std::map typically implemented as a red-black tree?
Why not a hash table?
A type only requires
< operator (comparison) to be used as a key in a tree. However, hash tables require that each key type has a
hash function defined. Keeping type requirements to a minimum is very important for generic programming so you can use it with a wide variety of types and algorithms.
Designing a good hash table requires intimate knowledge of the context it which it will be used. Should it use open addressing, or linked chaining? What levels of load should it accept before resizing? Should it use an expensive hash that avoids collisions, or one that is rough and fast?
Since the STL can't anticipate which is the best choice for your application, the default needs to be more flexible. Trees "just work" and scale nicely.