Free Join: Unifying Worst-Case Optimal and Traditional Joins

SIGMOD 2023, January 2023
  url = {},
  author = {Wang, Yisu Remy and Willsey, Max and Suciu, Dan},
  title = {Free Join: Unifying Worst-Case Optimal and Traditional Joins},
  publisher = {arXiv},
  year = {2023},


Over the last decade, worst-case optimal join (WCOJ) algorithms have emerged as a new paradigm for one of the most fundamental challenges in query processing: computing joins efficiently. Such an algorithm can be asymptotically faster than traditional binary joins, all the while remaining simple to understand and implement. However, they have been found to be less efficient than the old paradigm, traditional binary join plans, on the typical acyclic queries found in practice. Some database systems that support WCOJ use a hybrid approach: use WCOJ to process the cyclic subparts of the query (if any), and rely on traditional binary joins otherwise. In this paper we propose a new framework, called Free Join, that unifies the two paradigms. We describe a new type of plan, a new data structure (which unifies the hash tables and tries used by the two paradigms), and a suite of optimization techniques. Our system, implemented in Rust, matches or outperforms both traditional binary joins and Generic Join on standard query benchmarks.