynchronous streams the Pull signal is of course a no-op. It won’t do anything since we can’t ask for asynchronous values.

Comparison to Callbags

This is the full pattern of Wonka’s streams and it’s a little different from callbags. These changes have been made to make Wonka’s streams typesafe. But there’s also a small omission that makes Wonka’s streams easier to explain.

In Callbags, sources don’t just accept sinks as their only argument. In fact, in callbags the source would also receive three different signals. This can be useful to represent “subjects”.

A subject is a sink and source combined. It can be used to dispatch values imperatively, like an event dispatcher.

In Wonka there’s a separate type for subjects however, since this reduces the complexity of its streams a lot:

type subjectT('a) = {
source: sourceT('a),
next: 'a => unit,
complete: unit => unit,

Hence in Wonka a subject is simply a wrapper around a source and a next and complete method.