You work for me, Computer.

By Brandon Bloom

Versioning Better Than SemVer

I’ve written before about my dislike for SemVer. Recently, Rich Hickey spoke about this very same issue, and more. I’m currently working on some software that I’m hoping people will use, so I decided to make my thoughts on a better versioning scheme clear. Below you’ll find an exerpt from my new project’s documentation. Each point below could be elaborated on in a full post of it’s own, but this summary has value as a checklist of sorts for those discussions.


Software should make explicit what it promises to provide, as well as make explicit the requirements it relies on. Implicit promises or reliance should be avoided. This is a as much a social contract as it is a technical one.


If software relies on an explicit promise, it should never break.


It is often useful to defer commitments. The default social contract should be one of instability. In the absence of explicit promises, everything should be considered unstable, and subject to change.


It should always be possible to provide more. Making additional promises should never cause breakage.


Occasionally, supporting old contracts becomes burdensome. Parties to these contracts should be provided a path to a new contract without breakage.


Retracting promises should always be preceded by sufficient warning in order to avoid breakage. This entails a new contract which specifies deprecated provisions at the same time as providing new promises to migrate to.


Contracts are identified by a ordinal version number and an instant in time. Any contract may accrete new promises or bug fixes by creating an artifact tagged with a new instant. Successive ordinal versions may retract promises deprecated by previous ordinals.


Even in the presence of migrations, grandfathered contracts should be honored.


A contract timeline may be forked by accreting a new contract with a new name.


Platform systems should facilitate openness such that side-by-side systems may interoperate. Where this is not immediately possible, lower layers should be extended to facilitate this before forking higher layers.