Imagine that you got a named temporary object and you would like to allow the move semantics is applied to the object’s data member. You definitely need to force move semantics with std::move() but you have two options how to put it:

void func(Object && object) {
// Either
do_something( std::move(object.member) ); // [1]
// or
do_something( std::move(object).member ); // [2]

...
}


Another example is a constructor:

Foo::Foo(Object && object)
// Either
: bar( std::move(object.member) ) // [1]
// or
: bar( std::move(object).member ) // [2]
{}


The questions are: what is the difference between expression std::move(object.member) and std::move(object).member and which one should you use?

What is the difference?

First expression std::move(object.member) casts the result of a class member access to an rvalue, so the result of the expression is always a [cv-qualified] rvalue. (Note that cv means “const volatile”)

Second expression std::move(object).member casts the object to a [cv-qualified] rvalue first then performs a class member access, so it literally means “a member of an rvalue”. And here the C++11 member access rules take the wheel. The rules are described in [expr.ref/4] of the standard. From there we can figure out the following:

• if member is a reference then expression std::move(object).member is a [cv-qualified] lvalue,
• otherwise if member is a static member then the expression is a [cv-qualified] lvalue,
• otherwise the expression is a [cv-qualified] rvalue. (An xvalue if you want to be more precise)

It’s quite easy to remember: non-static non-reference data members are part of the object (it’s a composition), so they are the same value category as the object itself, i.e. rvalues if the object is an rvalue. In contrast, things pointed by a reference members and static data members don’t belong to the object thus ones don’t depend on the object’s value category, ones are always lvalues.

Which one to use?

The first expression std::move(object.member) is much stronger than the second one. Use it when you need to force move semantics for the member itself whatever the member is and you really understand all the consequences of it. (Here imagine an unexpected move from a shared object!).

The second expression std::move(object).member is safer and more intelligent: it forces only the object itself to became an rvalue, then (the safe) member access rules do the rest. Rather than force move semantics for the member, the expression gently allows it. It is safe operation as long as you know that the object is a temporary, doesn’t matter what the member is. C++11 member access rules designed to be safe so you can rely on them.

Let’s talk a bit more about the expressions safety. There are many cases when both expressions give you the same result so you might think it doesn’t matter which one to use in a such case. Be careful with this assumption: what is safe now can crash your application after a small innocent refactoring!

Assume that we have the following:

struct WidgetCfg {
std::string config_name_;  // non-reference non-static data member
...
};

struct Window {
std::string config_name_;

Window(WidgetCfg && w) // Constructor accepting a temporary WidgetCfg so we are safe to move from it
// Either
: config_name_(std::move(w.config_name_)) // [1] move from temporary. No problem
// or
: config_name_(std::move(w).config_name_) // [2] move from temporary. No problem
{}

...
};


As you can see, both expressions do the same and look safe at the moment.

Now we decided to optimize a memory usage for application-wide config_name_ so we want to spread references to a shared global string rather than one’s copies. We’ve changed WidgetCfg class definition but forget about Window class, so we have the following:

struct WidgetCfg {
std::string & config_name_;  // Now it is a reference to a shared global string
...
};

struct Window {
std::string config_name_;  // Oops, we forget to change this

Window(WidgetCfg && w) // Constructor accepting a temporary WidgetCfg so we are safe to move from it
// Either
: config_name_(std::move(w.config_name_)) // [1] move from the global variable, leaves one in the
//     (empty or even dangerous to use) 'moved from' state!
// or
: config_name_(std::move(w).config_name_) // [2] not a temporary any more, so makes a copy rather than move.
//     Not so effective but still safe!
{}

...
};


Thus whenever it’s possible, instead of std::move(object.member) use std::move(object).member, because the latter one stays safe no matter how the member definition is changed.

UPD

There are more discussions on the post topic:

UPD2

There is my slides for a short presentation based on the article: