The marker interface is a design pattern, used with languages that provide run-time type information about objects. It provides a way to associate metadata with a class where the language does not have explicit support for such metadata. To use this pattern, a class implements a marker interface, and code that interact with instances of that class test for the existence of the interface. Whereas a typical interface specifies methods that an implementing class must support, a marker interface does not do so. The mere presence of such an interface indicates specific behavior on the part of the implementing class. There can be some hybrid interfaces, which both act as markers and specify required methods, are possible but may prove confusing if improperly used. Java utilizes this pattern very well and the example interfaces are:
- io.Serializable – Serializability of a class is enabled by the class implementing the java.io.Serializable interface. The Java Classes that do not implement Serializable interface will not be able to serialize or deserializ their state. All subtypes of a serializable class are themselves serializable. The serialization interface has no methods or fields and serves only to identify the semantics of being serializable.
- rmi.Remote – The Remote interface serves to identify interfaces whose methods may be invoked from a non-local virtual machine. Any object that is a remote object must directly or indirectly implement this interface. Only those methods specified in a “remote interface”, an interface that extends java.rmi.Remote are available remotely.
- lang.Cloneable – A class implements the Cloneable interface to indicate to the Object.clone() method that it is legal for that method to make a field-for-field copy of instances of that class. Invoking Object’s clone method on an instance that does not implement the Cloneable interface results in the exception CloneNotSupportedException being thrown.
- servlet.SingleThreadModel – Ensures that servlets handle only one request at a time. This interface has no methods.
- util.EvenListener – A tagging interface that all event listener interfaces must extend.
- The “instanceof” keyword in java can be used to test if an object is of a specified type. So this keyword in combination with Marker interface can be used to take different actions based on type of interface an object implements.