(resend of message originally on unrelated thread)

If I understand correctly, serializing a protocol-buffer message creates
a byte-string that describes the fields of the serialized message.  The
field descriptions include their type identifiers, field numbers, and
current values.

An instance of the type of message that was serialized can then
configure itself to be equal to the serialized message by parsing the
byte-string representation.  By telling a message instance to parse its
serialized representation, one is basically setting the instance's

It would seem reasonable that this pattern be maintained down to the
level of individual fields.  Meaning that message field instances could
serialize themselves to byte-strings and initialize themselves from

I can see multiple values to such a capability.  It would be possible,
for example, to partially initialize message instances by initializing
specific fields within the instance, which may be very useful for doing
things like streaming messages.  Also, protocol-buffer fields could be
used outside the context of protocol-buffer messages, which may or may
not be valuable.  Does this capability already exist?

I suppose the behaviour could be emulated by defining a message type for
each field type, and then using message-type fields only.  But having
the capability on the fields themselves would be nice, if it doesn't
exist already.


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